Health & Nutrition | Dogs | Cats | October 1, 2015

Why are Fats in Pet Food?

Fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet for dogs. For most healthy dogs, a diet that provides about 12-18% fat is best for health maintenance and for most healthy cats 15-20% is best. Fats are a concentrated source of energy that supply over twice the amount of calories than protein or carbohydrate. Because of this, too much fat without enough exercise can be harmful to your pet’s shapely waistline.

Fats are important for your pet’s health and to make foods taste and smell good to your pet. A food’s taste, aroma, and texture are all affected by the level of fat. They assist in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, promote skin and coat health, and are necessary for the normal functioning of body cells, nerves and muscles.

Fats in foods are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. These are divided into monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids based on their chemical structure. There are certain fatty acids that pets require from their diet because their body cannot make them. These are called essential fatty acids and include omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Cats are unique because one of the essential fatty acids they require from their diet is arachidonic acid, which most other animals can make on their own.

Unlike people, cats and dogs do not get high cholesterol levels from saturated fat. In fact, saturated fats may be a preferred fat source for dogs, particularly from a palatability perspective. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they require nutrients from animal sources. Chicken fat is an example of a highly palatable fat that is rich in saturated fatty acids.

High fat diets may be necessary for dogs with high energy demands, such as sled dogs or search and rescue dogs who are performing long distance work. On the other hand, a reduction of fat intake may be recommended in cases of digestive upset or for certain disorders such as pancreatitis.

Fats in pet food are preserved with antioxidants to keep the fats fresh. Natural sources of antioxidants include mixed tocopherols, rosemary and green tea extract.

Do you have more questions about fats and oils, or other ingredients in our recipes? We have a dedicated team of Health and Nutrition Specialists that can help you choose the food that works best for your pet.