Overview of Fats in Dog Food

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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.
Dog Food

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.


Further Reading

Nutritional Requirements for Exercising Dogs

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  1. Great article! So many times I think we hear \”fat\” and think its all bad.

  2. What’s your view on coconut oil for dogs? I give each of the dogs a small amount everyday either in a yogurt snack in the afternoon, or with their dinner. Right now I am trying to get Torrey to lose 5 pounds and I worry that it’s too fatty for her. I have cut her calories to 488 a day, we are trying to reach 30 pounds, but I am unsure about the extra fat in the coconut oil.
    Mary recently posted…Post number 1000 Celebration and SaleMy Profile

    • We will be writing a post on Coconut oil in the next few weeks.

      From what we have learned, Coconut oil has a lot of benefits, specifically regarding the immune system, the skin and coat, and the intestinal tract.

      With that said, like most foods, do not overdo it. 1 teaspoon for every 10-20 lbs of body weight per day is a good dose (according to Dr. K Becker). Also, it is high in calories, so if you will be including coconut oil in your dog’s food regimen, those extra calories need to be deducted elsewhere. It contains 39 kcals per teaspoon.
      steve recently posted…Overview of Fats in Dog FoodMy Profile

  3. Fat is not just fat! There are good and bad fats, one has to sort it all out and choose the right food.
    Emma recently posted…Pet Friendly Cleaning With PL360 {Giveaway} #MultiPetManiaMy Profile

  4. Harley says, “a little fat never hurt nobody” that is – as long as it’s the right kind of fat. We agree, there needs to be a little, but it’s got to be the right kind. Thanks for the information today Slim. #valuable

  5. I admit I have never paid much attention to the fat amount in my dog’s food. He gets quite a bit of exercises and has never had a “weight” problem. Thanks for the info.
    Anne recently posted…Getting the Stubborn Cat to Eat Canned FoodMy Profile

  6. As always, so informative. In addition to some fat being good for a healthy pup, it’s also what makes everything taste better for both 2 and 4 legged types. 🙂
    Monika recently posted…Trivia Tuesday ~ June 9, 2015My Profile

  7. We have just started adding coconut oil to our Doctor Harvey’s Canine Health and Veg-to-Bowl. I love the benefits of it. We also about to add fish oil supplements into the mix.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Do You Have a Hot Dog?My Profile

  8. No dog food from grocer aisles for our pack!! Fat is so much more important than carb fillers!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Why I started feeding our dogs a raw dietMy Profile

  9. great post, Nellie will tell you she loves fat, the greasier the better. This reminds me I do need to go get more fish oil capsules for the gang.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Will There Be Glorious-Thunder Puppies In The Near Future?My Profile

  10. I had no idea that canines burned fat before carbs. But it makes sense.

    BTW, cod liver oil is available in any drug store. Do you think it’s a healthy option if you need to add a little fat to your dog’s diet?
    Pamela recently posted…Stone-d Dogs – Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  11. Excellent article Slimdoggy! I wish the big pet food brands would actually make food thats better for our dogs. The commercials on TV even have me fooled that their food is the best. I try to mix dry dog food with some type of lean protein and also add a tsp coconut oil. Mila absolutely loves it and eats it all right away!
    Barkocity recently posted…Paw Protection For The SummerMy Profile

  12. We have done the super high fat kibble when our dogs have been with the trainer and training every day (like 24% fat). It was the only way to keep weight on them. As they age we cut it back especially if they are not into the super heavy daily field training.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Merrick Backcountry Dog Food Review #Wild4BackcountryMy Profile

  13. Great fat primer. We give R, our elbow dysplasia dog, lots and lots of omega-3’s with his home-cooked food.

    As for the carbs, I read an article recently about genetic changes in domestic dogs that cause the production of much more of the enzymes needed to digest carbs than wolves produce. The scientists’ conclusion was that perhaps a higher carb diet isn’t bad for dogs. However, we both know that cheap foods use cheap carb sources as fillers… so it’s not a simple issue.
    KB recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  14. I can’t feed raw, I wonder if my dog gets enough from her food – it’s Pure Balance, a grain free kibble. She loves salmon, salmon nights are great dinners for all of us!
    Lindsay Pevny recently posted…5 Dog Myths To Stop SpreadingMy Profile

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