Carbohydrates in dog food: what you need to know | Scratch

Carbohydrates in dog food

Carbohydrates are a hotly debated topic in canine nutrition. Do our dogs need carbohydrates? What are carbs anyway? Are they just filler?

Carbs aren’t evil food that exists to make your dog fat, sick and unhappy. They’re also not a perfect nutrient that you can feed without consequence. The answer is more complicated than that.

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Itchy dog

Carbs are more than just potatoes, bread and cookies.

At their most basic level, carbohydrates are a nutrient that provides energy. There are simple and easy to absorb carbohydrates and there are complex and, you guessed it, more complicated carbs to absorb.

Carbs are present in bread and potato products, sure. But they’re also present in all fruits and veggies, sugary foods (like honey) and dairy (like cheese or milk).

Carbs have got a bad reputation. They’re also misunderstood, and play a crucial role in brain & body functioning – for us and your old mate!

Carbs can be a great source of energy… or a quick buzz and a big crash.

Not all carbs are made equal. The way your dog’s body uses different carb sources can vary greatly, and is dependent on where a carb sits on the Glycemic Index. 

For your dog to maximise the benefit from carbohydrate energy sources, it’s best to pick a grub made up of lower GI foods.

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High GI carbohydrates

Easier thought of as fast-release carbs, high-GI carbs are responsible for the rapid flood of glucose into the bloodstream – spiking blood sugar levels and causing spurts of energy that come and go quickly.

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Low GI carbohydrates

Slow-release foods are responsible for a milder, more sustainable source of energy. They keep your dog’s energy up & active for longer periods, with much less of a crash when they come down again.

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Why does dog food have carbs?

Complex carbs can be loaded with useful nutrients like fibre, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, all which keep your dog’s system happy and well functioning.

For brands cheaping out of their recipes to maximise profit, it’s because carbs (especially crappy, high GI ones) are cheaper to source and can be loaded into a recipe without doing much harm to the dog eating it.


Check out our low-GI recipes

Every carbohydrate source does something a little different.

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Broadbeans are vitamin powerhouses in a tiny package. They’re teeming with plant protein and essential nutrients like folate, copper, phosphorous and manganese – all the good stuff.

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Chickpeas are a complete protein: a fancy label for a food that contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs to function. They’re stuffed full of choline which keeps the brain & nervous system running (so kinda important).

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Alfalfa has a long history as a medicinal herb because of its numerous body & brain benefits. It’s a great source of vitamin K, essential for the prevention of blood clotting and regulating bone metabolism.

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Brown rice is a wholegrain chock full of nutrients your dog can really benefit from. It’s a fibre-heavy food, which makes it especially good at nourishing the digestive tract, promoting fullness and perfectly shaped poos.

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Chia seeds are well-renowned as a superfood that benefits us and our dogs. Chia seeds are anti-inflammatory – fighting disease and general sensitivity – and especially good at soothing an allergy-prone or reactive nervous system.

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Oats are packed full of nutrients, but where they really shine is in your dog’s digestive system. Oats increase the viscosity and volume of digesting food, firming up poos and keeping your dog full for longer.

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Carbohydrates should sit between 20-45% of old mate’s daily meal.

The ideal amount of carbs in your dog’s diet has been hotly debated. But for food to best use the benefits of carb sources, plus maximise their protein and healthy fat intake, they should stick to 45% or under.

Most brands don’t disclose carb content. But many supermarket dry dog foods edge towards 60% carbs, while many premium foods are around 45%. Specifically low-carb recipes are generally around 30% carbohydrates.

Scratch dry food has a carb content as low as 32.5%.

Our recipes are much lower in carbs than your average bag of grub.

Turkey, Lamb & Beef: 32.5%
Kangaroo: 35%
Lamb: 42%

Where we have included carbohydrates they’ve come from top-notch, low GI sources for ultimate nutritional value.

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We have Three low carb recipes for your mate

Turkey, Beef & Lamb

From $83 PER 8kg

Our most popular option for dogs of all ages - even large breed pups.

Sensitive Kangaroo

From $94 PER 8kg

For any woofer that can't seem to shake tummy, skin or joint issues.

Pasture-raised Lamb

From $92 PER 8kg

Clean, mean recipe full of hypoallergenic lamb and some nutritious ancient whole-grains. Great for very active dogs.

So, do you wanna give us a go?

Full control over if, when or what food you want
Two freshly sealed 4kg bags at a time
Money back if your pup isn’t into it
Free delivery to metro areas
Smaller Scratch Box

Got carbohydrate questions? We’ve got the answers!

If you do have anything super specific you want to chat about, hit us up on live chat.


Our recipes are lower in carbs than your average bag of grub (35% for Kangaroo, 42% for Lamb and 32.5% for Turkey, Lamb & Beef). Where we have included carbohydrates they’ve come from top-notch, low GI sources for ultimate nutritional value.

Scratch has packed our recipes with as much premium, meaty protein as we can. Our Turkey, Lamb & Beef recipe sits in first place at 30% protein; and our Kangaroo recipe follows it at 28%; and last (but certainly not least) our Lamb recipe sits at 24% protein.

Carbs shouldn’t exceed more than 50-70% of your dog’s daily calories. Once it does, protein and fat levels will really start suffering, and your dog can quickly become nutrient deficient.

Dogs have no true nutritional need for carbohydrates, so a low-to-no carb diet can be beneficial for them – provided they’re still receiving all the essential vitamins and minerals they need. But many of these nutrients can be found in high-quality and healthy carb sources, so formulating a recipe completely free of carbs is usually unnecessary and very difficult.

Except in very few cases, grain free dry dog foods always contain some form of carbohydrate. Low-quality grain free foods simply swap out traditional grain sources (like white rice and potato) with other cheap grain free sources (like tapioca or vegetable starch). The outcome is a recipe without grains, but similar or even more carbs than a high-quality grain recipe.