Dogs and Carbohydrates — A Surprising Secret Revealed


Zero. That’s how many carbohydrates are nutritionally required by a dog to sustain life.
Dog Food Carbohydrate Secrets
The fact that a dog food doesn’t need to contain any “carbs” at all seems hard to believe.

But it’s true.

You see, according to the National Research Council and compared to the other two major nutrients — protein and fat — no carbs are considered essential for a healthy canine diet.1

Dogs don’t need corn. And they don’t need wheat, barley rice or potatoes, either. 

Yet surprisingly, carbs represent the dominant nutrient found in most dry dog foods.

Why Dog Food Companies
Love Carbohydrates

Since the early 1950s, dog food manufacturers everywhere have fallen head-over-heels in love with carbs because they’re:

  • Abundant
  • Durable (long shelf life)
  • Essential to the kibble-making process
  • Cheaper (per calorie than protein or fat)

Please notice that not one of these reasons has anything to do with nutrition — not one.

Are Carbs Safe?

Carbohydrates aren’t bad for dogs. In reasonable amounts, they can actually provide a practical source of energy.

However, the problem lies in their quantity.

Using a dog’s ancestral diet as a model, the total amount of carbs consumed by a dog’s evolutionary predecessor is dramatically less than what’s become the norm for today’s kibbles.

One sensible source estimates natural carbohydrate consumption for a dog’s ancestors at around 14 percent of total diet.2

Yet on average, today’s dry dog foods contain somewhere between 46 and 74 percent carbohydrates.3

Comparing the Numbers

Today’s kibbles contain as much as four times the carbohydrate content historically found in the canine ancestral diet.

Canine Ancestral Diet versus Dry Dog Food

Wouldn’t it make sense for a dog’s food to be more like the specie’s ancestral diet — with more protein and fat — and fewer carbs?

The Bottom Line

When choosing dog food, it’s reasonable to favor products lower in carbohydrates. 

However, since most dog food manufacturers fail to disclose the percentage of carbohydrates contained in their products, the Dog Food Advisor provides an estimate of this important figure inside every review.

So, look for dog foods rich in meat-based protein and lower in carbs. You could be adding years of better health to your best friend’s life.


  1. National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats”, 2006 Edition, National Academies Press, Washington, DC
  2. Brown S., Taylor B., “See Spot Live Longer”, 2007 Creekobear Press, Eugene, OR USA, page 51
  3. National Research Council, National Academy of Science, “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats”, 2006 Edition, National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p 317
  • Bill Calhoun

    Hmm, and what about fat content? Should we be concerned about 50-60% fat?

  • Bill Calhoun

    Hi Kevin, thanks for dispelling that myth…BIG TIME! I’ve now switched from Honest Kitchen and Orijen to “Stewart Raw Naturals Freeze Dried” and “Primal Canine Frozen Raw Lamb”. Billy Junior (7-years young and engaged in this activity since 2-years) is highly active. We participate in obedience and M,W,F he goes on the treadmill for 2.5 hours (6.3 km per hour pace) and Tues, Thurs 1 hour (interval segments). We are stationed in Singapore so the weather does not always agree (tough to walk without getting drenched or dehydrated; thus, my carefully planned protocol of indoor activity.

    I made the switch (believe it or not) because as good as a reckon Honest Kitchen is, having a bearded mini schnauzer is an entirely different challenge, when one has to clean food from beard every meal. Adding water makes for an even larger adventure.

    Anyway, here are the changes that have occurred (we slowly introduced the change and have now been on it for 1-month), since switching over:

    1. Stools are less often. Previously he was spot-on morn, noon and night

    2. Stools are darker and less volume

    3. He appears to be napping more

    Any feedback you could offer would be greatly appreciated…or anyone else, for that matter. Please feel free to ring-in.

  • Hana Spitz

    I wasn’t thinking of doing it I was just trying to figure out if this was actually true because it makes no since to me. The crazy part is people really do feed pro plan thinking it’s the best. I have three generations back of raw fed beautiful Aussies and I don’t plan to change that. I have started giving Nupro silver to them for multiple reasons with success.
    Thanks for your reply 🙂

  • Lvshorses777

    Ok it says in moderation, every now and then on the post I’m reading now. And always cooked with no peels can help w/diegestion. But from what all I have read I’m going to stick to mostly all meat from now on and the other stuff I’ll give as treats every now and then. If at all.

  • Lvshorses777

    I’m looking for the best post about sweet potatoes they are really good for your dog, hang on I’ll find it.

  • Lvshorses777

    Please don’t listen to them, maybe they just don’t want you to win. Sugar causes diabetes and most dog foods have it in them already. I just lost my first dog to it because I listened to people saying she weighed to much and I switched her dog food to a kind that I didn’t know was full of sugar and the treats had sugar in them too and they were from the same company. And I just fed her one small bag 3.5lbs. And she died. If you want you dogs coat to grow beautiful give lots of meat and eggs. I’ll never buy store bought dog food again. Now since I have researched all of it the only thing keeping my dogs alive before was I was feeding wet and dry. I’m going to post you something good to read after I post this. You can ask me any questions you want to. I’ll help any way I can.

