Skip to Main Content

We use cookies to offer you a better experience, analyze site traffic and assist with our marketing efforts. By using this website you accept the use of cookies, outlined in our Privacy Policy.

July 7, 2021

Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates?

  • Nutrition
  • Dog
  • Dog Food
Bulldog waiting for bowl of kibble

Carbohydrates play important roles in your dog’s body. Even though dietary carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients for dogs, and are often mistakenly considered fillers, carbohydrates are important for providing a highly digestible, readily available energy source. Keep reading to find out why dogs can, and do, use carbohydrates!

How Carbohydrates Work for Dogs

During digestion carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, the preferred source of energy for certain body cells, including the brain. In healthy pets, blood glucose levels are controlled to ensure that a readily available supply of glucose is always available for body cells, or in other terms, gives them an available boost of energy if they need it. If dietary carbohydrates are not provided as a source of glucose, the body will make glucose from other sources, such as protein. Consuming carbohydrates in the diet allows protein to be spared for producing and maintaining body tissue, rather than being used for energy production. Having enough energy is important for helping keep your dog happy and healthy.

It’s All About Balance

All dog foods contain a balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. If one of these nutrients is decreased in a food, the levels of one or both of the other nutrients must increase.

Therefore, including carbohydrates in a dog food recipe allows for more flexibility to create recipes with different nutrient values. This is important for animals requiring less protein or fat in the diet, or for dogs requiring specific mineral levels due to a health condition.

NOW FRESH Recipe for Senior Dogs

Senior Dog Recipes

Tasty recipes for seniors who are young at heart

Our Senior Dog Recipes are crafted by our pet nutritionists with fresh turkey, salmon & duck. This delicious recipe helps maintain hip, joint & heart health, with moderate protein & fat to help support a healthy weight in their golden years.

For example, high protein diets can contain higher levels of phosphorus. Thus, to control phosphorus levels, such as in diets intended for dogs with kidney disease, carbohydrates may need to replace some of the protein.

Carbohydrates Aren’t Bad!

There is a common myth that carbohydrates make pets (and humans) fat. However, it is the amount of energy consumed versus energy used that contributes to weight gain.

Dietary carbohydrates provide the same amount of energy as protein and less than half of the amount as fat. In addition, dietary fibre is a unique type of carbohydrate that dogs cannot digest. Because it is not digested, fibre provides almost no energy, so it can help reduce the number of calories consumed. It also helps support digestive health and aids in blood glucose control, as well as providing your pup with a feeling of fullness.

There is a common myth that carbohydrates make pets (and humans) fat. However, it is the amount of energy consumed versus energy used that contributes to weight gain.
Natalie Asaro
Natalie AsaroNutrition Manager

Carbohydrates also provide functional benefits in pet foods. The shape, texture and density of kibble is dependent on the carbohydrate (starch) content of the food. Carbohydrates also improve the texture of wet foods, this is very important, as mouth feel affects palatability, which is especially important for small breed dogs.

Grains are a common source of carbohydrates in dog foods. Examples of grains include oats, barley, rye, corn, rice, and wheat. Some types of non-grain carbohydrate sources include pulses (peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas), potato, sweet potato, and tapioca.

More questions about carbohydrates? Call our Health and Nutrition Specialists at 1-866-864-6112 or contact us.


Natalie Asaro

Natalie Asaro

Nutrition Manager

Natalie received both her BSc in Honours Biological Science and MSc in Companion Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph.