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GrainFree Sweet Potato Dog Treats

why sweet potato dog treats

why sweet potato dog treats The Reasons why people buy Grain free Sweet potato Dog treats and dog food is simple. For some reason they believe that grains are bad and potato is good.

Is this correct? And why not regular potato? Hell, why not even MEAT? The stuff they evolved to eat?

The Petmd site says “It is common knowledge and generally agreed upon by experts that dogs (and cats) are meat eaters and have evolved through the ages primarily as meat eaters. “ and they are correct … so why all the buzz about sweet potato you might ask.

“Although now “domesticated,” our pets have not evolved rumens along their digestive tracts in order to ferment cellulose and other plant material, nor have their pancreases evolved a way to secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules, nor have dogs and cats become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things. That’s how nature is set up at this time.” REF 1

“some plant material such as rice, soybean meal and corn have some, although limited, usefulness in the meat eater’s diet.”

Why Grains generally are low value for domestic dogs

One of the main reasons is that they are not bio available, a dog cannot easily digest them, so even in fully ground form, they can’t extract all of the nutrients from them that a herbivore can, that may ferment them in their stomach for days to extract nutrients (i.e. the domestic cow).

Secondly, grains don’t have the kinds of enzymes in them that are of value to a carnivore dog.

Thirdly they are typically LOW in protein, unless they have been artificially concentrated in a highly refined high heat treated process, like in the creation of livestock food.

Typical PROTEIN amounts in Common grains in commercial dog food.

CORN – Corn, dried (Navajo) 9.9 8.1
Wheat, durum 13.7 10.9
Rice flour, brown 7.2 12.0


As you can see the typical water content of these grains is around 10% when dried. Ref1 This is a good baseline as the more that a grain is dried the higher (inflated) the protein percentage becomes. And dog food and dog treats are typically around 10% water.

AFFCO – the volunteer organisation that provides the nutrition GUIDES that almost every country follows and requires for dog food to be called whole and complete says that Dry matter Growth and reproduction minimum protein requirements for dogs is THIRTY (30%) and for adult maintenance diet 26%. If you factor in the poor bioavailable of most grains in carnivore (domestic dogs), the useable protein can be as low as near HALF the values shown in the table above.

Typical PROTEIN amounts in Common MEATS in commercial dog food.

beef jerky, chopped and formed  33.2  23.4


Chicken, broilers or fryers, back, meat and skin, cooked  27.8  44%

As you can see from the above meat table, even with water content well above 10%  the protein levels of these meats alone are higher than the dog maintenance diet minimum protein levels. Ref 1

And that is typically why, a dog food, using Non concentrated vegetable foods, requires around 30% meat (at the much higher protein levels typically around 60% when water level is 10%) to contribute enough BIO AVAILABLE protein to make their bare minimums in the tables.


Sweet potato, in nutrition data sites, is usually shown in the form of baked or boiled and has a very high water content (75%) which would significantly reduce the protein percentage. That is why we look at ‘ sweet potato chips’ for its nutrition value, and find that with 4% water content it STILL only has total protein of 3.5% ! 

If we increased the water content to 10%, the percentage of sweet potato protein would be even less.  It is a very good source of vitamin A, but dog food companies always add the full range of vitamins to their product anyway. It is also high in fibre, but its really the PROTEIN supplementation that you are seeking with ANY additional treats or dog foods.

100g of Sweet potato chips has 2077 KJ of energy of which 1089 KJ are from carbohydrates (SUGAR). This means that while it is known to be low GI (utilised slowly by the body),  it has ridiculously low protein and is high in Sugar.  The complete opposite of what a carnivore dog needs.

So why is it chosen as the new trend in dog food?  One site says sweet potato is used because it is “gentle on a dog’s digestive system and naturally gluten-free”

The fact that almost NO dog is coeliac (ie they don’t require gluten free diets), and as most dog food has grain in it, they are basically saying if your dog can’t digest grain carbs, try potato carbs. Which of course is ludicrous.

Every KJ of vegetable carb you feed a dog, is one less KJ of meat protein you can feed your dog. And with most dogs feed a commercial dog food diet, being in usable protein deficit, substituting sweet potato for grain makes very little sense.


BEEF KG (medium Cow  ) Ref 3 234 cents per Kg lwt (RAW incl 75% water)
WHEAT KG  Southern QLD Ref 4 $415 per tonne =   0.4 cents per Kg
SWEET POTATO Ref 5 18kg ctn BRS 2 yr average 2018 $23.63

Equiv of $1.3 per Kg  .. US prices 70 cents / Kg



It appears that sweet potato is mainly grown in QLD in Australia and the prices are relatively high at  $1 to $1.3 per Kg, however the US price might be half of that considering the increase in planting to meet new demand. Caused by sweet potato association marketing. This still puts the price much higher than grains like wheat and rice but around one third of beef (raw).


Sweet potato fulfills the dual purpose of being slightly ‘gentler’ on some dog’s stomachs than traditional grains, while appearing trendy (and more healthy for humans).  Amorphization of our animals means that people are transferring human health benefits (low GI or sweet potato) to somehow be a healthier option for their dog. They wont feed their dog more meat that they require, but are happy to add another vegetable option? That is sad news for dogs.

As you can see from the sweet potatoes low Protein and high KJ, as well as high Carb (sugar) content, it is of little use to increasing bio available meat proteins, which is really what dogs on commercial dog food diets need more than anything.

It might be a marketers dream for dog food companies, just like avocado and kale popularity and prices skyrocketed in the human café culture markets a few years ago, but unlike humans, dogs are much close to being true carnivores than anything resembling an omnivore.

DOGS do NOT need more vegetables or carbs in their diet, particularly when you are considering what kind of treat to buy your dog. MEAT BASED dog treats fulfil the dual functions of adding protein, teeth cleaning, occupying the dog with a primal task etc.




1  Contrasting Grain-based and Meat-based Diets for Dogs  By T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM

2  nutritiondata  website

3   MLA site  – wholesale price of beef in Australia 2019

4     awb site – wholesale price of wheat in Autralia 2019

5     Ruralbank

6    agmrc  :   In 2016, the U.S. season average farm price for sweet potatoes was $22.40 per hundredweight. (50kg).  44 cents per Kg.   70 cents AUD per Kg

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