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When humans want to lose weight, some of them go on a keto diet – high protein, low (or no) carbohydrate, and high fibre. Does this type of diet work on chubby dogs too?
Why is there a recent product range that rages low carbs? Some may quip, “Necessity is the mother of creation”. Rather, marketing creativity is the mother of creation.
The question still begs. Is it necessary to feed dogs low carb dog food? Also, what exactly is low carb dog food anyway? Does the bag need a label to certify that it is ‘low carb’? When do you feed a dog a low carb diet? This article shall de-mystify all those questions.
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As we have mentioned in our earlier article, and as confirmed by the ASPCA, dogs can obtain energy from three sources: fat, carbohydrate and protein. Animal fat is the most concentrated form of food energy, more than twice that of protein and carbohydrate.
Fat can make your dog fat, but it is essential for the production of certain hormones, for the formation of cell structure and the absorption of some vitamins. Depriving a dog of animal fat will cause a nutritional deficiency and skin problems.
Protein is critical to sustain not only a dog’s muscles but also its organs and general health. Excess protein that has been absorbed from its diet can be metabolised as a source of energy.
Carbohydrate also provides energy, mostly used by a dog’s organs, and that’s about it. Carbs are present in grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, milk and legumes.
Aside from fruit, a wild canine gets its carb from vegetable fiber, mostly fermented, i.e. from the stomachs of its vegetarian prey. Fermented fibres are more easily digestible than raw greens because they have already been partially broken down by the prey.
Yes, to fuel its organs, but not in the form which we are used to. The same kind of energy can be obtained from the fat or protein in its diet as well if there aren’t enough carbohydrates.
Puppies need more carbs than adult or senior dogs because they have higher energy needs. However, not all carbs are created equal as there are simple carbs and complex carbs.
These are unprocessed or less processed foods such as rice, sweet potato, fruit, beans, lentils and corn. Thus, they retain most of their vitamins and minerals, which dogs benefit from so they are a healthier option to consume.
Examples are glucose, sucrose, dextrose and fructose. These are the simplest molecular forms so they are absorbed the fastest into the body.
Generally, the more processed a food source is, the more simple carbs it contains, such as sweets and flour-based products.
A little dose of simple carbs will not do any harm. However, complex carbs are better for dogs (and humans) because these have more nutritional value, and are less likely to pile the pounds on.
If a dog is young, healthy and reasonably active, having carbohydrates in their diet is fine. But if a dog is overweight or very inactive, they need a minimal amount of calories, which can be obtained from either carbs, fats and proteins.
However, this may not be the case for dogs with certain health conditions like diabetes and cancer.
There are many types of sweet potato. All of them have higher vitamin content than the regular potato, or even rice and wheat. These must be cooked and not to be given raw to dogs.
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Yes, if they are thoroughly cooked, but in moderate to small portions compared with their daily protein and fat portions. Never give a dog raw rice or any kind of grain. They cannot digest uncooked grains.
The average commercial dog food, especially kibble, has between 30 to 70% carbohydrate content per serving. This is pretty high considering the fact that dogs need protein and fat more than carbohydrate to maintain their health (see the first section of this article).
Some dog food products bear the label ‘low carb’. These can be in the form of kibble or canned food. Not all are truly low in carbohydrates.
The best way to judge whether the labels do justice is to look at the percentage of ingredients or nutrient content. Even so, the average ‘low carb’ dog food will contain up to 30% of carbs.
This 30% can be made from flour – either from grains or potatoes. When dog food is in the form of kibble, plenty of binding agents such as flour are needed to bake the mash into firm pellets.
Technically, if a dog’s meal consists of 30% carbohydrates, it is not considered low carb. The highest carb content for a puppy’s diet is 20% so how can 30% be ‘low’ for an adult dog? ‘Low’ would have to be far less than 20%.
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Some owners may have been tricked by commercial products labeled as low sugar. Sugar is the final, broken down form of carbohydrate. Therefore, even if very little glucose has been used as part of the dog food’s ingredients, any other form of complex carb in there will still be transformed into sugar once it is digested.
There is a higher likelihood of finding wet dog food which is really ‘low carb’ than finding kibble that is supposedly ‘low carb’. That is because there is no need to bind and bake the ingredients of wet food into pellets.
Diabetic dogs, dogs with cancer and overweight dogs can all benefit from such a diet.
The lack of insulin to process glucose in diabetic dogs causes their blood sugar to be higher than normal. Pumping their bodies with more glucose through their high carb or high sugar diets will just worsen their health. Low carb or no carb diets are best for diabetic dogs, depending on how advanced their condition is.
Sugar feeds cancer cells, which is why low carb dog food is the best for these poop pooches. Diets with very low content of complex carbs will still supply some quick energy to their internal organs. At the same time, their bodies will be nourished by more protein and fat than sugar.
The leading causes of dog obesity are overfeeding, lack of exercise and diet. Any unused calories – whether from protein, fat or carb – will be converted into body fat. However, carb converts into fat faster because these are absorbed the fastest and the most easily.
In some countries, manufacturers are not required to print the carbohydrate percentage on the packaging. Here are tips on how to calculate the estimated carb content yourself. Subtract the protein, fats, moisture and whatever listed content from 100%. The balance will be the carb percentage.
The type of dog food truest to the term ‘low carb’ would be raw meat diets and gently cooked meals which contain no processed carbohydrate. These types generally fulfil all the nutritional needs of an adult dog, and fit the bill of ‘healthy’ food. Here are the reasons why:
Dogs have evolved to digest carbs over the eons which they have spent with humans. But this does not mean their health will thrive on high carb diets. In fact, the prescribed carbohydrate content of a dog’s meal is a maximum of 20% at the most.
Comparatively, raw meals and cooked meals are the most likely to be truly low in carbohydrate, as the ingredients are in their natural forms and are not highly processed.
Some commercially sold dog food may shout out ‘low carb’ but they may actually have a higher carb content than those which do not claim to be so. What dog owners can do is decipher the ingredients on their own. Study the percentage and do your own Maths as well as understand what types of food contain carbohydrates.
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