Why Fat is Important for Your Dog

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imageAfter our last two Tasty Tuesday posts, we all know that protein is an important ingredient in a dog’s diet and what kinds of protein sources we should look for in our dog’s food.  Today we will focus on the macro-nutrient “Fat”. Just like with humans, not all fat is bad, but it’s the right kind of fat that’s important.

Why Fat?

Fat is an important macro nutrient for both humans and dogs.  Dietary fat provides a myriad of benefits to your dog:

  1. Fat is a dense source of energy (calories) that is necessary to keep your dog active.
  2. Fat provides essential nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are vital to keeping your dog’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.
  3. Fat is important for reproductive efficiency, kidney function and the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K.
  4. Fat helps with overall immune regulation, which helps your dog fight off disease and infections.
  5. Fat serves as a serves as a metabolic source of water, reducing the likelihood of dehydration.   Perhaps this is a reason to slightly increase the fat content in your dog’s diet during the summer months?
  6. Fat tastes good.  Hmm, bacon!

How Much Fat?

As we mentioned in prior posts, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes nutritional minimums and standards for dog foods based on the life stage of the dog.  The table below shows the AAFCO protein and fat minimums.


AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles
Macro Nutrient Growth (Puppy) and Reproduction Adult Maintenance
Protein 22% 18%
Fat 8% 5%

Remember that these are minimum guidelines from AAFCO!   Remember also to use a dry matter basis when checking your dog food’s fat content.

How Much is TOO Much?dog food fat

Despite all of the benefits of fat, you should not go overboard when planning your dog’s diet.  Like anything else, moderation and proper portioning is key.

Fat is the most calorie dense macro-nutrient- it contains 2 1/4 the calories per unit as protein and carbohydrates.  Thus, high fat diets are in turn, high calorie diets and if not monitored, can lead to overweight and even obese pets.  This suggests that a lower fat (not no fat!) diet can be a prudent strategy when kick-starting a dog weight loss program. Check with your vet or pet nutritionist before making any dramatic changes in your dog’s diet.

As your dog ages and becomes less active, their energy requirements will lessen and thus, the amount of calories in their diet should also lessen. One way to achieve this is by choosing a (slightly) lower fat food.   Again, check with your vet or pet nutritionist before making any dramatic changes in your dog’s diet.

Next week, we will discuss the common sources of fat in commercial dog food.  If you have questions or concerns, please leave them in our comments section.




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. as always great info

    urban hounds

  2. I’m grateful that my active Aussies don’t need a diet. They get occasional Jones chews and eat a lot of duck and chicken poo, but burn everything off chasing each other and the ducks.
    Flea recently posted…Disaster Relief on Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

    • I don’t recall the fat content of duck and chicken poo…

  3. Woof! Woof! Absolutely in moderation. Golden Thanks for such detailed information. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: BlogPaws GoodiesMy Profile

    • You are welcome Sugar. Tell mom that she can have some extra fat (and calories) if she does Bikram doubles!

  4. We always tell people to be careful when choosing a “low fat” diet for their pup. Since fat is a big part of what lets you feel “satisfied” many pups tend to act hungry on a low fat diet. I like that you pointed out that no fat isn’t a great idea – too many people take this too far!
    Kolchak, Felix & Jodi recently posted…A Bedtime Fairytale Pt. IIIMy Profile

  5. I still get confused about the dry matter basis. I wish that all pet foods had to standardize their content (do the calculation for you). Does the Slimdoggy app do that?

    • Jessica- we don’t yet calculate the DM values but it is on our list. Let us know if you want us to evaluate your food and we will!

  6. One of the things I love about switching our dogs diet to raw is that we’re getting healthier percentages of protein and carbs. The more I was learning about dog food and treats, the less I was comfortable making it a primary part of their diet. Cutting back has really showed an improvement in their energy and waistlines 🙂

    Looking forward to the next post.
    Kimberly, The Fur Mom recently posted…Oklahoma Inspires 10 Ways We Can Help Pets in Need #Paws4OK #BlogPawsMy Profile

    • Thanks Fur Mom! Some (not all) commercial foods use lower priced fillers that are empty calories. Looks like you have found the sweet spot for your dogs.

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