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Balancing protein and carbs: A healthy dog diet explained

April 25, 2023

Balancing protein and carbs: a healthy dog diet explained

Confused over what to feed your dog? With all the high-protein, grain-free options out there, it’s hard to know what’s best for your dog. But truth is, you don’t have to choose just one way to feed your pet. Dogs are healthiest when they get a variety of proteins and carbohydrate sources, because their bodies then have access to the widest range of nutrients only a varied diet can provide. Otherwise, sticking to one rigid diet plan can lead to nutrient deficiencies and food intolerances.

That’s where Full Circle Feeding comes in. Cast the net wide and choose from a rotation of meats and sources of carbohydrates. The boost they’ll get from this bounty of nutrients will help your dog achieve all-around health.

High-protein and low-protein dog food

Meat should be the first ingredient on your dog’s bag of kibble. Not only does it make your dog’s mouth water at mealtime, it provides the building blocks to build a healthy body. The smallest element of meat is amino acids, which build and maintain healthy muscle, hair follicles and nails, while making the cells and systems in the body functional. Not all meat sources are alike. Dogs need to feed on a variety of animal protein sources to get the full spectrum of amino acids — plus it keeps dinnertime from getting boring.

But that gets to a question: Should you go with a high-protein dog food? Or is it possible to overdo it? High-protein dog food

Some pet parents seek out high-protein dog food containing at least 30% protein from a simple belief that more meat is always better. After all, what dog doesn’t love the aroma of a meaty dinner? There are times and situations where 30% protein is the best and healthiest option for dogs. For example: Puppies can get their additional quota of protein from a puppy diet (33% protein) to help them grow. Pregnant and nursing dogs need additional protein to help them grow and sustain life, and those needs can be met through a performance diet. Working and highly active dogs can also benefit from the extra quota of protein from a performance diet.

Low-protein dog food

It may seem counterintuitive, but some dogs benefit from having less protein in their diets. Senior diets and weight management diets don’t have that 30% or higher protein, and the purpose is to save calories to help dogs achieve a healthy weight. Plus, less protein can make the meal more digestible and less irritating on the systems of older dogs, particularly the kidneys. Finally, vets may prescribe a low-protein diet for dogs with medical issues involving the kidneys and liver, containing protein levels that are well below the 20% minimum required in adult dog food.

Do dogs need carbohydrates?

Canines do need carbs. In fact, even grain-free diets are a good source of carbohydrates. That can be surprising for pet parents because grain-free dog foods are often thought of as low-carb or carb-free.

Dogs need carbohydrates to provide the essential fuel for their daily activities. When carbohydrates are digested, glucose is released into the body for the muscles and brain to use. When you choose carbohydrates from a variety of sources, including grains, cereals, legumes and starches, your dog gets access to essential nutrients that nourish the body and contribute to a healthy microbiome. Complex carbs are nutritional powerhouses, containing amino acids, antioxidants, fiber, starches, vitamins and minerals.

Good sources of carbohydrates for your dog

As you forage for good sources of high-quality carbohydrates for your dog, refer to this list to ensure your dog is getting the variety his body needs.

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chia
  • Flaxseed
  • Spelt
  • Green lentils
  • Red lentils
  • Garbanzo beans

How to choose carb sources for your dog

Choosing the best variety of carbs can be overwhelming. But Full Circle Feeding makes this process much simpler for pet parents, because you can rotate your dog’s carb sources simply by alternating between grain-inclusive entrees and grain-free diets. Grain-inclusive diets feature whole grains, brown rice, oats, barley and buckwheat. Grain-free entrees have carb sources that don’t originate from grains, including beans, peas, lentils and potatoes. As you select the next bag of kibble, keep an eye on the ingredients list and make sure they offer plenty of variation from both the whole grains and non-grain categories, because in the long run, ingredient overload can result in your dog developing sensitivities and intolerances to that ingredient.

Choosing dog food ingredients for allergies and sensitive stomachs

Did you know dogs are far more likely to be allergic to a specific meat — and not grains? If a grain ingredient is causing your pet distress, it could very well be that his system has developed a sensitivity to the ingredient rather than an allergy.

Food allergies and intolerances show up with similar symptoms, particularly the gastrointestinal disturbances that flare up soon after your dog consumes the food in question. But the difference between these two reactions to food is that allergies activate the body’s immune defenses, whereas intolerances do not. Both can make life pretty uncomfortable for your pet.

But the good news is if your dog has an intolerance, you can use Full Circle Feeding to help their sensitive stomachs become more settled and resilient.

Limited-ingredient dog food

Limited-ingredient dog food provides a safe way to feed your dog when allergies or intolerances make them react to specific protein or grains. PureVita by NutriSource uses simple ingredients — just one protein along with one easy-on-the-system carb. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, PureVita provides a gentle introduction to Full Circle Feeding, Start with one flavor, and monitor your dog’s reaction. You can also feed with a limited-ingredient dog food to help you drill down on which food or foods are making your dog react.

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Building the healthiest dog diet for all-around health

Once you get into the mindset of choosing a variety of meats, legumes, starches and whole grains for your dog, you’ll be on your way to practicing Full Circle Feeding. More sources mean more nutrition, and that’s why it’s the best way to work everything your dog needs into their diet.

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