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Dogs and Carbohydrates — A Surprising Secret Revealed

Mike Sagman

By

Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman

Founder

Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Updated: September 27, 2023

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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.

Final word

The Dog Food Advisor does not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.

However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) and from sellers of perishable pet food when readers click over to their websites from ours. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.

For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.

Sources

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

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