  • justmeKC

    there is a vein that runs on the outside of the ear, right at the edge. it is on the side of the ear towards the body, not the face. My dog, who gets frantic anywere else, doesn’t even feel this. bleeds very well, too.

  • Geri

    Thanks Kevin – I really appreciate the info. So much data to sort through and you want to do the best thing you can for your pet.

  • Kevin Stockfish

    Struvite crystals or calcium oxalates? More than likely the issue is related to struvites. Dogs are predisposed to struvites when their urine pH is too basic. Urine pH should be somewhere around 6.5. One of the main factors as to why many dogs urine pH is too basic is due to their diet lacking a sufficient meat protein content due to the diet being high in plant protein and/or carbohydrates. In order to help prevent a higher probability of struvites, it is important to increase the meat protein within the diet, as well as decrease the sources of plant protein and carbohydrates. InkedMarie definitely made some great suggestions about adding in a high moisture diet, preferably raw, but if not, dehydrated or human grade canned food. As InkedMarie stated, Honest Kitchen is a great quality dehydrated diet which is very easy to prepare, but I would recommend a GF formula (Embark, Force, Love, Zeal, etc.), because they contain a greater meat protein content and meat is inherently very acidic which will help make one’s dog urine pH more acidic. If interested in raw, Answers, Nature’s Logic, Primal and several other brands are great quality diets. If interested in canned food, Nature’s Logic, Koha (previously named Mauri), Weruva, etc. are great quality canned foods which will definitely help your situation. If interested in continuing dry food, Nature’s logic (completely synthetic free-whole food source based and is fairly small kibble size for your maltipoo)/Acana/Orijen/Open Farm are 4 great options, since they’re grain free and are significantly lower in carb content and much higher in meat protein than lower quality foods. Lastly, a probiotic would definitely be a great supplement to add, so I would recommend looking into Wholistic Pet Organics (I just had a training from the founder of this company and he knows more about small animal nutrition and supplements than most-many holistic/integrative vets carry his products in their practices due to the incredible quality). They make a formula called “Digest All Plus,” which consists of only human grade organic ingredients with no fillers. It simply sources the main digestive enzymes that are sourced from organic plant sources, as well as 2 probiotic cultures at a combined concentration of 10 billion CFU’s, which is significantly higher than most high quality human probiotic supplements. This will help your maltipoo prevent bad bacteria build up and allow only good bacteria to thrive. Good luck and hope some of our input helps! I personally would recommend researching Dr. Karen Becker (renowned holistic veterinarian) on Google and reading up on some of her articles relating to this exact issue.

  • InkedMarie

    any wet food (canned, raw, dehydrated such as The Honest kitchen) is best to feed. If you must feed dry, definitely add water and canned to it.

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Geri-
    Sorry to hear about your pup’s bladder infections. They are probably painful for her. You are right about getting more water in her system to help keep her urine diluted and the crystals flushed. Adding canned to any kibble is always a good idea in my opinion along with some warm water. As far as the Rx food is concerned, I would feed it at least until the infections and crystals are under control. Preferably the canned version if she’ll eat it. Will she drink out of a fountain? Also, I started feeding my cat with the issue three smaller meals per day to help balance out his pH levels.
    Getting rid of the infection, more water and a lot of bathroom breaks are really important. Good luck!

  • Geri

    I have a 12# maltipoo who has a tendancy to have bladder infections – the vet said she had a high level of crystals in her bladder which caused irritation of the lining thus causing the infections. She recommended a prescription food – I do not like it. I have been thinking about adding Cranberry D-Mannose to her diet and looking for another dog food. She doesn’t like to drink water and that is, I think, one of the problems. Is there a good dog food I could perhaps mix with a little canned food to make her want to drink more? Any recommendations?

  • Ronnie Jones

    It’s very simple once you know the corporate bastards who run most of the world…. sick dogs are good for business just as sick people… the pet food industry, the vets and especially the drug Companies. Dogs should eat meat, animal fat, organs, tendons, bone, the hide…. the entire animal.. raw or cooked. But these corporate agents will be all over these sites just as they are on the human health sites…. Dogs are getting the same diseases as people because they’re eating what people eat…. we’re all just sick animals to be milked to death

  • Sarah Schoenberger Lindeman

    Orijen has 30% carbs. EVO has 21% carbs that’s the lowest dry dog food I could find.

  • Hana Spitz

    Yeah I had the same thought, very interesting. I bought some zinc to add to her diet. Maybe some biotin too. 🙂

  • theBCnut

    Well, I haven’t heard that one before. Oils make the coat shine and the hair itself is made of protein, so I can’t imagine that sugar would do much to grow coat, but it did make me think about how hair and nails continue to grow for a short time after death. Maybe all the sugar is killing the dogs.

  • Hana Spitz

    So this is probably completely false but I’m curious of others opinions. I show Aussies and have been told by others that sugar grows coat. So if the carbs are a littler high in a food it will help grow and maintain a more full/longer coat. People swear by this…. Opinions?

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