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LOW FAT dog treats – What percent fat, does your pancreatic dog need?

Happy well fed and exercised little dogs in my car

Happy well fed and exercised little dogs in my car It seems that every customer that contacts us about their pancreatic dog has been told something different by their vet about what fat level in the dog’s food is good or acceptable for their pancreatic dog.

The reason for low fat food for dogs with pancreatitis: “In dogs, dietary fat is associated with the development of pancreatitis and (excess fat) can cause the secretion of a hormone that induces the pancreas to secrete its digestive hormones.‘ This can cause the pancreas to ‘eat itself’ and inflammation issues – rather than the hormones being used in the small intestine for digestion purposes.

There is no current CURE for pancreatitis in dogs.  However, there are drugs dogs can take, but most vets agree that feeding dogs a low-fat diet is also very necessary.

We have read that because the action and treatment of pancreatitis in humans and dogs is very different and there hasn’t been enough large scales experimental research into dog pancreatitis to have consensus at the moment. I.e. lack of controlled clinical trials. So this is why information is purposely vague.

However we have tracked down several reputable sources that give a good minimum fat level agreement. This is especially important in your meat dog treat selection.

Here is the real kicker for a 2018 study: “In vitro studies have suggested that acinar cells are differentially sensitive to the types of dietary fat to which they are exposed, with saturated fats the most lipotoxic, polyunsaturated fats less so, and monounsaturated fats protective.  Such studies have not been performed in veterinary patients or cell lines.“  Ref 1

Below is the case for dog treats that are low in fat but also contain Omega 3 – found in Kangaroo and most of the fish dog treats we sell.

“Oral or parenteral omega-3 fatty acids (eg, docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]) may reduce pancreatic inflammation and prevent apoptosis of acinar cells” Efficacy and dosing in dogs has not been established; however, other omega-3 responsive conditions typically require 1 to 3 mg of combined EPA and DHA per kcal, or approximately 1 to 3 standard fish oil capsules (containing 300 mg EPA and DHA) per 10 pounds of body weight.   ref 1

What is NORMAL & LOW fat levels in dog food/ treats?

Dog food is governed by the voluntary American organisation aafco.

Affco states that the “Adult Maintenance dog food requirements is 5.5% Minimum Fat and “Growth & Reproduction”  dogs need a minimum of 8.5% Fat.  Ref 2

They do not cite a maximum level, but appreciate that some of a dog’s energy MUST be from fats because it performs other functions within a dog’s body too.

“The 2007 AAFCO Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee (CNES) chose to set the presumed caloric density for dog food products at 4000 kcal metabolizable energy (ME) per kilogram (kg) dry matter (DM)”  Ref 2   Realising that the amount of balanced dog food that should be fed to any dog is based on dog age and activity level.

“As a rule, veterinarians consider a diet with less than 10 percent fat on a dry matter basis (less than 17 percent of calories from fat) to be low fat, while diets with 10 to 15 percent fat (17 to 23 percent of calories) are considered to contain a moderate amount of fat. Foods with more than 20 percent fat are considered high-fat. A few dogs may need a very low-fat diet, especially if they have hyperlipidemia, or if they react to foods with higher levels of fat. Ref 3

Be aware this percentage is for DRY food such as Healthy Dog treats (not raw or canned wet dog food).

One refences says “Veterinary nutritionists consider diets to be low-fat if they have less than (22.5 percent of calories from fat). This measurement can be used for any type of food: dry, canned, or fresh.”   Fat has 2.5 times the energy of protein or carbs, so that is why the percentage of calories from fat appears relatively large – it doesn’t take as much per gram to add energy.

“Many commercial treats are low in fat. Check the fat percentage on the label of dry treats to get an idea of how much fat they contain; most dry treats with 8 percent or less of fat should be fine. “ Ref 3

Allaboutdogfood suggests the pancreatic dog diet should be “low in fat (between 5% and 10% dry matter) and Highly digestible (good quality and free from any potentially problematic ingredients)”  Ref 5

Since meat is the most bio available (digestible) food on the planet for dogs, Meat based dog food or dog treats are ideal.

sam-and-Olly-pointer-dogs But It’s not just about the amount of fat, it’s about the source of the food too:  ” Veterinarians are seeing increasing numbers of both dogs and cats with pancreatitis, and I’m convinced processed pet food plays a big role. High-carbohydrate diets affect insulin levels, which affect the pancreas. “  KetoPet Sanctuary has made some interesting discoveries about dogs consuming unadulterated (raw) fat versus dogs eating cooked (processed) fat, in that raw fat (even very high-fat diets) did not cause pancreatitis in their cohort of patients, but cooked fat did induce pancreatitis in some patients, even in small amounts. ‘” Ref 4

“So the question we should be asking is, do the highly processed, poor-quality fats (heated repeatedly, up to four times during the manufacturing process before “pet food” is created) contribute to the epidemic of chronic, low-grade pancreatitis occurring worldwide in pets? I’m suspicious. “ Ref 4

Be aware- by ‘’cooked’’ they mean HIGH temperate fast cooking as is required in highly processed dog foods.  NOT the mid temp single ingredient you find in healthy dog treats. 

