What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a group of macronutrients – one of three categories of macronutrients – in a dog’s diet which can be divided into two distinct groups. Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates, the simplest of the two carbohydrate forms, are essentially sugars and are found in the likes of cheap and highly refined grains such as white rice and refined flours.
Simple carbohydrates can be further broken down into monosaccharides and disaccharides – glucose and sucrose.
Complex carbohydrates meanwhile are made up of larger more complex molecules called polysaccharides. These contain starches and soluble and insoluble dietary fibres and are found in unprocessed wholefoods such fruit, vegetables and legumes.
What Carbohydrates do for dogs
Although research suggests that approximiately 14% of the ancestral dog’s diet would have been made up of carbohydrates, dogs do not actually need carbs in the same way that they need the other two macronutrients, fats and proteins.
But those who suggest that dogs should not be fed carbs overlook the fact that any source of complex carbohydrate, sweet potato for example, provides beneficial nutrients, minerals and natural fibre as well as being a valuable, readily available and highly digestable source of slow release energy.
They also overlook the fact that without carbohydrates and without fats, a dog would use protein as its main source of energy, protein which is best reserved for maintaining and repairing its body.
Good carbs, bad carbs
What gives carbohydrates in dog food a bad rep is that large commercial dog food manufacturers substitute expensive, high quality protein with inexpensive, low quality carbohydrates in the form of grains in order to bulk up their food and bolster their bottom lines.
There is nothing wrong with adding carbohydrates to dog food providing they are complex carbohydrates as provided by fresh, good quality fruit and vegetables which provide a dog not only with energy, but valuable nutrients besides.
Thus the natural order is maintained. Fats – first call energy supply. Complex carbohydrates – slow release energy supply. Proteins – short and long term body maintenance and repair.