Grains in dog food

Starch in grains deliver energy

Grains in dog food deliver energy via starch (a complex carbohydrate) that is broken down to glucose. Starch is the fuel of plants, this is their way to store energy (like animals use fat to store energy).

Dogs have different metabolisms than we do and don't need large amounts of carbohydrates in their diet.

Dogs have short digestion tracts which means they cannot digest plant material as well as wel can. They also lack enzymes required to digest cellulose. Cellulose is the complex carbohydrate plant cell walls are made of. To aid digestion grains need to be cooked. During the dog food manufacturing process starches expand to improve digestibility of the grains used.

Useless fillers?

Carbohydrates are not just fillers provided the ingredients are well chosen and properly prepared (cooked). Even indigestible fibers are very beneficial (again… if these are the right ones).

For a full review of the role of carbs in dog food, continue here »

When starches are not cooked your dog is likely to develop diarrhea and the same thing will happen when he gets more then he can digest.

Some dogs may have more problems then others digesting grains and some dogs may even be allergic to (certain) grains. For these dogs grain-free dog food, dog food containing alternative starch sources or low carb dog food can be beneficial.

Choices of grains in dog food

The function of starch is to deliver energy (in the form of glucose). Though our source of choice may deliver some usefull other ingredients as well, and we have to take digestibility into account.

Some dogs are allergic to certain grains which may limit your choice. Alternatively you can opt for a grain free dog food.

Starch is found in all kinds of grains and in potatoes.

  • Rice
  • Maize (corn)
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oat
  • Sorghum
  • Millet

Why grains in dog food are discussed

Dogs have the image of being carnivores, though they are not strict carnivores like cats. One can plot dogs between carnivores and omnivores (making them fall more in the omnivorous category).

Animal proteins generally have a higher digestibility than do plant protein. Dogs need carbohydrates and proteins, but these can be found in other sources than grains.

Dogs use fat as their major energy source, not carbohydrates (like we do). So why whould a dog food have corn as a first ingredient?

Allergy story

Read this story about a dog with multiple concurrent allergies, amongst others to wheat, barley, corn, oats ánd rice.

Some dogs have gotten allergic to certain grains in which case switching to a grain-free dog food or hydrolized diet is indicated. If your dog is allergic to wheat, a dog food based on rice can be the solution… though this is not always the case. You do need to find the specific allergen(s) for your dog.

Dogs in general have a remarkable adaptability, but some dogs cannot digest grains as well as others. These dogs often have diarrhea.

Continue reading about grain free dog food »

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