As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog has a healthy and balanced diet. To do this, you need to have a good understanding of the nutritional needs of your dog. This means knowing the food types they need, in what quantities they need these food types, and what foods you should avoid feeding them. People often mistakenly believe that dogs have the same nutritional needs as humans and that you should give your dog the same food types that humans need. One food that humans include in their diet is carbohydrates, but do dogs actually need carbohydrates in their diet?
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a type of food that can provide energy. They are divided into two main groups; simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The former requires little digestion and is readily absorbed by the body, which then converts the carbohydrates into glucose. Complex carbohydrates are divided into starches and fibers. Starches are broken down by enzymes before being absorbed and used as energy. Starches are found in grains and some vegetables, such as potatoes, peas, and beans. Fibers are enzyme resistant and are only food in plant-based foods.
Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates for Energy?
According to the Whole Dog Journal, dogs do not need any carbohydrates in their diet at all. However, this does not mean that they cannot benefit from eating some types of carbohydrates, although there are also downsides to the consumption of carbohydrates for dogs. Just like humans, dogs do need glucose for energy. Humans obtain this through their food. While dogs can also get the glucose they need from their diet, they differ from humans as they can produce their own. By eating fat and protein, dogs can synthesize glucose in their kidneys and livers.
Why Do Dog Food Manufacturers Include Carbohydrates?
It is interesting to note that pet food manufactures include carbohydrates in their products, although they do not need them in their diet. According to Dog Food Advisor, dog’s wild ancestors included only around 14 percent carbohydrates in their diet. On the other hand, many modern dry dog foods can contain anywhere between 46 and 74 percent. They also say that kibble used in dog food typically contains four times the amount of carbohydrates found in the canine ancestral diet. So, why do pet food manufacturers include such high levels of carbohydrates?
- Keeping costs down
- Longer shelf-life
- Abundance of ingredients
- Carbohydrates are essential for kibble making
Are There Any Benefits of Including Carbohydrates in your Dog’s Diet?
To understand the potential benefits of dogs eating carbohydrates, it is important to understand the difference between the different sources of this food type. While some have beneficial nutritional values, others have no benefits for canines says Dogster. Unhealthy carbohydrates that have no nutritional value include foods such as refined sugar and white flour. There are plenty of types of carbohydrates that are beneficial. One of the most beneficial types of carbohydrates is phytonutrients. Many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes contain phytonutrients. Some of the benefits of phytonutrients include:
- They act as antioxidants
- Block tumor activity
- Kill cancer cells
- Improve the immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Repair DNA damage
For your dog to get these benefits, you should consider adding foods that contain phytonutrients to their diet. These include cruciferous vegetables, whole fruits, leafy greens, legumes, red or orange vegetables, and gluten-free grains.
What Are the Downsides of Carbohydrates for Dogs?
Although feeding your dog the right sort of carbohydrates can have some health benefits, there are also some negative aspects of feeding your dog carbohydrates. The first point to make is that their metabolism does not need them, so it is an unnecessary ingredient in their diet. Second, many carbohydrates hold no nutritional value at all. So, although they may not necessarily do your dog any harm, there are also no benefits. Refined grains and sugars are the perfect examples of this.
One of the major problems with eating unhealthy carbohydrates is that it can damage your dog’s pancreas. Eating carbohydrates forces a dog’s pancreas to produce more enzymes that put stress on the organ and lead to inflammation. This is a condition known as pancreatitis and it can also cause damage to the surrounding tissues and organs. This is an extremely painful condition with serious symptoms. If your dog suffers from chronic pancreatitis, their diet is a likely contributing factor and your vet may put your dog on a special diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Another issue is that there are carbohydrates that can cause allergies in dogs. This does not necessarily mean that eating them will give them a rash, itchy skin, and watery eyes. Some types of allergies, such as grain allergies, can cause inflammation in the digestive tract. Scientists have learned that this is more likely to happen if the dog has a genetic predisposition to certain types of allergies.
Dogs and Carbohydrates – The Bottom Line
Dogs and humans have different dietary needs. Although both need glucose, humans get this through their food while dogs can produce their own. Carbohydrates are not a type of food that dogs need in their diet. They can live a healthy life simply by eating protein and fat. However, there are some types of carbohydrates that can benefit a dog. Phytonutrients have many health benefits, and these are found in a wide range of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. On the other hand, there are also downsides to including carbohydrates in a canine diet. It can cause allergies and puts stress on the pancreas. Refined sources of carbohydrates should be avoided as they hold no nutritional value for dogs. Pet food manufacturers do not include carbohydrates in their products for nutritional purposes. They include carbohydrates because they are abundant, cheap, important to the kibble-making process, and they have a longer shelf-life than proteins.