Risk factors that can cause dogs to get pancreatitis: (Ref 1)

Dietary indiscretion of items in the trash, which conferred greatest risk (13× more likely)

Unusual food items consumed prior to presentation (4×–6× more likely)

Table scraps given in the preceding week or generally (2× more likely)

Obesity (2.6× more likely).

How you can tell your dog has issues with fat absorption

“Dogs with fat intolerance or mal-absorption may show signs such as diarrhea and weight loss, or steatorrhea (excessive excretion of fat in the stool, resulting in large, pale, greasy, and malodorous stools) in more severe cases. Fat malabsorption can also be associated with liver and gall bladder disease, intestinal infection (viral, bacterial, or parasites), lymphangiectasia, and other conditions.”  Ref 3


While most dog foods are already around 10% fat, these can be from any type of fat (meat or vegetable, saturated on unsaturated), however we know that saturated fats are not ideal for pancreatic dogs.

The high heat treatment and high carbs of regular or almost ANY commercial dog food, kills enzymes that can be important in regular dog digestion processes.

Most sources in this analysis suggest that any (dog food or dog treats) below 8 to 10% fat can be considered low fat. However, since you are getting 70% grain in most commercial dog foods it is very worthwhile considering balancing up the meat content with dried 100% meat-based dog treats.

Dried Chicken meat and Beef meat (100% jerkies), are typically around 10% fat level. Pork products are either this level or higher and saturated fats.

This is why we suggest that 100% Kangaroo Meat products and most 100% of our Fish dog treats (except Sardines that can be around 8% fat).  Are the healthiest choice for dogs with pancreatitis.  Most of these roo and fish treats are around 2 – 4% GOOD fats.  And that is good for ANY dog, not just pancreatic dogs.

Always consult your vet before making a food diet for a dog with Pancreatitis – but sometimes its best to suggest what you want (healthy dog treats) meat based, and low fat treats – so they can tell you what they think. If you don’t they might just offer you some grain or veggie based version off their shelves. This won’t have meat enzymes or the other benefits of low fat meat based treats nor will it likely be as affordable as our treats.



The complex answer to how much FOOD in general a dog should be fed, and fat specifically comes down to a series of equations.  “Dogs with pancreatitis should eventually achieve their estimated resting energy expenditure when feeding is appropriate and elected.

Resting energy requirement (RER) can be estimated in 2 ways:

70 × (BWkg)75 = RER (kcal/day)

[30 × (BWkg)] + 70 = RER (kcal/day)

The first formula is the more accurate of the 2 equations, while the second is an approximation of RER for dogs weighing 5 to 25 kg. Body weight should always be entered in kg.””

“Some specialists generically advise that a low fat diet be given, however … None of the values has a primary basis in scientific experimentation and as such should be interpreted cautiously.”

“Based on available evidence, it is prudent to feed lower fat diets (< 30 grams per 1000 kcal) in order to assess an individual dog’s response” The type of fat consumed may influence a dog’s response to a particular diet. Dietary fat may be saturated or unsaturated and have different lengths of fatty acid chains.” Ref 1



Ref  1    To Feed or Not to Feed? Controversies in the Nutritional Management of Pancreatitis.   Justin Shmalberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVN & ACVSMR   University of Florida ACVN NUTRITION NOTES , CLINICAL MEDICINE , GASTROENTEROLOGY/HEPATOLOGY , INTERNAL MEDICINE , NUTRITION  ACVN Nutrition Notes

Ref 2     Proposed Revisions Edited per Comments for 2014 Official Publication 1 AAFCO METHODS FOR SUBSTANTIATING NUTRITIONAL ADEQUACY OF DOG AND CAT FOODS

Ref 3     Healthy Low-Fat Diets For Dogs With Special Dietary Needs   Mary Straus  [Updated July 16, 2018]

Ref 4   Can Destroy the Pancreas, and Lead to Multiple Organ Failure and Death  August 15, 2018  (healthypets  mercola)

Ref  5    Feeding Dogs with Pancreatitis  April 11, 2016   |   By David Jackson, AllAboutDogFood

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