Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!

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imageThis week we continue our analysis of dog food data so that we can provide you with some benchmarks with which to judge the merits of your dog food choices.  We closed last week’s post by posing a question: Does the average dog food contain more protein, fat, or carbohydrates?

Based on our prior posts about these macronutrients, we would certainly hope that protein is the predominant ingredient because dogs are descendants of carnivores and their ancestors feasted on a diet that was high in animal protein and fat along with a small amount of vegetation.

Drum Roll Please…

We analyzed about 1,500 canned and dry dog foods and converted their guaranteed analysis values to a dry matter basis.  The graph below tells the story. The average dog food contains about 35% protein, 19% fat, and 37% carbohydrates.

 dog food average dry matter

There is both good news and bad news in these numbers.  First the good news.  The 37% average carbohydrate number is actually less than I would have guessed – probably due to the recent popularity of grain free and lower carb food recipes.  The bad news is that carbs still make up more of the average food than does protein.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the data to get a more complete picture.  First, we were curious to see how many foods were higher in protein than in carbs.  It turns out that 47% of the foods were higher in protein, and thus, 53% of the foods are higher in crabs than protein.  This indicates that there is a decent number of higher protein food choices available—so no excuse if you are currently feeding your dog a high carb/low protein food!

Secondly, we wanted to dig deeper than the averages and take a look at the ranges of the dry matter percentages for the three macronutrients.  To accomplish this, we created histogram graphs which show the range and frequency of values for protein, fat, and carbs.  These are displayed below.  You will notice that of the three, it is the carbohydrates that are the most varied—that is to say, there is a far greater range of values than the protein and fat cases.  This means that there are a significant number of dog foods that are very high in carbs (50% or greater) and thus you should diligently check your dog food labels to make sure that you are aware of how your dog’s food stacks up versus the industry data and are not inadvertently feeding your dog a high carb, potentially inferior product.

dog food protein  Protein ranges between 10-68% with most of the foods clustered between 30-50%.

 dog food fat

 Fats range between 10-50% with most of the foods clustered between 20-40%.

 dog food carbCarbs range between 10 and 85% with most values clustered between 20-60%.

 If you can’t tell by now, we love data and graphs.  Let us know if you have any questions on today’s analysis or if you would like some further explanation on how to interpret the results.



Poor Jack seems a bit exhausted from all that ‘stats’ work.



We’re joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol’s Notes:

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  1. I’m with Jack…all those numbers wear me out! So for a dog that has no allergy or diet issues, is healthy and active, what would you say are the best foods? It seems like whatever we select and put into the app comes out around 5.8. Is that good or what foods are better?
    emma recently posted…An Unlikely Guest | GBGVMy Profile

    • Emma- Can you tell us which food you are using now (brand and formula)?
      steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

      • My 11 yr old Kuvasz sister eats Purina ProPlan Adult 6+ large breed and I chow down on Science Diet Advanced Fitness.
        emma recently posted…An Unlikely Guest | GBGVMy Profile

        • Emma- That’s right, you told us this info a week or two ago.

          Those two foods sit in the middle of the pack according to our ingredient analysis, which means that there are many choices that might work better for you. Perhaps we can communicate via email and we can send over some alternatives. Let us know if it is OK to ping you this way.
          steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

  2. Very interesting. There are so many brands, it can be confusing. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Product Review–Orijen Freeze Dried TreatsMy Profile

    • Yes, but the good news is that there are more higher quality brands to choose from.
      steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

  3. Have you told us how to figure out those percentages for our own foods? I was thinking maybe that was in another post. Since we’ve switched foods I need to go back and figure out now how to see how the new food stacks up.
    Jan K recently posted…Home Sweet HomeMy Profile

    • Yes, we explained the Dry Matter Basis calculation here:
      Let us know if you need some help!
      steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

      • We have just started feeding Fromm’s Adult Gold, about a month ago now. I’ve calculated the protein to be 27%, and the carbs 47%. Not sure about the fat, I think I missed that calculation (crude fat Is 16%, dry matter 90%). How does this sound to you? Is the protein too low? Do you need more information? Thanks!!
        Jan K recently posted…Blog the Change for Animals – A Call To ArmsMy Profile

        • Jan- your calculations are spot on. On a dry matter basis (adjusted for moisture and ash) Fromms Gold Adult has Protein ~27%, Fat ~ 18%, and Carbs ~47% .

          Overall, we are fans of the Fromms line of food and they rate highly according to our own ranking based on ingredients. That said, the Protein in this formula is low compared to the average of all the food in our data set and the carbs are high compared to the average.

