When you read the nutrition label of a standard bag of kibble, you might be under the impression that it is sugar free, or at the very least low sugar. Afterall, refined sugar rarely makes the list of top ten ingredients on dog food. This however is a lie. In fact, modern petfood manufacturing would be impossible on a mechanical level without some form of sugar; and lots of it.
Carbohydrates: Sugar by Another Name
There’s a reason why the “low fat” craze of the 90’s crashed and burned. We were fed a bill of lies telling us that fat in food equals fat in people. We all know how this turned out: obesity skyrocketed! Why? Companies had to replace fat with something, so they chose to replace it with inexpensive carbohydrates.
At a molecular level, carbohydrates are nothing more than long strings of sugar (glucose specifically) molecules attached together. So, when you (or your dog) are eating carbohydrates you are really consuming a form of pre-sugar. It’s the job of your digestive system to break down consumed food, and it does a fantastic job of pulverizing all those carbohydrates into their composite glucose molecules. This can easily be seen in everyday life; consider the blood sugar spikes you experience after a big meal of pasta!
Why Add Sugar To A Dog Food?
Simply put carbohydrates are inexpensive and mechanically necessary for how most kibble is produced. Most modern kibble is produced through a process known as extrusion. In this process a dough or slurry is heated under immense pressure and extruded through small nozzles into pellets. Once the pellets are exposed to normal pressure they expand and are then further dried in ovens. You may be familiar with another popular extruded product: Cheetos.
Without 30%-60% starch/carbohydrate content extrusion is not possible. Starch gelatinizes once exposed to the heat and moisture of extrusion and this gelatinization is what binds the food into kibble form. So not only are carbohydrates a cheap source of calories for pet food manufacturers, but they are also 100% necessary to the manufacturing process and can not be removed.
Effects Of Sugar In Dog Food
High carbohydrate foods lead to increased blood glucose levels, a cause-and-effect situation known all to well by people living with diabetes. When blood glucose is too high, insulin is produced by the pancreas and used to move glucose into cells for use as energy or storage as fat. Simply put, if you are pumping your dog full of foods that increase blood glucose to a higher degree than they need for energy; it is stored as fat for later use.
According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs are classified as obese and this leads problems like: reduced life expectancy, skin disorders, chronic inflammation, kidney disfunction, metabolic and endocrine disorders and even cancer. Needless to say - our overweight pups are paying the price for our lack of dietary knowledge.
What Ingredients Commonly Mask The Sugar In Kibble?
Fortunately for us, pet food manufactures are required to list all ingredients (even if they do use misleading names). Some common high carbohydrate / high glycemic ingredients to look out for are: white rice, brown rice, potatoes, tapioca, oats, barley, corn, wheat, beans, corn meal and peas.
Another red flag is the total carbohydrate content of the dog food. Not all manufacturers list carbohydrate content and that’s ok. It’s easy to estimate a carbohydrate figure by looking at the guaranteed analysis of your dog’s food and subtracting fat %, moisture %, protein % and ash (usually between 5%-8% if not listed) from 100%. What you’re left with is a rough idea of how much of your dog’s food is carbohydrate content.
How Many Carbohydrates Does My Dog Need?
According to the National Research Council, they don’t need any! Carbohydrates are a good source of quick energy for working dogs, but day to day – they are not considered essential! This is why you won’t find a carbohydrate number on many guaranteed analysis panels. They are not required for your dog’s health, thus not required to be listed. Why then are we feeding our dogs high carbohydrate diets?!
Acabonac Pet is a lower carbohydrate diet that provides some carbs through whole raw veggies - but instead of focusing on carbohydrates as a calorie source, uses high quality protein and fat to give dogs exactly what they need to thrive. Reducing obesity in dogs and extending their healthy lives as long as possible is one of the core reasons we developed our dog food. Simply put, our dogs should have the opportunity to eat as well as we do – and Acabonac Pet is the solution.