Low fat dog food, as the name suggests, are foods that come with a lower proportion of fat than regular dog food. There are quite a number of reasons to put a dog on a low fat dog food diet.
And as we know, reducing fat intake has so many benefits. In fact, it’s the in-thing with humans now. It’s little wonder pet food companies are now manufacturing various lines of low fat dog food. With various promises that these foods will improve dog health significantly, many dog parents have joined the mania.
Today, we would examine low fat dog food deeply to see if it truly deliver on the promises. Is a low fat dog food really all it seems? If it is, how do you know when to switch to a low fat dog food for your dog? And what’s the truth about fat and cholesterol in a dog diet? Are they really so bad?
Let’s clear up some misconceptions first…
Table of Contents
Saturated Fats Won’t Clog your Dog’s Arteries And Give Him A Heart Attack
This is how it works with us humans – we consume a lot of saturated fats, and then it causes problems or us. Oftentimes, our arteries get clogged which could lead to a heart attack.
It’s not the same with dogs.
In a journal published by the National Research Council on the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, we discovered this truth. Dogs that consume a diet that contains a significantly high amount of dietary fat rarely, if ever, come down with circulatory illnesses. In fact, in the words of the authors, dogs seem to be quite resistant to heart diseases and stroke.
The Truth Is That Canine Cholesterol Is Not That Bad
Okay, in all honesty, it’s not like cholesterol levels never get high in dogs. They do. However, their kind of cholesterol is not the bad type that humans are “cursed” with.
Now, the kinds of cholesterol found in dogs are High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol. You could call this cholesterol the well-behaved cholesterol. It’s not like the Low-Density Lipoprotein that causes all the bad stuff.
In fact, the HDL cholesterol is actually quite beneficial to your doggie’s health. It prevents your dog’s system from building up dangerous plaque in their artery walls – something that’s very common in humans.
And that’s not all…
Scientists believe that it’s this high amount of HDL cholesterol that dogs are known to have that makes them resistant to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the number one cause of strokes and heart attacks.
So, typically, if fed a diet containing animal fat to a reasonable degree, dogs are alright. However, it’s important that this animal fat comes from a meat source of high quality.
So, you see, a reasonable amount of dietary fat sits well with your dog. It is, in fact, important if your dog is going to get all the necessary fatty acids he needs to lead a healthy life.
However, there’s something else we haven’t told you about dietary fat in dog foods…
Sometimes, Dietary Fats are Bad for your Dog
This is especially so if your dog has any of the following conditions…
- Chronic obesity.
If your dog has any of these conditions, then sustaining a high-fat diet will make things a lot worse.
Let’s discuss each of these very briefly…
Obesity In Dogs
It’s an epidemic guys, dogs are getting fatter than we ever thought possible. Did you know that, according to Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of all dogs in the United States are overweight, and some obese?
If you do the math, that gives us about 44 million dogs!
And obesity is not a good thing! Seems obvious enough but with the rate at which pet owners live in denial, it bears mentioning. Most vets have observed that about half of the dogs they encounter in their daily practice are overweight. But you know the bigger problem? Less than half of that number of dog parents agree that their dogs might be obese.
If we can’t admit the problem, we can’t solve the problem. And the prognosis is bad.
Obese dogs are predisposed to many severe conditions such as
- Lung disorders.
- Heart diseases.
- Immune dysfunction.
- High blood pressure.
- Cancerous tumors.
And the news gets sadder…
In a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, overweight dogs are more likely to die at an earlier age than their siblings with ideal body sizes.
The results actually prove that you can increase your dog’s life span by 24 months! That’s 2 years!
As to the cause of this problem, the blame is left at the doorstep of free feeding and lack of exercise.
Pancreatitis In Dogs
As with anything in the medical world, the suffix “-itis” suggests an inflammation. So, pancreatitis would, therefore, mean an inflammation of the pancreas.
There are two types of pancreatitis: the acute and the chronic. Thankfully, the acute is a rarer condition than chronic pancreatitis. You’ll understand why we said that in a bit.
Chronic Pancreatitis: This type of pancreatitis develops over a long period. So, you rarely find the condition occurring in dogs less than 2 years. It is characterized by the inability of the pancreas to secrete enzymes. When this happens, it becomes difficult to digest protein and fat. Symptoms include:
- Weight loss.
