Overview of Fats in Dog Food
Dogs require moderate amounts of healthy fats in their diet. Much like protein, fats are a crucial part of a pet’s diet. Some of the key benefits of fat include:
- Fat provides essential nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are vital to keeping your pet’s skin and coat healthy. Restricting fat or providing low quality fat sources can often lead to a coarse, dull coat and dry, itchy skin, among other things.
- Fat is important for reproductive efficiency, kidney function and the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K.
- Fat helps with overall immune regulation, which helps your pet fight off disease and infections.
- Fat is normally a flavor enhancer.
Most people are not aware that unlike humans, whose bodies look first to carbohydrates to supply energy, dog bodies will first look to fat (not carbs) as the first source of energy. Thus, adequate dietary fat is even more important for active dogs and canine athletes.
Also like protein, all fats are not created equal. When it comes to your dog, high quality sources of fat can make all the difference in your pet’s overall health. Look for real, named, fat sources including fish like salmon and whitefish, fish oil, and chicken, pork, or duck fat. Fish oil, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, is also known to be anti-inflammatory and can help a dog naturally deal with inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis.
Avoid low quality fats like animal fat, poultry fat, vegetable or mineral oils, and tallow or lard. These ingredients provide your dog with little benefit other than extra calories.
Fats are a dense source of calories- there are 2 ½ times as many calories in a gram of fat than in a gram of carbohydrate or protein. Thus, you must be careful with portions if your dog is eating substantial amounts of fat. What is substantial? Diets with fat contents as high as 25% have been fed for extended periods without any observed adverse effects. Sled dogs, the epitome of an endurance dog, thrive on diets with as much as 50% fat!
Remember, in the wild, dogs would get 70-85% of their nutrition from animal and fish based protein and fats. Dog foods with ample protein and fat, at least 2/3 of the macro nutrient profile in total, are much more appropriate for a dog than the carb heavy choices that flood the pet store and grocery aisles.