In today's health-conscious world, more and more people are choosing to provide their canine companions with a diet that closely resembles that of their wild ancestors. A variety of new formulas have emerged in recent years thanks to this growing trend.
One type of dog food that has seen significant traction is low carb recipes.
Low carb dog foods put the focus on healthy proteins and fats instead of unnecessary fillers and carbs. Canines are natural meat-eaters. While wild dogs do eat some carbohydrates from plant-based foods, it's not anywhere close to how much modern domesticated pooches eat. It's estimated that dogs of today eat up to four times more carbohydrates than their ancestors!
Switching to a low-carb diet can provide your dog with many great health benefits. They can help your dog build muscle, lose weight, maintain their energy levels, and stay healthy throughout their lives.
There are plenty of options on the market to choose from. However, only a fraction of them are considered to be "Low Carb." Due to lax labeling laws, you'll be hard-pressed to find a product advertising its low carb status.
To choose the right one for your precious pooch, you need to understand how to differentiate between formulas and what types of ingredients make a low carb diet. Here's a list of seven of the best low carb dog foods to get you started.
7 of the Best Low Carb Dog Foods
Instinct by Nature's Variety Ultimate Protein Recipe - estimated carbohydrate % 20.9
This recipe from Nature's Variety is specifically formulated to have enhanced digestibility. It also contains beneficial ingredients, such as complex carbs, to ensure that it's absorbed well by your dog's body.
At only about 20 percent carbs, it's much closer to your pup's ancestral diet than standard alternatives. You won't find unnecessary fillers like corn, wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives. Instead, there's an impressive amount of protein.
About 47 percent of the recipe is protein. It comes from great sources like duck, chicken, and eggs. You'll also find a number of great extras on the ingredients list. There are omega fatty acids to improve your dog's coat, antioxidants to fight off free radicals, and plenty of vitamins.
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete High Protein Dry Dog Food - estimated carbohydrate % 28.7
From Diamond Natural is this protein-rich kibble. It's made with the needs of athletes and working dogs in mind. 32 percent of the formula is protein.
You'll find ingredients like chicken meal and chicken listed at the top of the list. When it comes to carbohydrates, it's this option has an estimated 29 percent. The carbs that are included are very beneficial. It has complex carbs like barley, beet pulp, spinach, and flaxseed.
A special blend of plant-based ingredients provides your pooch with key vitamins and nutrients. These include oranges, blueberries, carrots, and more.
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural Grain-Free Natural Dry Dog Food - estimated carbohydrate % 27.6
With an estimated carbohydrate content of only 30 percent, this recipe contains more of the good stuff your dog needs. The grain-free formula has turkey meal and chicken meal.
These top-two ingredients contribute to the impressive 38 percent protein content. To balance all that muscle-building protein, the kibble has 20 percent fat. It can give your dog plenty of energy while making the food insatiable.
When it comes to plant-based ingredients, this recipe doesn't disappoint. It contains cranberries, blueberries, spinach, and much more as a source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food Real Duck & Sweet Potato - estimated carbohydrate % 30.3
This option has a beneficial complex carb right in its name. It has sweet potatoes, which is a common alternative to corn, wheat, and soy. This ingredient, alongside peas and potatoes, are used to make up the estimated carbohydrate content of 35 percent.
Protein is the main event for this grain-free recipe. It has about 38 percent protein thanks to the deboned duck, turkey meal, salmon meal, lamb meal, and deboned chicken.
There are no grains whatsoever in this kibble, making it a great option for dogs with allergies. It does, however, contain a blend of antioxidants and omega fatty acids for good overall health.
Purina ProPlan Performance Formula (estimated Carbohydrate % 35.2)
Another great option for high-performing canines, the Purina Pro Plan kibble is designed to support your dog throughout his or her life. It is made up of about 30 percent protein.
Ingredients like chicken and fish meal contribute to this figure. As for carbohydrates, this formula has an estimated percentage of approximately 35. Numerous extras are included as well to support many areas of your dog's body.
A healthy dose of omega fatty acids is added through fish oil. It also has supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.
Low Carb Canned Dog Foods
Nature's Recipe Wet Dog Food (estimated Carbohydrate % 8 )
Treat your furry friend to this Nature's Recipe wet food. It has an estimated carb content of only 8 percent! Most of that comes from pumpkin, which is a high-fiber complex carb that's filled with vitamins and minerals.
Protein makes up about 11 percent of the recipe. The main protein source is whole chicken. It also has duck meat and chicken broth for enhanced flavor. The food comes in a convenient plastic tray that can be used as a feeding bowl.
Weruva Paw Lickin' Chicken in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Dog Food (estimated Carbohydrate % 9.7 )
This canned food from Weruva is free of grains and gluten. It' also made under human food processing standard, so you can rest easy knowing that it's safe for your dog.
About 10 percent of the formula is made up of protein. It comes from boneless, skinless, chicken breast. The meat is accompanied by an enticing gravy made out of chicken broth and sunflower seed oil.
