Carbohydrates are a highly talked about nutrient and that many dog owners question. It is common to hear about carbohydrates in dog kibbles and most of the time, in a negative way.
But what are those carbs for? Are they essential for dogs? Are there any carbohydrates that are not recommended for our pets? What are they used for?
In this article, we will explain which carbohydrates can and cannot be absorbed by dogs and what is their role in your pet’s body.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are macronutrients made of sugar. There are several types of carbohydrates:
Absorbable carbohydrates: These are the carbohydrates that your dog can digest and are the main source of glucose, which is essential because it is the fastest form of energy available to the body. These carbohydrates are classified in two categories:
-simple carbohydrates (or fast sugars) such as sucrose and lactose, which contain two simple sugars;
-complex carbohydrates (or slow sugars), which are made of several glucose molecules linked together, such as starch. Starch must be cooked (or gelatinized) to be digested by the dog’s digestive enzymes to release glucose.
- Non-absorbable carbohydrates: Also called fiber, they can be insoluble fiber such as cellulose, which promotes good transit and digestive comfort in dogs if provided in moderate amounts. Indeed, in humans, fiber is digested by the salivary enzyme, amylase and in the pancreas, by pancreatic amylase. However, in dogs, salivary amylase does not exist and when the fiber intake is too high, the pancreatic enzymes are overwhelmed and this can lead to digestive disorders such as bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.
Carbohydrates are therefore important nutrients and their digestion depends on their nature, cooking and quantity.
Role of absorbable carbohydrates in dogs
Absorbable carbohydrates are therefore carbohydrates that the dog is able to digest because of the presence of enzymes necessary for this process. They are usually simple carbohydrates, polysaccharides and starch. The role of digestible carbohydrates is to provide the necessary energy for the dog’s body.
It is worth noting that simple carbohydrates are not recommended as they are responsible for large variations of blood glucose levels in dogs.
Role of non-absorbable carbohydrates in dogs
Fiber is a non-absorbable carbohydrate that does not provide energy, but when given in moderate amounts, it improves transit and digestive comfort in dogs. There are two types of fibers:
- Insoluble fibers: they facilitate intestinal transit and promote the renewal of the digestive mucous membrane if they are provided in small quantities. In large quantities, they can cause inflammation of the colon and increase the amount of fecal matter.
- Soluble fibers: these fibers improve the transit in the colon and prevent the development of some bad bacteria by creating an acidic environment. However, it is important to note that these fibers must be provided in moderate quantities to benefit from their advantages.
Carbohydrates in kibbles
Dog kibbles generally contain complex carbohydrates, such as starch, and not simple carbohydrates. Technically, it is essential to use starch in the manufacture of kibbles. Which, in itself, is not a problem as long as the dosages are respected and the dog properly digests the carbohydrates contained in the kibble.
However, poor quality kibbles with large amounts of starch or even fiber can be found, and these are the kibbles that should be avoided.
These kibbles, rich in complex carbohydrates, can lead to digestive disorders and protein deficiencies.
Usually not indicated on dog food kibble bags, it is however advisable to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in the kibble using the following formula:
Carbohydrate content = 100 – (Crude Protein + Fat + Ash + Fiber + Moisture)
If the level obtained is between 20 and 25, these kibbles contain a good level of carbohydrates and are therefore of good quality. Between 25 and 30, they are of average quality. Above 30, they are generally of poor quality and should therefore be avoided.
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