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All About Carbs

The three macronutrients in a dog's diet that provide energy are protein, carbohydrates and fat. However, dogs do not need any carbs in their diet and most commercial pet foods contain a high amount of carbohydrates compared to the ancestral diet. Most kibble brands contain over 60% carbs.

Let us first take a look at the general functions of carbs. They provide a good energy source, heat production, building blocks for nonessential amino acids, glucoproteins, glycolipids and lactose. Additionally, as a future energy source, carbs are stored as glycogen or converted to fat.

Too many carbs cause obesity, diabetes, yeast, heart disease and cancer. Carbohydrates are not considered unhealthy, however the type of carbs fed, and the amount consumed will determine wether or not your dog is on a healthy diet or not.

Carbohydrates in Processed Food

Processed foods incorporate sugars, such as starch, fats, and salt, to prolong their shelf life. Additionally, these processed food items often feature palatants, thickeners, artificial colorings, and various additives alongside starches to enhance longevity. To enhance the palatability of kibble, some manufacturers have been known to apply used restaurant grease as well.

Dogs can survive on kibble however most do not thrive on it.

"According to the international food categorisation standards known as NOVA, kibble falls into the same category as human junk food, being classified as "ultra-processed." Dogs that regularly consume kibble are, essentially, partaking in a diet akin to human junk food for every meal."

Fun Fact - Dogs do not need carbohydrates in their diet, however fiber is an exception.

Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates

Many species have an enzyme called amylase, in their oral cavity which are able to start breaking down carbs. However dogs do not have this saliva enzyme and therefore digestion of carbs being at the small intestine. The small intestine starts by digesting and absorbing starches and sugars. The amylase secreted by the pancreas continues to digest the starches and sugar. If their body cannot digest all carbs the collect in the lumen of the small intestine. This would result in a reduction of water and mineral absorption.


Brady, C. (2020). Feeding dogs dry or raw? The science behind the debate. Farrow Road Publishing.

National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats", 2006 Edition, National Academies Press, Washington, DC.


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