Carbohydrates for Dogs

Nutrients may come and go, but none can take up the controversial status, as carbohydrates have garnered over the years, in the dog world. People have only seen carbs at odds; while some have a more sparing take, others completely deny the existence of carbs in a dog’s diet. However, there’s more to it than just another filler to the nutrition chart in dog food. What makes it a priority when it comes to the nutrition of a canine? Well, is it one of the priorities?

Essentially there are three macronutrients in a dog's diet; proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates. YES! Carbohydrates have become part of the eating regime of these carnivores from the jungles. Years of domestication led to the doctrines of evolution and adaptation to mimic their diets like that of their hoomans. A lot of dog nutritionists bash this homo-centric diet, forgetting the difference between carnivores and obligate carnivores.

Unlike cats, dogs do not thrive entirely on animal-based products, they enjoy a good veggie here and there. As mentioned in the blog on Protein;

When the wild Wolf hunts a Deer (a herbivorous animal), its food consists of the flesh of the Deer along with the raw veggies in its stomach.

So to say that by incorporating a vegetarian diet, you are instilling something alien in their system is entirely wrong. Anatomically too, animals have some enzymes in their pancreas that makes them adept at ingesting the carbs and transforming them into energy. NRC claims that 30-60% of dry dog food is made of carbs, it gives the food its texture and palatability. Dental hygiene is another aspect where carbs are to win, it abrases the teeth surface to ensure that there’s no tartar build up. It even provides the fillings a hungry dog requires immediately, preventing obesity and weight loss.

So what is this hot debate about carbohydrates, then? It is the quantity and quality of this carb that makes all the difference. The quota of carbs is still objective, but to decipher between good and bad carbs, one has to demystify carbs first.

Carbohydrates come in forms; that is, Simple carbs and Complex Carbs. The derivative of Simple carbs is Sugar. On the other hand, complex carbs have two components, that is Starch and Fibres.


Simple carbs are formed by the bonds of monosaccharides and disaccharides. These are broken down to form the energy sources of Sucrose and Glucose, which makes up the energy reservoirs in a canine body.

Simple carbs are found in cheap refined grains, white rice, fructose and lactose. It is very easily absorbed by the animal body; making it easily metabolised too.


Complex carbs can further be divided, among the tenets of starch and fibres. Large, complex molecules, polysaccharides, formulate the structure of complex carbs.


Unprocessed plant-based food forms the basis of the fibres. Fibres are essentially what we call the good carbs. Fibres can not be further broken down into anything, so it provides a slow release of energy. It aids digestion, helps maintain the immune and nervous system. It also takes care of metabolism. Fibres are of two kinds; Soluble and Insoluble fibres.

Soluble Fibres

Fruits, seeds and plants are an example of soluble carbs.They take care of the softness of stool.

Insoluble Fibres

While insoluble fibres maintain the volume of stools. Grains are a good example of insoluble carbs.


If we extend the conversation on good carbs, it would not be wrong to call carbs a phytonutrient for our little doggos.

Phytonutrients are the nutrients that are not essential to an animal body, yet their presence benefits the body from acute and chronic ailments. According to an experiment conducted in the US, consuming vegetables thrice a week made Scottish Terriers less prone to bladder cancer, to which they are generally susceptible. Ingestion of carbohydrates induces the development of carcinoma cells in the canine body. Hence it acts as a phytonutrient in the canine body. 


As much as green leafy veggies build the immunity of human structures, it degrades for our canine companions. A dog fed green, leafy vegetables like spinach, beet green in large amounts can result in kidney stones. The leaky guts of some dogs transmit the oxalates formed to blood and urine, which further gets excreted by the urine only to form calcium oxalates. These combined calcium oxalates further lead to situations like kidney stones.


Glycemic Index refers to the blood sugar level in a dog's body. Dogs can not tolerate a high blood sugar level. Refined grains have a high glycemic index that results in loss of all nutrients, including dietary fibre, iron and Vitamin B.

Corns, wheat, white rice, potatoes and peas have a considerably high glycemic index, making the food toxic for your little dogs. Similarly, fruits, cucumber, cauliflower, pear, quinoa and buckwheat are low on the glycemic index (GI), making them great healthy options to choose.

Next time anybody tries to sell you a marketing gimmick, become ingredient-smart.


Did you know that carbohydrates are a great source of energy? No, right, neither did we! Breaking the age old myth, it isn’t just protein and fatty acids that contribute to the canine’s energy, but carbs too. Carbs provide an instant source of energy to the body, in the form of glucose. Consumption of energy is only possible once the bond of monosaccharides breaks or separates. Then, enzymes work in the pancreas and small intestine to break down to form energy. It is then transmitted to the intestine, blood and liver to be used by the dog’s body.

If a dog is fed protein, carbs and fatty acids, the body would use the energy produced by carbs first, as it is converted to energy extremely quickly.
Consequently, the kind of energy it provides is of ‘’short burst’’, an immediate rush to perform instantly. For eg: If you are looking for an energy source for a dog who has to run a race, the best source has to be a carbohydrate one. But, for a working dog or lactating mother dog, it is better to choose protein as a source of energy, as it is more sustainable and long lasting.


Now that we have imparted you with the required information to decipher between good and bad carbohydrates. Next step is to mark the right quantity of these carbs. As per our previous blog AAFCO guidelines doesn’t qualify carbs to be on the nutritional analysis of any dog food; follow the experts undoubtedly, but educate yourself and understand ‘what and why’ of carbs so that you can be sure about buying good quality dog food online and feeding them good quality meals at all times,. So to cite a benchmark for the quality of carbohydrates is not possible. But, it is only obvious that a dog should be fed a minimum quantity of something, its body is not meant to support. Another noteworthy thing is that we have used carbs and vegetarian food interchangeably, throughout the blog. The reason behind this is simple yet coveted, even non-vegetarian food contains some carbs but when it comes to vegetarian food, there’s plenty.

So, the quantity should be deliberately kept minimum by the dog parents and dog food companies. We assure, once you have learnt even the basics of dog nutritional requirements, nobody can fool you into selling their sub-standard dog foods, for your dogs deserve only the best.  To get the best of foods, head over to online pet store.

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