• Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN

The Deadly Debate: Dogs & Carbohydrates

Updated: Feb 2

Carbohydrates are a heavy topic between the kibble and fresh feeding world. The eternal debate between the kibble industry and raw feeders will probably never end... Taking a look at physiology and nutrition, dogs have no essential need for carbohydrates. Dogs not only don't need carbohydrates but thrive without them. But it's been embedded in vets, owners, and more that they need them to survive...

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are naturally occurring in sugars, starches, and fibers. All carbohydrates are created from sugar molecules. The length of the sugar chain determines the rate of digestion and absorption (simple vs. complex).

Carbs are a long chain of glucose, which is the main source of energy. Although glucose is a useful energy source, it releases a hormone called insulin to move blood sugar into the cells to use as energy. Insulin is found in both dogs and humans. It is the only hormone that lowers blood sugars, while there are 8 that raise blood sugar. With the 20-70% of carbohydrates in kibble coming from carbs, the insulin levels are drastically changed. Carbohydrates do have their place in fresh diets such as low-glycemic vegetation, but carbohydrates that are fed nowadays are not ones that were consumed ancestrally. This becomes problematic when carbs are low-quality and fed in abundance.

The most common carbohydrates found in dry food are rice bran, corn, soy, wheat, legumes, and potatoes. It is impossible to create kibble without carbohydrates as that is what gives it its shape and shelf-stable life.

Do Carbohydrates & Dogs Mix?

Carbohydrates are so controversial due to the hundreds of conventional vets and board-certified nutritionists "proving the benefits" in biased studies that large kibble corporations fund.

An article in Veterinary Practice News was released that stated, "As long as the animal does not have a documented food allergy, owners shouldn't worry about whether the food contains corn, wheat or rice-the ingredients themselves are not important-and more about the quality of food overall."

Due to statements like these, the public views the absurd amount of carbohydrates appropriate in modern pet foods. The quality of a food cannot be measured by ignoring the ingredients, as suggested above.

Many veterinary nutritionists have financial ties with large pet food corporations. "Veterinary nutritionists receive a diploma from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN). Major pet food manufacturers also frequently pay the tuition for DVMs studying to become veterinary nutritionists." When so and so brand states that the "expert nutritionist" claims that their food is "XYZ," keep in mind that the person has some obligation to the manufacture and is not biased free. But thankfully, the AVHVMF is pushing for biased-free nutritional information for integrative and holistic vets.

Minuscule research is done on fresh foods compared to processed due to studies being funded by the kibble corporation. But the health difference of any animal on processed vs. fresh food is undeniable.

The health effects of a carb-heavy processed diet are becoming more prevalent as time goes on. Nutritionally, carbohydrates have no species-appropriate aspect about them. Let's explore more down below.

Phytic Acid:

Phytic acid is one of the many anti-nutrients in legumes. Legumes can be found in many grain-free formulas. Anti-nutrients are natural compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid is a phosphorus storage form in plant tissues. This means that the mineral phosphorus is packed into a molecule.

Although this molecule has phosphorus, it is not bio-available in the digestive tract because it grabs onto other important minerals, blocking nutrient absorption. Not only does this steal nutrients away from the animal, but it also blocks important enzymes needed to digest food.

Many studies on phytic acid have discovered that phytic acid blocks the absorption of calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper and interferes with the healthy gut flora, directly impacting the immune system.

A canine's diet high in grains (and phytic acid) will suffer from nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and lack of appetite.

Toxic Mold:

Modern agriculture is doing a disservice to the environment and the public's health. It utilizes toxic herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides that are harmful to humans and animals. The unhealthy practice of modern agriculture allows for harmful toxins to leach into dry food ingredients. Aflatoxin, which is a by-product of this mold, is flourishing in dry conditions. With kibble bags sitting on the shelves for a prolonged period, it causes these toxins to grow.

Molds like this contribute to mutagenic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, and immunosuppressive health effects. Besides acute hepatic toxicity to chronic diseases such as liver cancer, hemorrhages, edema, kidney and liver failure/damage, suppress the immune system, and prevent nutrient absorption.

"98% of the samples were contaminated with one or more mycotoxins.

93% of the samples contained two or more mycotoxins.

39% of the samples contained more than five mycotoxins."

Research is done by Alltech.


While inflammation is needed for healthy bodily functions, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Chronic inflammation is the birth of all metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. And the food one eats heavily affects the inflammation within the body. With processed diets being filled with refined, high-glycemic carbohydrates, it encourages the growth of inflammation. This is due to processed carbohydrates having a higher glycemic index than raise blood sugar more rapidly.

Modern diets being formulated with more high-glycemic carbohydrates drive inflammation in the gut, which translates to the whole body.

A Deeper Look:

Let's dive into some popular kibble brands and take a look at their ingredients.

Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed:

Everything highlighted in yellow is a grain, red is a low quality and inflammatory protein source, and blue is all synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Everything in yellow is a filler and used to reduce costs and is not beneficial to our dogs in any way. Chicken (listed as the #1 ingredient) is listed inaccurately. These ingredients are weighed when the chicken is still retaining its water weight, not after it is processed and extruded and extinct of all moisture. So, the chicken may actually be the 7th or 8th ingredient, not the first.

[Click here to learn more about synthetic vitamins & minerals]

FROMM Beef Frittata Veg Recipe Dog Food :

This bag is marketed as "grain-free." While "grain-free" has become the new "healthy kibble," the legumes replace the grains. The kibble industry started creating "complete and balanced" grain-free diets to cater to pet owners' needs. Instead of wheat and corn, they added potatoes and legumes. While legumes are high in protein, they are known as incomplete protein.

An uprising topic in the kibble industry has been Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This has been largely discussed surrounding grain-free diets due to the anti-nutrients and lack of bioavailable amino acids in the plant matter. While an animal can have DCM on a fresh food diet, it is usually due to improper balance in the formulation and not the food's quality & makeup.

The yellow highlight indicates a legume, a red shows a low quality and inflammatory protein source, and blue shows the synthetic pre-mixes added.

Taurine is an essential amino acid needed for many vital bodily functions such as eye, brain, and immune function. While taurine is not an essential amino acid for dogs (meaning they manufacture it on their own), it has been found that it decreases taurine production when dogs receive low protein and low-quality diets. Although this dry food has more high-quality ingredients, the legumes are still inflammatory and disturb the gut lining, which again hinders proper digestion.

Although the "grain-free" diets attempt to do something good, it is, unfortunately, replacing a low-quality ingredient with more low-quality plant matter.

Iams Proactive Health Adult MiniChunks:

When you see meat as the number one ingredient, that may be the case before it was processed and heated, causing all moisture to disappear. Creating little hard nuggets of dehydration and the #1 ingredient actually becomes more like the 7th ingredient by weight.

Everything highlighted in yellow is a grain, red is a low quality and inflammatory protein source, and blue is all synthetic vitamins and minerals.

The food above shows a minimal amount of quality and bioavailable nutrients.

Rosemary extract was highlighted because it is a synthetic preservative. The extrusion process that the rosemary goes through pulls the nutrient makeup far away from the delicious herb we know.

This was a very brief overview of the complicated place that carbohydrates have in the pet food industry. The most vital part is to research as much as you can to make the best, most informed decision for you.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by & Always Keep Exploring!


Always Keep Exploring!

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