Why Carbohydrates Are Good For Dogs

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I am a big believer in feeding a dog in a way that is appropriate for their carnivore ancestry.  This means feeding a diet that is high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbohydrates (e.g. carbs should not make up more than 40% of the macronutrients in a food). However, there are many health benefits associated with foods that are high in carbohydrates and a dog should be able to benefit as well.  The key is to understand that all carbohydrates are not created equal (from a health perspective) and to make sure that your dog is getting enough of the right type of carbohydrates and avoiding the wrong type of carbs.


Health Benefits of Carbohydrates

You might think I am crazy espousing the health benefits of carbohydrates.  With all of the marketing out there promoting low-carb, gluten free, and grain free diets (for both humans and dogs!), why would I buck the trend?  It turns out that food sources containing carbohydrates can provide a dog with crucial vitamins and minerals.  Further, some carbs can provide phytonutrients, which while not essential to keep a dog alive (like protein and fat, vitamins and minerals, and water are), can indeed provide a dog with health benefits.

carbs can be good for you

What are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are chemicals that are found naturally in plants.  Two of the most well-known types of phytonutrients are carotenoids and flavonoids.  Carotenoids (e.g. alpha- and beta- carotene) provide the right red, orange, green and yellow pigments of vegetables like kale, broccoli, peppers, pumpkin, and carrots.  Flavonoids, which include the pigments (called anthocyanin pigments) that provide many fruits and vegetables with their red, blue, and purple color.  Examples of foods loaded with flavonoids include blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peppers, some beans and red cabbage.


Phytonutrients available in fruits and vegetables are thought to provide the body with benefits due to several reasons:

  • They act as antioxidants
  • They can help the body detoxify (especially carcinogens)
  • They can enhance and support the immune system
  • They can help repair DNA damage
  • They can reduce internal inflammation and the associated risk of inflammatory diseases


Carbohydrates that are Good for a Dog

As previously mentioned, not all carbs are created equal.  There are, thankfully, a wide choice of carbohydrates that are good for a dog.

Most fruits including apples, berries, and melons.  (Note: grapes and raisins are harmful to a dog).

Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.

Some legumes including pinto, garbanzo, and kidney beans, peas, and lima beans.


As an added benefit, many of the above carbohydrates can provide a dog with fiber, which is helpful for proper gastrointestinal function.


The bottom line is that carbohydrates can and should play an important part of a healthy dog’s diet.  Just make sure that your dog is getting the right kinds of carbs, and that their diet is not too carb heavy.

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  1. are all that things in dried fruits or in dog food/treats what contain dried fruits? or is in only in fresh fruits and vegetables?
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  2. Interesting. We know lots of carbs are in those super cheap foods but they are not the good kind either. Fruits and veggies are good, and we tend to like a lot of them. Mom is laughing because we think the last sentence has a typo. She is envisioning us with plates full of crab 😉 Sometimes typos can be fun!
    Emma recently posted…What Do Wabbits And Hooves Have In Common?My Profile

  3. All carbs are not created equal for sure!! Getting the most value for our food and our pups is good.
    Julie recently posted…Crazy CocoaMy Profile

  4. I make a vegetable and fruit mix to mix into our dogs raw meals and I swear I see a huge difference. It offers natural fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. I love it and I really love that they enjoy it too.

    This is such a great post. With the push for grain free, I think many dog owners have the misconception that carbs are bad. But just like with humans, not all carbs are bad.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…What Temperature Do You Feed a Dog’s Raw Meal?My Profile

  5. I am glad that my dogs love fruits and veggies. I don’t believe eliminating any one thing from a diet is healthy in the grand scheme of things unless it is due to allergies. The scientists change their minds on what is killing us every month or so anyway! LOL! Great information as always.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News January 18, 2016 #DogNewsMy Profile

  6. I have trouble getting my dogs to try anything that isn’t meat or cheese, but so far cooked carrots, peas and pinto beans are acceptable to them. I’m thinking of making purees to add to their kibble, or I might use them to make homemade treats – glad to hear they’re a healthy choice.

    • Absolutely – try sneaking some into their food – I just toss veggies and fruit right in with their meal.
      mkob recently posted…Why Carbohydrates Are Good For DogsMy Profile

  7. I love giving the dogs fresh fruits and veggies and Luke is a huge fan. The girls aren’t as much, though I’ve found now with veggies if I cook them and/or mix them with some other stuff, they’ll eat them right up. I just bought a cabbage today to share with the dogs. I love cooked cabbage but my hubby is not a fan. Now I have someone to share it with (since I can’t eat a whole one myself..LOL).
    Jan K recently posted…Touchdown! Luke Scores with the New Pet Treater BoxMy Profile

  8. I say – as my mom used to – “everything in moderation” except those things that are proven toxins, like grapes and raisins. Or as M.K. said, allergy-related.

    Great post!!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Play With Me!My Profile

  9. PS. I’ve also noticed that Shadow’s reflux bothers her more after eating chicken-based meals as opposed to turkey or beef. So I try to avoid foods that are mostly or all chicken. I don’t even buy chicken-based treats any more.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Play With Me!My Profile

  10. I give my dog (Shih Tzu almost 2 yrs old) dry food (Nutro) with wet food mixed in, usually Pro Plan seared chicken along with a teaspoon of plain pumpkin purée. I always read the ingred list and try to feed as natural a food as possible but it seems that all wet food has one ingredient that makes me nervous – wheat gluten. Why does this seem to be a necessary ingredient in wet food? I can’t find any that doesn’t have it.

  11. My blog address was wrong in my last post. I’ve corrected here. Thanks for the informative articles.
    Darlene Carlo recently posted…It sure is snowy today!  My Profile

  12. Great post! My dogs love fresh fruit so I always share (but not grapes!).
    KB recently posted…Beauty and Smiles!My Profile

  13. Carbs are good for fuel but just like for humans, you don’t need so many for healthfulness.

  14. That’s quite a list of some nummy food to supplement them with, healthier to use those for treats.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Feeding TrickeryMy Profile

  15. This information is very interesting. Like humans, dogs need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Thank you for sharing.
    Sharon Seltzer recently posted…Mango on a Mission Dog Wheelchair Donation ProgramMy Profile

  16. Brown dawgs do like fruit and veggies on occasion.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Making Winter Fun!My Profile

  17. Even though their food already contains fruits and veggies I am still adding fresh to every meal. They love it.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…MISSINGMy Profile

  18. Do you have a huge comprehensive list of things to avoid in dogs? I think that would make an awesome post!
    This is for my dog recently posted…Indestructible Dog Toys – The Best Tough Toys for Tough DogsMy Profile

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