5 Reasons NOT to Feed Your Dog Carbohydrates

Do dogs need carbohydrates

Written by Hilary Wilkie

Hilary is a qualified canine nutritionist, who is passionate about educating dog parents on optimal ways to feed their dogs so they can thrive.

4 February 2022


The addition of carbohydrates in your dog’s diet, no matter what type of food they are fed, is routinely up for debate. The type of carbohydrate and the amount fed are the critical components of deciding whether the addition of carbohydrates is a good or bad thing. There are at least 5 reasons not to feed your dog carbohydrates.

Types of Carbohyrates

Carbohydrates can be broken into two groups:
  1. Functional and
  2. Non-functional
Functional carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. As a result, they help fight and prevent disease in your dog’s body. They include vegetables, fruits, gluten-free grains and legumes consumed in moderation.
Whereas, non-functional carbohydrates contribute to disease and overall ill health in your dog’s body. They include pea fibre, beet pulp, potatoes and corn; all of which are commonly found in commercial dry dog food.
Let’s take a more in depth look as to why you should reduce your dog’s intake of non-functional carbohydrates or stop all together.

Reasons NOT to Feed Your Dog Carbohydrates

Reason #1

Dogs don’t have a dietary requirement for any type of carbohydrates, functional or non-functional

But, dogs do have a dietary requirement for fat and protein. While dogs can survive on a diet predominantly based on carbohydrates, they will not thrive. 150 years ago dogs’ overall consumption of carbohydrates was estimated to be less than 10% of their caloric in take. Bear in mind, that 150 years ago dogs were much more active than today’s typical dog that leads a more sedentary lifestyle.

Reason #2


The way dogs’ body manages the addition of starch creates inflammation. The processing of the high-starch carbohydrates increases blood sugar levels, while decreasing immune function. Thus, the decrease in immune function puts stress on the rest of the body.

Reason #3

Increase risk of chronic disease

The increase consumption of non-functional carbohydrates in today’s dogs will have adverse affects on their health because it will impact their gut and skin health to name a few.

Reason #4

Contains high starch content

As dogs have evolved alongside humans, they have adapted to be able to digest more carbohydrates. A 2013 study from Uppsala University in Sweden summarised that dogs can thrive on a high-starch diet because they have more genes of the amylase enzyme, that breaks down starch in the body. However, their findings were considered ambiguous by Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure because the researchers did not specify how many more of this gene the dog has compared to their ancestor the wolf. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. Dr. Doug Knueven, DVM states:

To say the because dogs can digest starch proves that they thrive on a high-starch diet is like asserting that because people can process ethanol and glucose we thrive on a diet rich in rum and cookies!

Reason #5

Increase risk of obesity

The over consumption of non-functional carbohydrates, also known as ultra processed carbohydrates, contributes to the obesity epidemic in dogs today. In the US the rate of overweight and obese dogs has risen by 37% between 2006-2011. This has down stream effects on these dogs, including diabetes, joint issues, such as osteoarthritis, heart and skeletal issues.


Now that you are aware of the harmful effects of non-functional carbohydrates let’s look at how functional carbohydrates can help repair your dog’s body.
An optimal diet for your dog requires fresh whole foods, including functional carbohydrates in the correct amount. Adding up to 20% of blended fresh vegetables and fruit into your dog’s meal 3 times a week will benefit your dog. We are big fans of the “spoonful” method. Remove a spoonful of your dog’s food and replace it with a spoonful of fresh functional carbohydrates. Repairing the damage caused by non-functional carbohydrates will help improve improve the overall health and well-being of your dog. Take small, simple steps to improve your dog’s diet. The hardest step is the first.


  1. Habib, R and Becker, K, DVM. The Forever Dog. 2021, HarperCollins, New York
  2. Becker, D, DVM and Taylor, B. Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats. 2015, Natural Pet Productions, United States.
  3. Dodds, J, DVM and Laverdure D. Canine Nutrigenomics, the New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. 2015, DogWise Publishing, Washington.
  4. Brady, Conor. Feeding Dogs, Dry or Raw? The Science Behind the Debate. 2020, Farrow Road Publishing.

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