When it comes to carbohydrates, the estimated content is less than 10 percent. Various vitamin and mineral supplements are included as well to create a balanced meal for your precious pooch.
Do Dogs Even Need Carbohydrates?
Truth is, dogs don't even really need carbohydrates to stay healthy. Wild dogs do eat carb-rich fits foods from time to time. However, it's not their main source of nutrients. Protein and fat are the two main nutrients that dogs need to sustain life. Carbohydrates are simply an after-thought.
That doesn't mean that carbohydrates are necessarily bad for your dog either. There are certain types of carbs that can do a lot to help your pup make it through the day. The issue with modern dog food diets is that many formulas simply contain too many carbs.
Think about how carbs affect human health. Too many carbohydrates from bread and junk food can cause us, humans, to gain a significant amount of weight. There are even full diets and lifestyles that revolve around the idea of cutting carbs out of your life.
The same effects carbs have in humans can be found in dogs. High-carb diets lead to increased body fat. This can ultimately lead to decreased activity levels, reduced muscle mass, and a host of health issues to follow. By cutting back on your dog's carb intake, you can avoid these common concerns.
Once the carb content is reduced, protein and fat are left to shine. Then, your dog will have the proper fuel they need to stay healthy.
Why Are Carbs Used in Dog Food?
So if they're not needed, why are they used? Well, that all comes down to money! Carbs are abundant. They can be found in ingredients that are cheap to obtain. Some of the most common carbohydrate sources in dry kibble are corn, wheat, and soy.
Unscrupulous manufacturers can get these carbohydrate fillers at a very cheap price and add more of it to the formula. This cuts back on the overall manufacturing cost of the product. While this means that it's often sold with a lower price tag, the savings come with the tradeoff of your pup's overall health and well-being.
Another reason that carbohydrates are used is that they have become an essential part of dry food formulas. Starch is crucial for creating that iconic bite-sized shape. Unfortunately, starch and carbohydrates go hand in hand. Starches are often classified as carbs because they're absorbed into the body the same way.
Without starch, the baked ingredients in kibble would simply fall apart. By adding a ton of carbs into the mix, manufacturers can create bite-sized morsels that are durable enough to hold their shape on the store shelf.
Here's a video on carbs in dog food and why they're used
Simple Carbs vs. Complex Carbs
Now that you understand more about the role of carbohydrates in your dog's diet, let's delve a bit more into the different types of carbs out there. There are no such things as a zero-carb food. Sure, you could eliminate carbohydrates from your dog's diet completely, but that would require you to invest in a raw protein diet.
All commercial dog foods will have some carbohydrates in them. In addition to reducing the number of carbs your dog is eating, you can limit their diet to complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates are considered much healthier for your dog than simple carbs.
Simple carbs, such as corn, wheat, and soy, are absorbed into your dog's body very rapidly. This results in a noticeable energy hike and subsequent crash.
Complex carbohydrates are the exact opposite. They are broken down and absorbed at a much slower rate.
Instead of a sudden burst of energy, your dog will experience a slow and steady supply of energy throughout the day. This is great for working dogs and athletes. They can continue going all day long. Some examples of complex carbs include sweet potatoes, peas, many legumes, oats, and so much more.
In addition to fewer simple carbohydrates and the inclusion of complex carbohydrates, there are a couple of things you should be looking for when you're shopping for a low carb dog food.
Protein should always be the first thing listed on the ingredients list. Dogs thrive on a diet consisting of predominantly animal meat. Ingredients like chicken, beef, fish, and more are ideal. At the very least, you should be aiming for dog food that has 18 percent protein. However, the more the better. Higher protein levels will only provide your pup with more health benefits.
It's important to keep in mind that not all protein sources are the same. Byproducts and mystery meats should be avoided. Not only do they often come from some questionable sources, but they're often inferior in terms of nutritional value. Whole animal meats are filled with amino acids that will build and maintain muscles.
When it comes to fat, high-quality dog food will contain at least 5 percent fat. While you should always aim for more protein, it's better to be a bit conservative with fat. More fat can lead to unwanted weight gain, which defeats the purpose of low carb dog food.
In most cases, natural fat from the protein source is more than enough. You should avoid recipes that have added animal fat, especially if your dog is on the lazier side.
However, extras like flaxseed oil and fish oil are acceptable. These fats contain omega fatty acids, which help with skin and cardiovascular health.
Determining the Carb Content
If you think that choosing a low carb dog food will be as simple as examining the crude carbohydrate analysis, you are sadly mistaken. Manufacturers are not required by law to disclose the carb content of their products. So, you'll have to make a guess based on the information that is provided.
You can take the percentages that are printed on the packaging to get a rough estimate of how much of the recipe is comprised of carbohydrates. Simply add the protein content, fat content, moisture content, and anything else that's provided. Then, subtract that from 100. The percentage you're left with will represent the approximate amount of carbs in the food.
Making the switch to a low carb dog food is a great way to improve your dog's health. While not all carbohydrates are bad, making a significant cut in your dog's carb intake can make a drastic difference in their everyday life. Before you know it, you'll notice that your canine companion has more energy and stronger muscles than ever before.