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Tl;dr - No. Different foods are created to suit different needs.

This difference applies to commercial foods too. Some foods are extremely calorie dense, others seem to be higher in carbohydrates than anything else. I often see people asking what commercially available food is "best", and I enjoy seeing the whole list of responses saying one food or the other is the best. However, the truth is, the best food is the one that suits the individual dog's needs best.

One of my favourite analogy is about how feeding our dogs is like buying a dress.

We can certainly head to the boutique or clothing shop to find ourselves the dress. However, even within the same brand, sizes may differ depending on the the way the clothes was cut. And the most beautiful dress doesn't always make us look our best because we have unique body shapes. If we want the clothes to fit like they were made just for us, well, we will have to get them altered by the tailor, or have them made from scratch using our personal measurements and using the materials, colours that will suit our body shape, skin tone etc best.

The same with our dogs' diets. We can make sure they get all they need by serving them a premade food that is complete and balanced. However, nothing can beat a diet that is tailored and custom built for each individual dog's life stage, activity levels and unique needs.

​Here’s an example using my own two dogs.

The black one, Cara, is one, and because they are small breeds, she has been more than 80% of her adult weight at 8 months old and is fully grown by 12 months. If I wanted to, I can feed her an adult recipe, although I’ll be keeping her on a puppy formulation for a little longer till she’s about 15 months old. Her day is all "play like crazy, fall over and sleep like a log, wake up" and repeat cycle. Not fat tolerant, a little bit more of a slightly fattier treat and it'll be "poopaggadon" until the fat is processed out of her system!

The grey one, Oreo, is 9 years old. Her metabolism is relatively high, but she has a history of clostridium infection. She sleeps quite a bit more than her younger sister but enjoys a good game of chase around the house a few times a day. She tolerates a higher fat diet, but requires a lot more fibre to keep the clostridium count in check.

Weight wise, they are almost exactly the same, Oreo is 700g heavier than young Cara.

Yet when it comes to their diet, even though they eat exactly the same ingredients, the amounts of each individual ingredient is absolutely different. High fibre diets (like what Oreo needs) has lowered vitamins and minerals because the fibre can inhibit nutrient absorption. So I have to formulate Oreo's recipe so that she doesn’t miss out on her nutrients just because the fibre level is higher. Cara has a high energy need because she’s young and burns through the energy more quickly, but she actually tolerates very little fat. Although she is 700g lighter than Oreo, she eats about 20% more in terms of calories in order to maintain her weight and good body condition.

If I were to feed both of them premade foods, they will not be able to eat the same foods at all in order to meet their nutrient needs. This is also something that few people realise - if a dog is on a premade food, and the dog isn’t maintaining weight well (put on too much weight when fed according to the label recommendations or lose weight and needs to eat way more than recommended amount), the food is the wrong one for the dog and a different food should be selected. So even when it comes to commercially available foods, it’s not one size fits all still!

Hope this explains it! =)

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In reference to the nutrient requirement tables for dogs of all life stages, as spelled out in the report by the National Research Council in 2006[1], a dog has no real nutritional requirements for carbohydrates. Despite that, there is a place for carbohydrates in the canine diet. This essay will discuss and outline the reasons why.

What carbohydrates provide the canine body

Simply put, carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy. Being one of only three macronutrients, good carbohydrate sources spare the canine body from having to process excess proteins and fats.

At the same time, carbohydrates provide fibre (which contributes greatly to intestinal health) and other nutrients from essential vitamins and minerals to non-essential but health supportive phytochemicals.[2]Some carbohydrates also have anti-cancer properties, others perform metabolic functions such as combining with fat and proteins to form specific structural components of tissue.

Also, carbohydrates have been shown to be especially helpful (although still not essential) when dogs undergo metabolically stressful periods such as gestation and lactation.[3]

Fibre and the canine body

Fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate that cannot be digested. It provides dogs with a source of short chain fatty acid, helps with maintaining a healthy population of friendly bacteria, regulate the rate at which stool passes through the digestive system and helps to regulate blood glucose levels.

