Do Dogs Need Carbs?

Everyday life at home with dogs

Do dogs need carbohydrates

The short answer is no carbohydrates are nutritionally required by a dog to sustain life. However, there is a lot more to the subject than that.

For starters, through hundreds of years of domestication dogs have adapted to carbohydrates in their diet. The dog digestive system is such that it can pretty well adapt to anything we choose to feed them. Most modern dog foods actually contain high levels of carbohydrate. The main reasons for this are that it is cheaper per calorie than protein and it tends to have a longer shelf life. Dog foods would be significantly more expensive if they comprised purely of proteins and fats.

Although carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients in a dogs diet they can play a critical role in your dog’s body. Many carbs contain vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals, trace elements, dietary fiber, and even some fatty acids and protein.

How carbohydrates provide energy

Small beautiful dog - pug breed sits on the chair waiting to eat two tasty cinnamon danish buns from the white plate on the wooden table in Scandinavian style dinner room - restaurant, street food, shopping concept

Carbohydrates aren’t bad for dogs. In reasonable amounts, they can actually provide a practical source of energy. But it is not actually carbohydrates that they need. It is glucose.

During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the preferred source of energy for certain body cells and the brain. Energy metabolism in the dog can be derived from fat oxidation and the breakdown of protein to produce glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis, also. However, carbohydrates allow proteins to be sparred for the more important function of producing and maintaining body tissue such as muscle repair. If carbs are present they will be converted to energy first before fat and protein because they are easier to use.

The role of fiber in a dogs diet

What is mainly missing from a carbohydrate-free diet is fiber. Fiber has many benefits. It can help with weight management, improve digestive health and aid in the control of blood glucose levels. Fiber also helps to keep them regular. It is quite common for dogs that eat a raw diet only to become constipated. The active ingredient in fiber is called inulin. If you are feeding a low carbohydrate diet or raw diet I would recommend supplementing with Inulin.

Personally, I prefer to feed a premium dry kibble as opposed to a raw diet. My food of choice is Origen as of the dry foods it has a high protein content.
For more information see Origen dog food on Amazon.

Fiber also helps keep the dog feeling full longer. This decreases the amount of food needed and prevents obesity. Fiber can be beneficial for the growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut.

For dogs that have been diagnosed with pancreatitis, many vets recommend reducing the fat content in a dogs diet and feeding a diet higher in carbohydrates. Part of the job of the pancreas is to produce enzymes to digest fats. In the case of pancreatitis, those enzymes are released and cause inflammation and damage to the pancreas and surrounding organs and tissues.

So what is the ideal percentage of carbs in a dogs diet?

There is no ideal percentage of carbs in a dogs diet. Ultimately, it depends on your particular dog. Some dogs do well on a low carbohydrate diet, while others don’t.

Dos that suffer from diseases like hypertriglyceridemia, that is high blood fat levels or pancreatitis, a very low carbohydrate diet would need to be avoided. This is because low carb diets tend to be higher in fat content. For those requiring lower fat diets, adjusting the amount of food containing dietary carbohydrate upward is usually necessary.

Low-carbohydrate diets are sometimes recommended for dogs with diabetes and cancer. In cases where dogs are prone to a sensitive stomach, many vets recommend a diet lower in carbs.

If you have any doubts about what would be the best carb, protein and fat ratio is best for your particular dog, speak to your vet for recommendations.

In Summary

Although carbohydrates are not nutritionally required by a dog to sustain life, carbohydrates can still have many benefits for your dog. Ultimately, the ideal percentage of carbos, protein, and fats depends upon the individual dog. Dos with certain medical conditions benefit from a diet that has a higher carbohydrate content.

Opinions about dog nutrition can be varied. The video below gives some helpful insights when deciding what would be the best mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrate for your particular dog.


  • Joseph Coleman

    A lifelong writer and proud dog dad. Joseph started this blog dedicated to helping other dog owners find accurate information on how to keep their pets at their healthiest through exercise and nutrition. His passion for all things canine shines through in his writing, and he believes that every dog deserves the best possible care. If you're a dog owner looking for reliable advice on how to keep your pup healthy and happy, be sure to check out Joseph's work.