          Is there any medical reason why your dog would need to be on a low protein diet?
          steve recently posted…Dog Food Ingredients: Looking Past the First 5 IngredientsMy Profile

          • No, we have three dogs and they are all healthy. This food was recommended at the supply store I shop at. Would it be better for them to be on a higher protein food, perhaps a different formula by Fromm’s? thank you!
            Jan K recently posted…Blog the Change for Animals – A Call To ArmsMy Profile

  4. Currently feeding a ‘grain-free’ dry recipe rated 4.5 stars on Dog Food Advisor and Gizmo does well on it, but the %’s didn’t make me happy Protein 32%, Fat 19% and Carbs 41%…So my question is, should I be looking for a new food? Or adding meat for additional protein? What’s your advice Slim Doggy?
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Book Review: “It’s Just a Dog”My Profile

    • I have a few questions:
      1- Does Gizmo have any known internal health issues that would preclude a higher protein diet?
      2- What is the brand and formula that you are using right now?
      3- Does Gizmo tolerate it well?
      4- How long have you been using it?
      steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

      • 1. No known problems that would preclude higher protein
        2. Fromm’s Grain Free Dry Surf & Turf formula…1/2 Cup fed morning & night
        3. Yes, he does very well on this food
        4. We’ve been feeding this for over 2 years now
        GizmoGeodog recently posted…Book Review: “It’s Just a Dog”My Profile

        • Fromm’s Grain Free S&T is a very high quality food choice based on the ingredients alone.

          Given that Giz does well, I wouldn’t recommend switching unless you would like to do so to prevent the development of a protein allergy (this will be a topic of a future post, but there is some research that suggests serving the same protein over a sustained period of time could lead to the development of allergic reactions).

          In the meantime, have you considered adding a sardine to his meal to up the protein? One sardine is low in kcals (~25), high in protein, and full of healthy Omegas. We wrote about this a few months ago here:
          steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

          • I do mix up the variety of protein source every once in a while…He’s also had the Fromm’s Grain Free beef, game bird and pork, but will be interested to read more about that subject

            So funny that you mention sardines…I actually bought a can of low-sodium, water-packed sardines for Gizmo after reading your post, but stuck them in the cupboard and forgot about them…I just fed him one and, to say the least, it was an enthusiastic reaction…he gobbled it and looked for another…Since Gizmo is 20#, 1 sardine is just right for him per the article…would you suggest adding 1 sardine per day?
            GizmoGeodog recently posted…Book Review: “It’s Just a Dog”My Profile

          • Yup, 1 per day. Just cut a little of the food (~ 25 kcals worth) so you are not over feeding.
            steve recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

          • This is interesting so your saying that by feeding the same protein source for a while a dog risks on getting a allergy of that protein? I can’t wait to read this up coming post!
            Francesca Villa recently posted…My Fingers Are Crossed!My Profile

          • Yes, Francesca, that is the theory. We had always heard that you should stick with the same food for ever, but I now wonder if that is just an old wives tale. Stay tuned.
            steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 7-10-13My Profile

  5. You’re wearing out poor Jack. There’s gotta be a law against making dogs do statistics. Watch out or he’ll be calling his lawyer. 😉

    • I know – underage/child labor…except, he’s not a child, he’s a senior!
      mkob recently posted…Protein & Fats & Carbs, Oh My!My Profile

  6. It sure is confusing! I’m with Jack lol
    Misaki recently posted…Beer Paws 🙂My Profile

  7. That is amazing how you guys put together all this data together. I just went, and look at Joker’s dog food bag to see what percentage it has. It says Protein: 24% Fat Content 19% Crude Ash 7.5% Crude Fibres 3.8%.. what is crude ash, and crude fibres exactly? Are they carbs? I was also told by someone that the brand of dog food that I use has too much protein in it, and that is why sometimes durring the summer Joker has “fur problems”. Now I wonder if that is really true, because 24% now seems pretty low.
    Francesca Villa recently posted…My Fingers Are Crossed!My Profile

    • What is the Brand and Formula that you use? What it eh Moisture %? We need the moisture to calculate the true Dry Matter Basis analysis.
      steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 7-10-13My Profile

      • I have no idea if you guys have this brand in the States, but here is a link of what he eats… the brand is called Royal Canin. We have been using it for a while now, and I’m really confused if it is the right choice for Joker or not.

        Where I read moisture it says Moisture Max 110, but I see no percent sign.
        Francesca Villa recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: A ReminderMy Profile

        • I think that the values for this food, if they are comparable to the Royal Canin German Shepard Adult that is sold here are:
          Crude Protein (% min.) 24.0, Crude Fat (% min.) 17.5, Crude Fiber (% max.) 4.1, Moisture (% max.) 10.0
          Which would translate to
          27% Protein, 19% Fat, and 45.6% Carbs on a Dry Matter basis and accounting for 7.5% ash.

  8. Mom’s favorite classes were statistics. She was thinking to be an actuary. She enjoys analyzing … especially when it comes to food (mostly human food). These whole dog food analysis can be confusing. With the pet obesity rising many companies are doing their analysis. Since I (Sugar) is in my senior years, I do not plan to change my food. My current food helped me a lot with my allergies and stomach sensitivity. Will keep you data in mind for future reference. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Elk Antlers Best Treat Distraction From Loud NoisesMy Profile

    • If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Sugar looks healthy and happy and if it’s worked on her allergies & stomach issues, then keep on doing it.
      mkob recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 7-10-13My Profile

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