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Carbs for Dogs Guide

When you buy dog food, the package it comes with usually doesn’t have the % composition of carbohydrates as one of the listed nutrients. However, it’s still important to be aware of how much carbohydrates your dog is eating because they can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has a recommended minimum level of carbohydrates for adult dogs of 5% on a dry matter basis. For puppies, the minimum is 8%.

Labeling rules currently in force list the “crude protein”, “crude fat” and “crude fiber” contents on pet food packaging, but not the carbohydrate content. However, you can calculate it yourself by subtracting the other three values from 100 (on a dry matter basis).

And that’s why I wrote this blog. To explain how you can calculate carbs from list of crude ingredients that exclude carbs.

For the case above, if the listed values for crude protein, crude fat and crude fibre are 30%, 20% and 5% respectively, the carbohydrate content would be 45%. I’ll explain further below but first, I’ll explain some basics.

What are carbs in dog food?

Carbohydrates are one of the 3 macronutrients (along with fat and protein) that make up dog food. They’re found in plant-based ingredients like grains, vegetables, and fruits.

There are 2 main types of carbs in dog food: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates:

Simple carbohydrates are made up of 1-2 sugar molecules and are found in things like table sugar, honey, and molasses. They’re quickly broken down and absorbed by the body.

Image showing examples of simple carbs
Image showing examples of simple carbs

Some examples of simple carbs found in dog food are:

  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • fructose

Complex carbohydrates:

Complex carbohydrates are made up of 3+ sugar molecules and are found in things like starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. They take longer to break down and be absorbed by the body.

Image showing examples of complex carbs
Image showing examples of complex carbs

While both types of carbs are found in dog food, complex carbs are generally considered to be better because they provide a slower and more steady release of energy.

Some examples of complex carbs found in dog food are:

  • dextrins
  • maltodextrins
  • maltose
  • oligosaccharides

What are the benefits of carbs for dogs?

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for dogs. They help to fuel the body and keep them going throughout the day.

Carbs also help to regulate blood sugar levels, provide essential vitamins and minerals, and promote a healthy digestive system.

How much carbs should my dog eat?

The amount of carbs your dog needs will depend on their age, activity level, and any health conditions they may have.

Puppies and young dogs need more carbs than adults because they’re growing and have higher energy needs. Senior dogs may also need more carbs to help them maintain their weight and muscle mass.

In general, most dogs need between 20-40% of their daily calories from carbs. However, this can vary depending on the individual dog.

What are some high-carb foods to avoid feeding my dog?

While carbs are an important part of a healthy diet for dogs, there are some high-carb foods that you should avoid feeding them.

These include:

  • cookies
  • cake
  • candy
  • pasta
  • bread
  • potatoes
  • rice

You should also avoid giving your dog foods that are high in simple carbs, like table sugar and honey. These can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and may lead to weight gain.If you’re unsure about whether a food is safe for your dog, always check with your veterinarian first.

Now that you know a bit more about carbs in dog food, let’s take a look at how to calculate them.

There are two main ways to calculate the carbohydrate content of dog food:

Below are the 5 main ingredients. Take note of ash which is not usually listed;

  1. Protein
  2. Fat
  3. Fibre
  4. Moisture
  5. Ash

Method 1: Use the guaranteed analysis

The guaranteed analysis is a list of minimum percentages of crude protein, fat, fibre, and moisture that’s required by law to be listed on pet food labels in the United States.While it doesn’t list the carbohydrate content, you can calculate it by subtracting the other values from 100%.

For example, if a food has a guaranteed analysis of:

Protein: 30%

Fat: 20%

Fibre: 5%

Moisture: 10%

The carbohydrate content would be 35% (100%-30%-20%-5%-10%).

Method 2: Use the dry matter basis

The dry matter basis is a way of comparing foods that takes into account the moisture content. This is important because wet foods have more water and will therefore have less of the other nutrients.

To calculate the dry matter basis, you first need to determine the dry matter percentage. This is done by subtracting the moisture content from 100%.

For example, if a food has a moisture content of 10%, the dry matter percentage would be 90% (100%-10%).

Once you have the dry matter percentage, you can then calculate the nutrient levels on a dry matter basis. To do this, you simply need to divide the nutrient percentage by the dry matter percentage.

For example, if a food has a protein level of 30% and a dry matter percentage of 90%, the protein level on a dry matter basis would be 33.3% (30%/90%).

You can then use the same method to calculate the fat, fibre, and carbohydrate levels on a dry matter basis.

For our example food, the fat, fibre, and carbohydrate levels on a dry matter basis would be 22.2%, 5.6%, and 38.9% respectively. In this method, the carbs is calculated by taking 100% and subtracting the other macronutrients – for this case, the carbs figure is 38.9% which is a bit higher than the first method’s 35%.

Method 3: Use the ingredient list

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, from heaviest to lightest. This means that the first ingredient is the most prevalent, followed by the second ingredient, and so on.