Fibre can be classified by its solubility and the rate of fermentability. Soluble fibre partially dissolves in water to form a gel as it passes through the intestine and it is highly fermentable. It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels but it also affects nutrient absorption more. The fermentation of soluble fibre produces short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are an energy source for the epithelial cells in the GI tract lining, improve sodium absorption and inhibit the growth of pathogenic microbes. That helps in preventing diarrhoea. Sources of soluble fibre include seeds and nuts, fruits and many vegetables.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is resistant to fermentation. It helps to bulk up stools, helps dogs feel more full after meals and form larger stools that pass more readily through the system. Sources of insoluble fibre include whole wheat and whole grain, cellulose in vegetables.[4]

The importance of carbohydrate sources and amounts

Having named some of the benefits of feeding carbohydrates to dogs, it is important to realize that not all carbohydrate sources are created equal. Some carbohydrate sources are better than others. Certain carbohydrates contain anti-nutrients, gluten, too much of the wrong type of fibre etc. There is also issues with certain carbohydrates like peanuts and the problems with aflatoxin, and the Dirty Dozen and pesticides[5].

The right carbohydrates have the potential to positively impact the diet of dogs and their health with the addition of the right fibres and phytonutrients from the plant-based foods. As such, the careful selection of carbohydrate sources is just as important as the selection of any other types of foods.

The ideal amount of carbohydrate in a diet varies from dog to dog and it is individual-dependent. A good place to start will be about 30%.

There are also some general guidelines:

- Carbohydrates are not mere fillers – pick good sources that have high caloric value and are complex (vs. simple sugars) (like sweet potato and brown rice instead of corn husk and white bread)

- Avoid gluten and other anti-nutrients

- Use more insoluble fibres than soluble ones, except when more soluble fibres are called for (like when a dog has problems with soft stools)

Drawbacks and some things to note about feeding carbohydrates to dogs

While there are many benefits to having dogs eat carbohydrates in their diet, there are some issues about the use of carbohydrates that should be noted. One of the most crucial drawbacks is the fact that some carbohydrate-rich foods contain anti-nutrients.

Anti-nutrients are compounds in the foods that interfere with the absorption of nutrients.[6]

Some of the common anti-nutrients are:

- Phytate: an antioxidant found in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds that can bind with and slow the absorption of certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and calcium.

- Oxalate : naturally-occurring substances found in and made by plants, animals and humans. They are a group of organic acids converted by other substances. Oxalates affect mineral absorption, especially calcium.

- Gluten : a generic name given to the prolamins in grains. Most grains contain gluten, rice is an exception. Gluten can contribute to intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut).

While anti-nutrients may make one think twice about feeding carbohydrates, there are ways to overcome some of the issues caused such as soaking and cooking the foods well. Also, it is worth noting that many of these anti-nutrients have health-promoting properties such as preventing heart diseases and stopping the proliferation of cancer cells.

It is also important to know that the bioavailability of nutrients from plant foods are not always as high as they are in animal foods. One example is iron – dogs do not absorb non-heme iron well.


With the advent of pop-nutrition information, carbohydrates have gotten a very bad name as cheap “fillers” that only serve to rob dogs of their good health. However, there is truly still a place for them in a dog’s food bowl, and while the paper does not give enough details to describe all the benefits, drawbacks and things to note about carbohydrates and the role they have to play, I hope it has provided a good glimpse of how carbohydrates can be beneficial to dogs.

[1] Nutrient requirements of cats and dogs. (2006). Washington, D.C.: National Academies. [2] Rodier, L. (2010, October 01). Carbohydrates and Your Dog's Digestive System. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from [3] Case, L. P. (2011). Canine and feline nutrition: A resource for companion animal professionals. London: Mosby/Elsevier. [4] Foods highest in Dietary Fiber. (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2018, from,18,9,0,13,14,4,5,42,16,17,15,3,6,2,7,11,19,21,12,10,8,22 [5] Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). EWG's 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from [6] Lane, C. (2016, April 22). Carbs, Part Three. Retrieved from

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I first met my dog, Oreo, when she was a cute and intense tiny seven-week-old puppy.

See her serious look, chewing up her cardboard roll... I still wonder why I buy toys these days when a cardboard roll will do... but I digress!

To support her growth and nutritional needs, she ate a kibble suited for all life stages that contained 37% DMB protein. However, due to her sensitivities that kept flaring regardless of what we fed her, we eventually put her on an elimination diet and transited her to a nutritionist-formulated diet that contained 19% DMB protein. That calmly brought us till she was seven.

