Our Top 5 Picks for Low Carb Dog Food

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Our Top 5 Picks for Low Carb Dog Food

What Role Do Carbohydrates Play in a Dog’s Diet?

Dogs are carnivores by nature, but not strict carnivores. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that meat is a biological necessity – their bodies are optimized to digest and absorb nutrition from animal products. Dogs, on the other hand, are scavenging carnivores. This means that they are primarily meat-eaters but they can subsist on plant foods when meat is not available. If you think about it, this makes sense in terms of the domestic dog’s evolution. In the wild, wolves feed primarily on other animals but they don’t pick and choose which parts of the animal they eat – as they feed they may eat the stomach contents of their prey which, in most cases, consists largely of plant materials.

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This brings back to the question, what role do carbohydrates play in a dog’s diet? It is important to note that dogs don’t have any specific biological need for carbohydrates – protein and fat are the most important macronutrients in a balanced diet for dogs. Carbohydrates can, however, provide your dog with usable energy as well as dietary fiber and key nutrients. The thing to remember with carbohydrates, however, is that there are two different kinds – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates require little digestive breakdown and the energy can be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, take longer to break down which means they provide a steady stream of slow-burning energy – it also means that they have a lesser effect on your dog’s blood sugar levels. This is important because high blood sugar can contribute to weight gain in dogs and it may also lead to diabetes.

What Are the Benefits of a Low Carb Diet for Dogs?

Though carbohydrates do serve a few important purposes in your dog’s diet, that doesn’t mean he can’t do without them. Going back to the example of wild wolves, it is possible for your dog to get all of the nutrients he needs from a balanced meat-based diet. Unfortunately, raw food diets for dogs are pretty expensive and making your own meat-based diet at home requires a good bit of research and planning. The easier and more affordable alternative is to feed your dog a commercial dog food which, in most cases, means feeding him some carbohydrates. If you really want to mimic your dog’s natural evolutionary diet, however, you should find a product that is low in carbohydrates.

Switching your dog to a low carb diet isn’t just a means of making your dog’s diet more natural – it can also provide significant health benefits in certain cases. Low carb diets are particularly beneficial for dogs that have digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease or food allergies and sensitivities. These conditions can lead to chronic inflammation in the digestive tract which can not only cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting but can actually interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients. Low carb diets can also be beneficial for dogs who are overweight and obese and for dogs with diabetes or certain types of cancer. The key is to make sure that your dog is still getting all of the nutrients he needs.

Tips for Choosing a Low Carb Product

When shopping for a low carb dog food you want to use the same degree of caution you would use when shopping for any other type of pet food. First and foremost, you want to check the label for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy that confirms the product is complete and balanced for your dog’s life stage (or for all life stages). Next, take a look at the guaranteed analysis to make sure the product exceeds your dog’s minimum requirements for protein and fat. Adult dogs need a minimum of 18% protein and 5% fat while puppies need at least 22% protein and 8% fat. Remember, protein is the most important nutrient for your dog so you want that number to be as high as possible. Fat is a concentrated form of energy for your dog so it should be higher than 5% but not so high that it leads to an excess in calories that could cause your dog to gain an unhealthy amount of weight.

After you’ve determined that the product will meet your dog’s nutritional needs you should check the list of ingredients. No matter what type of dog food you are shopping for, you want to see a high-quality source of animal protein (poultry, meat, or fish) as the first ingredient. Most commercial dog foods list at least one carbohydrate within the first five ingredients and several within the first ten. This isn’t a problem for most dogs as long as those carbohydrates come from high-quality, digestible sources and they don’t outweigh the meat-based ingredients. For dogs that don’t have food allergies or sensitivities, whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley offer decent digestibility. For other dogs, however, gluten- and grain-free options like sweet potatoes, tapioca, peas, and lentils are more digestible. You’ll also want to make sure that the recipe includes high-quality, animal-based fats as well as fresh fruits and veggies plus beneficial additives.

In addition to evaluating a low carb pet food by the quality of the ingredients, you should also get a feel for the amount and type of carbohydrates used in the product. Unfortunately, pinpointing the exact carbohydrate content of a dog food is difficult because pet food manufacturers are not legally required to disclose this information. You can, however, use the information provided in the Guaranteed Analysis to make an estimate. To do so, you’ll need to remember that the crude protein and fat content plus the ash, moisture, and carbohydrate content will all add up to 100%. To calculate the estimated carb content of the product, then, you simply subtract the values you are given from 100% and whatever is left over will be the estimated carb content. Once you have that value, you can make a direct comparison of different products until you find the one that is right for your dog.

Our Top 5 Picks for Low Carb Dog Food

If you were to peruse the selection of recipes offered by most of the top pet food manufacturers, you would probably come across at least one low carb recipe. Not all pet food companies are dedicated to upholding a low carb nutritional philosophy, however. If you want to find a low carb product that adheres to your dog’s natural evolutionary diet, we recommend the following brands:

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