Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that provide energy to an animal’s diet. It is the most important for providing a readily available energy source. A carbohydrate is a molecule consisting of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen (CHO). In nutrition, carbohydrates can be divided into three categories: sugar, starch, and fibre.

When people talk about “carbs”, they are typically talking about sugars (like glucose or fructose) and starches (like flour). Fibre is not digestible by dogs, cats, people, and other monogastric species (one stomach). For the purposes of this discussion we will consider only those carbohydrates that are digestible (sugars and starches).

Carbohydrates are digested by the enzyme amylase, which breaks the molecule into smaller pieces that can be absorbed and used by the body. Amylase is produced by the pancreas of all mammals and released into the small intestine where digestion occurs. Humans also produce salivary amylase, so carbohydrate digestion can start in the mouth if a person chews their food for long enough. Even without salivary amylase, these carbohydrates are extremely well digested by cats and dogs.2

Because they do not supply building blocks for the formation of tissues in the body, carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients. However, carbohydrates in dog food and cat food serve many important purposes in the body:



Customization of Pet Food

Typical Sources of Carbohydrates in Pet Food

Carbohydrates can come from many sources. People commonly think of grains as the primary source of carbohydrates in pet food, however, fruits, legumes and vegetables, among others, are also sources of carbohydrates typically seen in diet formulations.

1. Case LP et al. 2011. Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition; a resource for companion animal professionals. Mosby. London.
2. American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). 2011. Official Publication.
3. National Research Council (NRC). 2006. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.
4. Blood DC et al. 2007. Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary 3 ed. Elsevier, Inc. St. Louis, Missouri, USA.








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