For example, if the first ingredient is “chicken”, that means that chicken is the most prevalent ingredient in the food.

To calculate the carbohydrate content of a food using the ingredient list, you need to know the carb content of each ingredient. This information can be found online.

Once you have this information, you can add up the carbohydrate content of each ingredient to get the total carbohydrate content of the food.

For example, let’s say that we’re looking at a food with the following ingredient list:

Chicken, rice, peas, corn, sweet potato

If we look up the carb content of each ingredient, we find that chicken has zero carbs, rice has 50 grams of carbs per cup, peas have 28 grams of carbs per cup, corn has 40 grams of carbs per cup, and sweet potato has 24 grams of carbs per cup.

To calculate the total carbohydrate content of the food, we need to convert everything to cups since that’s the unit that’s being used. We can do this by using the following conversions:

1 cup of chicken = 0.5 cups

1 cup of rice = 0.25 cups

1 cup of peas = 0.5 cups

1 cup of corn = 0.5 cups

1 cup of sweet potato = 0.5 cups

Now that we have everything in cups, we can add up the carb content of each ingredient to get the total carbohydrate content of the food. This comes out to be:

(0.5 x 0) + (0.25 x 50) + (0.5 x 28) + (0.5 x 40) + (0.5 x 24) = 54 grams of carbs per cup

This food has a carbohydrate content of 54% on a dry matter basis.

Keep in mind that ingredient lists can be tricky to interpret, and that the carb content of a food can vary depending on the specific ingredients used. This is why it’s always best to calculate the carb content yourself, rather than relying on the label.

Why it is important to compare nutrients on dry matter basis:

When comparing foods, it’s important to use the dry matter basis because it takes into account the moisture content. This is important because wet foods have more water and will therefore have less of the other nutrients.

For example, a food with a protein level of 30% and a moisture content of 10% would have a protein level on a dry matter basis of 33.3% (30%/90%).

However, a food with a protein level of 10% and a moisture content of 80% would have a protein level on a dry matter basis of 12.5% (10%/80%).

As you can see, the first food has a higher protein level on a dry matter basis even though it has a lower protein percentage. This is why it’s important to use the dry matter basis when comparing foods.

Some important things to note:

Fat content is usually higher than those in dog food labels:

The fat content of most dog foods is actually higher than what’s listed on the label. This is because the guaranteed analysis only lists the minimum percentage of fat, and not the maximum.

For example, a food with a fat level of 20% could actually have a fat level of anywhere from 20-99%. This means that the actual fat content could be 4 times higher than what’s listed on the label!

It’s important to be aware of this when choosing a food for your dog, as a high fat diet can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Carbohydrate levels can vary widely:

The carbohydrate levels in dog food can vary widely, even among brands that are marketed as being “low carb”. This is because there’s no legal definition for the term “low carb” when it comes to dog food.

For example, one brand of “low carb” dog food might have a carbohydrate level of 30%, while another brand might have a carbohydrate level of 50%.

This is why it’s important to calculate the carbohydrate content of a food yourself, rather than relying on the label.

What are the sources of carbs?

The main sources of carbohydrates in dog food are grains, vegetables, and fruits. However, some foods also contain added sugars, which can increase the carbohydrate content.

Some common sources of carbohydrates in dog food are:

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • carrots
  • apples
  • blueberries

These are just some of the most common sources of carbs in dog food. Keep in mind that ingredient lists can be tricky to interpret, and that the carb content of a food can vary depending on the specific ingredients used. This is why it’s always best to calculate the carb content yourself, rather than relying on the label.

What are some of the best sources of carbs from the list above?

Some of the best sources of carbs from the list above are:

The best sources of carbs have a high nutritional value and a low glycemic index.

Some of the best sources of carbs from the list above are: sweet potatoes, barley, oats, peas, and beans. These foods have a high nutritional value and a low glycemic index, which means they won’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

FAQs

What is the difference between starch and sugar?

Starch is a complex carbohydrate that is made up of long chains of glucose molecules. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is made up of one or two glucose molecules.

The main difference between starch and sugar is that starch takes longer to digest, while sugar is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This is why starch is often referred to as a “slow-burning” carbohydrate, while sugar is referred to as a “fast-acting” carbohydrate.

What is the difference between complex and simple carbs?

Complex carbs are made up of long chains of glucose molecules, while simple carbs are made up of one or two glucose molecules. Complex carbs take longer to digest, while simple carbs are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index are slowly absorbed and don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber doesn’t. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, beans, and apples. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like wheat bran and corn.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber are important for good health. Soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels, while insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to the stool and prevent constipation.

Q: What is ash in dog food?

A: Ash is the inorganic residue that’s left after a food is burned. It’s made up of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

The ash content of a food can give you an idea of the overall mineral content. For example, a food with a high ash content might be high in calcium, while a food with a low ash content might be low in calcium.