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Stroll down the aisles of your local pet store, and you’ll discover dozens of dog foods packed with carbohydrates. Barley, brown rice, corn, oats, potato, and other starches are ingredients in many popular dog kibbles. These foods often sound appealing to pet owners. After all, who wouldn’t want to eat chicken, oatmeal, berries, and other healthy-sounding ingredients? But the truth is that low-carb dog food is the healthiest and most evolutionarily appropriate choice for your canine companion.
Many people aren’t aware of the dangers of carbs and the health benefits of a keto diet for dogs. Here are five essential facts every pet owner should know about carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates Aren’t an Essential Nutrient for Dogs
Most major dog foods don't list carbohydrates as one of their top ingredients. Based on the prominence of this macronutrient, you might assume that carbs are an essential part of the canine diet. However, your dog doesn’t need carbs at all.
Dogs can convert carbs into energy but survive perfectly fine without them. When fed a zero- or low-carb kibble like Ketona, dogs burn fat and gluconeogenesis-synthesized glucose for energy instead of glucose from dietary carbs. This metabolic state is called ketosis. Canine athletes fed keto dog food perform just as well as — or even better than — dogs fed a high-carb diet, proving that dogs don’t require carbs for energy.
Why do dog food manufacturers make a nonessential nutrient a staple ingredient in their kibbles? The answer is complicated, but the pet industry’s reliance on carbs boils down to a few key factors:
- High-carb dry kibble made with starches and animal byproducts is cheap to produce.
- Many owners and veterinarians are unaware of the dangers of carbohydrates due to misinformation spread by "Big Kibble."
- Carbohydrates are easy to hide due to lax regulations of pet food labels.
You can read a more in-depth investigation of the pet food industry's promotion of carbohydrates in KetoNatural Pet Foods CEO Daniel Shulof’s free e-book Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma.
Dogs Haven’t Eaten Carbohydrates for Most of Their Genetic Evolution
Our modern beagles and French bulldogs don’t bear much resemblance to their wolf ancestors, but dogs and wolves had a common lineage for over 99.9% of their genetic evolution. This shared history means that dogs have spent most of their evolutionary history eating like wolves.
Wild wolves primarily eat enormous quantities of deer and elk meat. Unlike today’s dogs, they seldom consume carbohydrates, fruits, or vegetables. This high-protein diet powers their highly active lifestyle and keeps them fit and lean. Virtually no wolves become overweight or obese, even when kept in captivity.
Dogs followed similar eating patterns for most of their history. However, the modern-day canine diet has shifted to revolve around starchy kibble, and this shift has drastically impacted our pets’ health. Most notably, carbohydrates are more fattening than other macronutrients because they raise blood glucose levels and encourage the body to hoard fat.
Due to this dietary change, dogs now suffer from a silent canine obesity epidemic fueled by carbohydrates. Over 50% of American dogs are obese, and many others need to shed excess fat to reach an optimal weight.
Luckily, it’s never too late to start feeding your dog a biologically appropriate diet. A ketogenic dog food conforms closely to the eating patterns of wolves and protects your dog from harmful carbohydrates.
Pet Food Labels Don’t Disclose Carbohydrates
Are you curious about the carbohydrate content of conventional kibbles? You won’t find this information anywhere on most dog food packages due to deceptive nutritional labeling.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a private organization that works with the Federal Drug Administration to regulate pet foods. AAFCO requires pet food manufacturers to include a “Guaranteed Analysis” panel. This regulation may sound good in theory, but the AAFCO requirements deliberately make it difficult for consumers to understand nutritional values.
For example, the Guaranteed Analysis panel:
- Doesn’t include recommended daily allowances
- Fails to list carbohydrates at all
- Calculates nutritional content on an “as-fed” basis, which factors in water to disguise the actual amount of fat and carbs
Many veterinarians advocate for more transparent labeling, but AAFCO hasn’t revised its confusing requirements.
Carbohydrates Can Cause Serious Metabolic Conditions
Studies have linked carbohydrates to numerous metabolic conditions that can decrease your dog’s quality of life.
Cancer is one particularly prevalent health condition that affects 1 in 3 dogs. Research demonstrates that canine cancer and obesity are closely linked. An overweight dog is more likely to develop cancer than a lean dog.
Experts have developed two theories to explain this association:
- Adipokine model: Fat cells secrete hormones and other compounds called adipokines into the body. These chemicals trigger an inflammatory response, which can stimulate somatic mutation and the development of cancerous tumors.
- Metabolic model: Excessive carbohydrate intake produces glucose, which can fuel cancer growth and make your dog pack on the pounds.
An obese dog is also more likely to develop other metabolic disorders like chronic inflammation, diabetes, and epilepsy. Fat dogs also tend to have reduced lifespans.
Keeping your dog in a state of nutritional ketosis is the most effective way to improve health and longevity. Restricting your dog’s carbohydrate intake helps them burn fat more efficiently and reduces the number of inflammation-inducing adipokines circulating in their body. A ketogenic dog food can also help manage epilepsy and other conditions.
Dogs Don’t Crave Carbohydrates
Pet food advertisements often depict dogs eagerly racing to their bowls to scarf down a bowl of carbohydrate laden kibble. But the reality is that dogs don’t crave carbohydrates like a human might long for a bowl of pasta or starchy French fries. Research shows that dogs allowed to self-select their food actively choose to eat a ratio of 30% protein, 63% fat, and 7% carbohydrates.
Most kibble manufacturers ignore canine dietary preferences and produce starchy foods that contain 46% to 74% carbohydrates. Transitioning your dog to a high-protein dog food will satisfy their instincts and taste buds more than conventional kibble.
Make the Switch to a Low-Carb Dog Food
Now that you’ve learned the truth about carbohydrates, you may wonder, "How much should my dog weigh?" Check out KetoNatural Pet Foods’ scientific resources to find the Body Condition Scoring Chart.
You can also find a wealth of additional resources about the benefits of feeding your dog a keto diet. Make the switch to Ketona today to keep your dog fit, healthy, and nutritionally balanced.