Oreo and her “birthday cake” which was really just her regular dinner with some corn and a slice of turkey ham

With Oreo turning seven years old in August last year, I was keenly aware that she was no longer the young adult dog that she once was. I saw various signs of her age as she slowed down no more zoomies, and she spent more time than before sleeping. While she was still active and healthy, I knew I had to take active steps to ensure that she continued to stay as healthy as possible. One of the things that I could do that was within my control would be her nutrition.

As I studied, I was made aware of how different groups of scientists were in disagreement of whether mature dogs should be fed higher or lower protein amounts. On one hand, it made great sense that the decrease in lean body mass and the decline in protein synthesis and turnover meant that the aging dog should receive just as much protein or more than before. On the other hand, it is also true that increased protein often meant increased phosphorus levels and the prevalence of mature dogs with renal issues is increasing, and dogs with renal issues often required restricted phosphorus amounts.

Since Oreo was already on a lower protein diet as a young adult dog compared with the amounts she was receiving when she was a puppy, I had not felt any urgency to modify the amount of proteins she was receiving. At the same time, the proteins she was eating as a young adult were of high biological value (eggs, beef, lamb, oatmeal, quinoa).

Given Oreo’s history, I had seen for myself how, when she received enough highly bioavailable proteins, she healed quickly and thrived when she could. Despite the horrible flare ups she had when she was younger due to her sensitivities, she had always been energetic, even when she was hospitalised every several months. When we were able to avoid the foods she was sensitive to, her coat gleamed and her skin healed very quickly. The gastrointestinal problems that plagued her puppy and second and third years all but disappeared too.

As I studied nutrition, I realised that a large part of it was due to the high bioavailability of the proteins, and the amount of proteins that she was receiving. The proteins had helped support her immune system and the central nervous system. They had also contributed to her wound healing, built lean muscles and prevented her body from breaking down muscle tissue that can lead to muscle wasting and other serious problems. The adequacy of protein also protected her from various types of stress. As such, I decided not to decrease the amount of proteins she was receiving unless I had to do so.

I also took into consideration the fact that Oreo is a miniature schnauzer. As a breed, miniature schnauzers are prone to hyperlipidemia and fat-related diseases. They seem to put on weight and grow fat extremely easily too. As Oreo aged, it was important to me that the decisions I made with regards to Oreo’s nutrition helped her maintain at an optimal weight. Studies have shown that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet helps heftier dogs lose weight more easily than a low-protein diet. Since Oreo has been maintaining a good weight at the amount of proteins she was receiving, I had even fewer reasons to lower her protein amounts.

Having said that, I knew that as Oreo aged, I needed to be even more cautious. Apart from fat-related issues, miniature schnauzers were also known to be prone to develop kidney stones and they were not exempted from being at an increased risk of kidney issues as they aged. Yet while older dogs may be more prone to renal issues, dogs with renal issues do not necessarily need a protein- restricted diet unless there are issues with proteinuria.

A study conducted in 1994 also showed that the mature dogs that were fed a decreased protein diet did more poorly than the ones fed with higher protein foods. As for keeping Oreo from developing struvite and calcium oxalate stones, no study has shown that low protein diets helped to prevent stone development. They were helpful only in speeding up the process of dissolving crystals and were useful only for the short term. I was better off feeding a diet low in oxalates and encouraging my dog to drink more water than avoiding proteins.

I am a firm believer that the right diet for the dog is one that works best for the individual. Given all the reasons and considerations, I decided to continue feeding Oreo about 19% DMB protein for as long as the amount worked for her. Modifications to the protein amount will be made should Oreo’s biannual health check ups or her regular behaviour show signs that such modifications are necessary.


Strauss, M. (n.d.). Diets for Senior Dogs. Retrieved from

American kennel club: miniature schnauzer. Retrieved from schnauzer/

B., Linn, T., B., & M., L. (2004, August 01). High-Protein Low-Carbohydrate Diets Enhance Weight Loss in Dogs | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic. Retrieved from

Finco, D. R., Brown, S. A., Crowell, W. A., Brown, C. A., Barsanti, J. A., Carey, D. P., & Hirakawa, D. A. (1994, September). Effects of aging and dietary protein intake on uninephrectomized geriatric dogs. Retrieved from

Puotinen, CJ, & Straus, M. (2010, April). Canine kidney stone and bladder stone prevention. Retrieved from

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