Carbohydrates in Dry Dog Food
The trend toward eliminating grains and substituting potatoes in commercial and home-prepared foods for dogs is a source of controversy between dog nutritionists, veterinarians and manufacturers alike. As more and more people continue to subscribe to the no-grain philosophy, there is often disagreement whether potatoes provide comparable nutritional value to grains.
Carbohydrates are present in almost all commercially available dog foods. While the focus is often on the protein and fat content of a dog food, carbohydrates have a definite impact on the quality of your dog’s diet. If not fed correctly, carbohydrates can be responsible for many health problems.
Carbohydrates can come from many sources. People commonly think of grains as the primary source of carbohydrates in pet food, however, fruits, legumes (peas/chickpeas) and vegetables, such as corn, rice, potatoes and beets are also sources of carbohydrates typically seen in todays diet formulations.
Certain plant materials that aren’t readily digestible by the dog provide necessary fibre to the diet. Fibre comes from grains and plants, such as oat bran, the hulls of brown rice, beet pulp, pectin, and peanut hulls. Fibre is not a required nutrient for dogs, but it is included in most dog foods because it helps keep your dog full (thus preventing obesity and helping with weight loss), maintains colon health, aids digestion, helps prevent constipation and diarrhoea.
For manufacturers, carbohydrates are essential in the formation of dry pet food. The starchy carbohydrates are used to add structure and texture to kibbled food, helping to create a product that is shelf stable and easy to feed. Carbohydrates are also cheaper and more readily available than proteins, and unfortunately are often used as inexpensive fillers.
Many manufacturers started using potatoes as fillers following consumer backlash against grains like wheat, corn and barley.
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. Most commercial dry foods contain between 30% and 70% carbohydrates, with higher values normally associated with lower quality foods.
Relatively healthy in their pure, whole form, each carbohydrate has its own nutritional profile, however once refined they lose vitamins, minerals and fiber. Their nutritional status in dog food depends on what form the food employs. For example, a dog food made with brown rice or whole potatoes is more nutritionally complete than a dog food made with white rice or byproducts such as potato skins or rice hulls. Look closely at labels to determine one from another.
Brown Rice is a more complex carbohydrate, low in protein, but high in fiber and a great source of manganese, magnesium and selenium. Brown rice is rich in antioxidants, promotes weight loss, and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Chickpeas, (also called garbanzo beans), are a nutritious member of the fiber-rich legume family of vegetables. They are good sources of fiber, iron, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, magnesium, folate, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B-6. These beans may also lower the risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as limiting increases in blood sugar levels after meals.
Lentils are alkaline and are a good source of protein. Split Yellow Lentil (Dhulli Moong) and Split Red Lentil (Dhulli Masoor) are the best and most digestible lentils to give to your dog. Boil them well with a little turmeric (haldi) powder and serve as a soup or mixed with rice, meat, vegetables etc occasionally and in moderation.
Oats/Oatmeal when eaten plain, is a low calorie food at around 100–130 calories a cup cooked. It can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, can help prevent artery clogging, and helps to boost a dog’s immune system. They have high levels of fiber, are low in fat, high in grain protein, and oatmeal is a naturally gluten-free food!
Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates. They contain higher levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene than most other vegetables. Receiving high marks for dietary fiber, natural sugars, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Sweet potatoes are also natural stool hardeners that ease the discomfort of dogs who have diarrhea. They are lower on the glycemic index (than white potatoes).
Diabetes, heart conditions and cancer are all serious health conditions that can be affected by your dog’s diet. Its advisable to talk with your veterinarian before altering their food if your dog has a chronic health condition.