DO DOGS REQUIRE CARBOHYDRATES IN THEIR DIET?
Many people claim that Raw Fed and Nerdy says that “dogs need carbs” and that we don’t support fresh food.
This is absolute nonsense.
It is extremely clear in the Fall Course (and How to Feed Raw Link) as well as the FAQ page (which members agree to read when joining) that we clearly say that carbohydrates are not a dietary requirement in the canine diet.
Here is what we actually say about carbs in addition to was was stated above (which tends to be different then the disgruntled Facebook comments)
Definition: “Carbohydrates are the major energy-containing constituents of plants, making up between 60% and 90% of dry-matter (DM) weight. This class of nutrients comprises the elements carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. A structural classification scheme separates carbohydrates into monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides.”
And just in case you close out here- I want to at least drop this link here to read:
There is no dietary requirement for carbohydrates for dogs or cats. I speak now regarding dogs, where most my knowledge lays.
Both starch and protein can be turned into glucose. Glucose is an important energy source in the body and is needed for central nervous system function. Glycogen (stored glucose) is found in muscles and the liver and can be hydrolyzed for fuel. However, glycogen storage is small and too many carbohydrates can lead to obesity in the event too much energy is provided.
Carbon skeletons Carbohydrates also provide carbon skeletons for the formation of nonessential amino acids.
Carbohydrates spare protein. If enough carbohydrates are supplied in the diet, protein can be spared for tissue repair and other functions, instead of for energy. This aspect of carbohydrates in the canine diet is often not given the value it deserves. This is especially true for some working dogs.
Some well cooked starches have been known to be 100% digestible for dogs . The myth that all carbohydrates are fillers is just that- a myth. Many find the inclusion of cooked carbs provides valuable phytonutrients, minerals (though we need to watch bioavailability), and fiber. (SACN) Read Linda’s blog above for more information.
Fiber is less controversial. Fiber can be referred to as nonstarch polysaccharides and comprises several forms of plant carbohydrates. Dogs and cats do not digest dietary fibers, and as we saw, the fiber is broken down by microbes in the large intestine. The result is short chain fatty acids. SCFAs feed epithelial cells- enterocytes and colonocytes. These cells have a high turnover rate- generally around 3 days of life. SCFA are an important energy source for some cells in the gut.
Fiber can be understood as soluble and insoluble and also at the rate at which the fiber ferments. Soluble fibers are generally moderately or highly fermentable while insoluble fibers retain water and do not form viscous solutions. Insoluble fibers generally are less fermentable and increase fecal mass while also decreasing transit time.
Some fermentable fibers act as prebiotics which aid in the health of bacterial colonies.
When it comes to carbs, it can get tricky.
It very much depends on the dog. As Linda Case (MS Canine and Feline Nutrition) says, its not a good/bad scenario.
There are certainly issues with too high of carbs, but also many dogs who tend to do much better with at least some level of carbohydrate in their food. Fiber is less controversial. Many raw fed dogs miss out on fiber. Often, straining and difficulty passing stool can be fixed with an amount of carbohydrate, including fiber. Most people assume an issue with bone, and increase or decrease bone. But this is not a great path either. This can lead to driving up calcium and phosphorus beyond optimal levels.
Moreover, some medical conditions will make carbs nearly essential for many dogs- such as pancreatitis. Some conditions where protein and phosphorus need to be greatly reduced can mean needing to include carbohydrates. Some dogs suffering a combination of conditions will benefit greatly from carbohydrates. (SACN)
Other stages of a dog’s life might also greatly benefit from the inclusion of carbohydrates- such as reproduction. (SACN, CAFN).
“Instead of using the word need, substitute the word benefit. There are multiple reasons why a dog would benefit from a bit of carb without it being essential. All while knowing there are many different types that each offer something unique.” Admin Ellyn Manley Grubbe, Cert. CN
I certainly agree with this statement. Dog’s don’t technically need preformed fatty acids- or other preformed nutrients found in animal product based diets. However, we know that there are benefits to providing these in the dog’s diet. Dog’s don’t technically need raw, fresh food- yet we know the enormous benefits that come with a raw, fresh food diet.
“I really think of the macros – nutrients that contribute energy – as being fluid, throughout life – with some carb important in growth, but maybe less so in adulthood and again, reduced in old age (or, not!). Tolerance for fats can shift, certainly caloric needs change – the type and amount of fat and carb will often shift throughout life, and very much so with health issues. To make matters more complex, individuals have metabolic tendencies (people tell me their dog does best with lower carbs, or higher, we just do that!) and- here’s the final thing – sometimes many different things can actually work.
I’m not one to support a high starch diet, but I do use them therapeutically and, with careful formulation to offset inflammation and optimize the diet as a whole, these dogs do very well. So as everybody has been saying, it’s not about requirement here, it’s about benefit….and I would say, no dog should go without any veggies, again not “required” but if you are familiar with the impressive list of health BENEFITS, whyever would we not use them? Veggies contribute minimal calories so you can be feeding abundantly and still have a diet under 10% carbs in total, if that suits your dog or is how you prefer to feed.”
“There are so many myths about carbs, it’s hard not to want to address them all at once, but it does always stand out in my mind that fats can be very inflammatory and linked directly to some health issues, yet the anti-carb people will ONLY focus on the potential of starch to be inflammatory. I will take a bit of quinoa and pumpkin and buckwheat etc over rancid fats or too much arachidonic acid or over-high total fat, anyday..any day.”
-Admin Cat Lane, Dip. CFN, CH of The Possible Canine.
Here are two different member experiences:
“Carbs make one of my dogs act like a kid on a sugar high, so I avoid giving him carbs. But I might occasionally give some to my other 2 dogs.”- RFN Member
“As someone who owns canine athletes and has for years, I as a rule do not feed many carbs. Occasionally sweet potatoes, spinach or blueberries and even nuts make it into the bowl- leaning more towards the antioxidant properties rather than thinking towards carbs. But I have had dogs- one in particular, that require carbs. On race days he got oatmeal, blueberries and meat in three meals vs two so he’d have enough carbs to race all day. Without it, he would bonk about 1 pm (afternoon slump).
I think there are lots of ways to feed dogs, without having any one right way. My own feeding has changed over the years. I don’t know that my dogs are any healthier (since being off kibble) but I do better as I learn more.” – RFN Member
It is also important to note that different kind of canine athletes will benefit from different macronutrient profiles. Sprinting exercises will benefit more from carbohydrates inclusion than working sled dogs who most often require a lot of fat. (SACN, CAFN)
We agree with Linda Case, MS Canine and Feline Nutrition. Read more below.
And for the myth that we don’t support fresh food- enjoy these images from JUST the last 48 hours in the group. Only a couple of the many.