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Feeding your dog Carbohydrates, simple & complex sugars, the complete guide!


atlas-pippa-dog-love Most people are aware that their commercial dog food contains mostly plant matter, and plant matter has a lot of carbs that along with protein and fat provide energy and other functions for your dog. Carbohydrates typically make up between 60-90% of most plants, by dry matter weight.

But carbs are a very broad class of sugars.   Here is a guide to the differences between carbs.

Carbohydrates (sugars) are made up of Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen and are classified into THREE groups:  monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides.

1             Monosaccharides are simple sugars and are made of a single unit between three and seven carbon atoms.  The three ‘6 carbon Monosaccharides’   that are the most important for dog nutrition are glucose, fructose, galactose.

Glucose is found in commercial corn syrup and sweet fruits like grapes and berries. Glucose is vital in dogs as it’s the end product of starch digestion and glycogen hydrolysis.  It is the sugar circulating in the bloodstream to give energy to muscles, organs and the brain.  

BUT noting that the body regulates the amount of glucose in the blood and ENERGY can be just as easily be extracted from PROTEIN such as found in meat. Whereas excess sugar turns quickly to fat.


Fructose is found in sweet fruits like honey ripe fruits and some vegetables it is formed from the digestion of disaccharide sucrose.

Galactose is NOT found in free form in Foods. But it is half of the disaccharide lactose. Both fructose and galactose are created during digestion with galactose being converted to glucose by the liver.

2             DISACCHARIDES =  TWO monosaccharide molecules joined together.

Lactose = glucose + glactose

Sucrose (table sugar) = glucose + fructose

Maltose = glucose + glucose molecules.

3             POLYSACCRIDES = MANY single monosaccharide molecules joined together

Examples of these are: starch, glycogen, dextrins, and dietary fibre.


Starch is a non-structural plant storage polysaccharide.  The two main forms of DIETARY starch are amylase (linear glucose chains) and amylopectin (branched glucose chains).

The cereal grains that provide starch and are often used in commercial dog food are corn, wheat, sorghum, barley and rice.

Glycogen is how sugar is stored in the body and it is found in the liver and muscle of dogs, and part of the system that regulates blood sugar levels

Dextrins are formed as intermediate products when starch is broken down.

DIETRY Fibre = non starch polysaccharides. 

DIETRY Fibre contains beta bonds and cants easily be broken down by enzymes in the intestine. Though some microbes in the large intestine can break down some fibre a little. If the fibre has ’LOW solubility’ it has ‘MODERATE fermentability’ – and THESE are the fibres you most want in your dog food for optimum dog intestine health.  See our COMPLETE dog fibre guide

 “Dietary carbohydrates provide animals with a source of energy and assists in proper gastrointestinal tract functioning. However only a limited amount of carbohydrate can be stored in the body as glycogen. So when dietary carbohydrate is consumed in excess of the body’s needs, most is metabolised to body FAT for energy storage. Therefore, consumption of dietary carbohydrate in excess of an animals energy needs lead to an increased body fat and obesity.” Ref 1

It is noted that three of the authors of this reference text are employed by Proctor and Gamble a major commercial dog food associated company that mainly has grain in their dog food. The fact that we are able to extract information from their reference book that isn’t completely pro grain is a small miracle.

tiny-and-chops-dogs-playing Why Proteins and Amino Acids matter for dogs.

We have written many articles on the higher digestibility and bio availability of ANIMAL based proteins being preferred for dogs, because of their carnivore origin.

Protein, like carbohydrates and fats, are molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The difference is that protein also includes nitrogen atoms and some have sulphur atoms.

Remarkably all proteins contain approximately 16% nitrogen which lead to the nitrogen balance test to calculate how much protein has been used by an animal by comparing input to faecal output.

Once hydrolysis begins (protein encountering water and breaking down) all that results are amino acids (the sub components of protein) and their derivatives.

Proteins fed to a dog serve many functions.

Protein has about the same Kilojoule value per gram as carbohydrates. However, after protein satisfies energy requirements in your dog, it can then go to help maintain or grow many other parts of your dog.

For instance, proteins are the major structural parts of hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments and cartilages.

The fibrous protein collagen is the base material that forms connective tissues throughout your dog’s body.

Protein in a dog’s body is a constant state of change between decay and creation. The one constant is that ALL protein molecules within a dog’s body are eventually catabolized and replaced.

As you can imagine, a dog that has a deficit of protein is a very serious issue when it can’t help take care of the above processes. This is in a dog’s growth stage, dogs in pregnancy as well as dogs just growing hair and breathing require an ample amount of ready to use protein.

If a commercial dog food provides the bare numerical minimum protein dictated by affco tables to be called ‘dog food’, and most of the ingredients are NON MEAT (ie grain or vegetable). The problem with this is that this means that most of that protein will have LOW BIO AVAILABLITY.  if it protein isnt able to be converted easily, it will be wasted and not used by the dog:

THAT means that with LOW CONVERSION rates of the vegetable amino acids into forms that can do these processes in the dog’s body (after all the energy needs have been met), can easily lead to a protein deficit.


There are dog foods on the market touting “protein rich foods”, ‘ancestral’ or ‘primal’ dog food as their major selling point, but be aware, that these commercial dog foods are still mainly Vegetable or grain based. That means they are FULL of carbs (SUGAR) and are the most UNNATURAL form of food a dog could eat. When a dog food is mainly vegetable, it has a minor amount of meat and meat protein.

Actual ancient food would be the ORIGINAL dog food that they and their real ancestors, carnivore wolves ate. Day in, day out.  The wolf’s purpose was the alpha predator, hunting, chasing killing and eating animals NOT grains or vegetables. They might have snacked on a tiny number of berries when animals were not available but that is raw survival, not Healthy eating.

While commercial dog foods can be grain free or might be called “protein rich” there are NO PERCENTAGE requirements for INGREDIENTS on dog food packaging in Australia. This means that with the deceptive practice of ingredient splitting, you will never know how cheap they have been on the meat content. Nor the quality of that meat.  Very rarely are there large slabs of meat (like they like to show on the packaging) – but instead, are usually MDM meat from any part of an animal.

THAT is a MAJOR Reason you should consider using our 100% meat-based treats to supplement your dog’s diet. Because 100% means 100%.  And ALL ANIMAL JERKY means 100% animal-based protein inside of that meat, which is dried meat is typically over 50- 60% (which is ALL highly BIO AVAILABLE protein). 

Consider that many grains are closer to 10% total protein (and this is NON BIO available versions).

The bottom line is, if you feed your dog commercial dog food it is most likely full of carbs, and so only the healthiest ‘dog treats’  have NO added sugar in them.


Canine and Feline Nutrition  Case Daristotle et al

Dog Nutrition
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