Ask the Vet by Dr. Paula Terifaj, DVM
Some people say they’ve switched to grain-free dietsbecause “dogs don’t need carbs.” While that’s true – both dogs and cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates – the term‘grain-free’is not a statement for zero carbs. In fact, kibble based diets can containplenty of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and tapioca. So, while grains may be out, don’t be fooled, carbs are not!
When choosing the best diet for your dog, it is important to recognize that all essential nutrients can be consumed from good sources of animal proteins and fat.Growing in popularity, these grain-free diets perform well for dogs that thrive onfoods with higheramounts of fat andprotein which naturally ups the price tag. Whether or not you should opt to feed your dog a diet free of grains depends on your dog’s gastrointestinal feedback and your budget.
Some dogs have good stool quality when there are grains in the diet, and others do not. Fiber does help to regulate the transit time of the bowel contents and form of the stool. However, fiber can be obtained from vegetables alone.One favorite is canned pumpkin.
Knowing that dogs can get everything they need from a diet that contains only protein and fat,why feed carbs?There are two matters of consideration – convenience and cost. We know thatthe opportunistic domestic dogevolved and adapted to eating family leftovers – convenient for us and cheap, too!
Dr. Sean Delaney, an expert in animal nutrition, classifies carbohydrate content in dog food as “low” when less than 25 percent of the calories are from carbohydrates; “moderate” when 25 to 40 percent of their calories are from carbohydrates. Using this guidepost – anything over 40 percent would be classified as “high.” Diets formulated high in carbohydrates enjoy higher company profits – noWalmart bargain for your dog’s health!
Nor is the carbohydrate content listed on pet food labels. However, you can estimate the carb load by a simple calculation.As an example, add together the following typical percentages found in kibble diets and subtract the total from 100: protein 25 percent; fat 15 percent; fiber 4 percent; Moisture 8 percent; ash 3 percent. Subtract 55 from 100 and you are left with a carbohydrate percentage of 45 – nearly half of what’s in the bag! My advice is to keep carbs at a low level, less than 25 percent of the diet, since we know that nature designed canines to be predators, not grazingsheep.
However, there may be medical conditions that recommend lower fat or protein foods – allowing a higherthan suggested carbohydrate load to meet demand for calories. On the other hand, a select number of dogs cannot tolerate any amount of grains or the grain content must be limited. Failure to recognize these dogs will result in ongoing medical problems such as abnormal stools, poor appetite, vomiting and failure to thrive.
Learn how to easily prepare meals for your dog, read pet food labels and pick out the best pet foodsin my special report: How to Feed Your Dog if You Flunked Rocket Science. For my free e-book, send your request to HolisticVet@DogSpaResort.com.
Paula Terifaj DVM is owner of the DogSpa Resort & Wellness Center in Desert Hot Springs. To request a holistic consultation for your pet, call (760) 600-0246. More articles on her blog, Dog-Breath, at DogSpaResort.com/blog.