- Hair coat loses its shine.
- An increase in appetite.
- Coprophagia: your dog begins to eat his own poo as he loses nutrients since the poo is now more nutritious.
Acute Pancreatitis: This is a far worse condition than chronic pancreatitis. In this case, the pancreas functions abnormally and begins to secrete enzymes that digest surrounding body organs. So, the body begins to digest itself. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds.
At this stage, without the rapid and aggressive intervention of your vet, you might lose your dog.
From scientific reports (Panagiotis et al. 2008), dogs (and cats) are 25 to 50 times more likely to come down with pancreatitis than humans.
As to what causes this problem, research has narrowed it down to three major factors. These factors are:
- Genetic predisposition.
- Accidents affecting the mid-back where the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae meet.
Well, let’s camp on the diet factor for a bit…
How your Dog’s Diet Puts Him at the Risk of Pancreatitis
High carbs kibble diet are not good for your pooch. Dogs do not need plant carbohydrates, what they need, they get from animal fat and protein.
In an ideal situation, your dog’s carnivorous pancreas is used to digesting only very little amounts of carbs per time. Of course, meat does not contain high levels of carbs like plants. But when the diet is changed to something very high in carb content, you put the dog’s pancreas under strain.
While the saliva of herbivores and omnivores produce amylase (helps breakdown carbs), a carnivore’s doesn’t. This forces his pancreas to produce a significantly higher amount of amylase than it’s used to producing which will put the pancreas under some level of stress.
Also, the pancreas still has the job of balancing the sugar level.
And wait, it gets worse. If you feed your dog processed meat instead of raw, all the enzymes that should have helped to make digestion a little easier on the pancreas are gone. This means that your dog’s pancreas must produce uncharacteristically more enzymes.
So, you get the picture? Bad diet is making your dog’s pancreas work like a German machine. So, eventually, it’s bound to go crazy one day.
How a Low Fat Dog Food Can Help
Low-fat dog food is defined as one that contains fat in any of the following proportions:
- 9% or less in dry dog food.
- 7% in moist dog food.
- 4% in wet dog food.
The way these foods are prepared, they are supposed to give your dog’s pancreas less work so it can recover.
There are different commercial low fat dog food brands currently available in the market today. If you get the quality ones, they come made with excellent organic ingredients. And oftentimes, you can try feeding them to your dog without prescription.
To be sure, manufacturers make these foods to come with limited ingredients. They are great and recommended by vets for overweight dogs, and dogs with pancreatitis as well as other GI problems.
If you serve your dog kibble, always ensure that you soak it in some warm water first. Otherwise, you could soak it in a low-salt broth, non-fat, of course. Plus, you must also make it a point to serve all your dog’s meals at room temperature.
You could also try a Homemade Low-Fat Dog Food
You could try cooking up some really bland, simple meals to begin with.
Try overcooking white rice with excess water and then include a protein source with a very low level of fat. A good idea of such protein source could be cooked chicken breast without the skin. You could also try cottage cheese (low-fat) or boiled hamburger. By boiling the hamburger, you take out the greater portion of the fat.
Other meals you may want to include in your dog’s low-fat diet include: beef heart, beef liver, lean and low-fat ground beef, beef kidney, non-fat plain yogurt, barley, egg whites, oatmeal, and cooked veggies like broccoli and cabbage.
For starchy foods like rice and potatoes, overcooking them makes them a little easier to digest for the pancreas.
However, be careful not to feed your pooch a diet with very little fat. They still need some fat to provide them with essential vitamins like A and E. You can remedy this by including a bit of salmon oil to his diet.
Now, a home-cooked meal or commercial dog food, you must only feed small amounts of food to your dog per time. it’s better to take small meals many times a day (6 to 8 times is good) than to give him large meals fewer times a day.
With smaller meals, there’s a lower likelihood of overstimulating the pancreas. Plus, chances of vomiting are largely reduced.
How to Calculate the Amount Of Fat In A Commercial Low Fat Dog Food
This is a pretty long process but we will try to walk you through the process as seamlessly as possible.
Don’t depend on the guaranteed minimum listed on the label, many times, the actual fat present in the food is way higher than the minimum listed.
Now, here’s a quick formula to help you calculate the amount of fat in commercial dog food. The WholeDog Journal puts it as…
Fat percentage ÷ kcal per kg x 10 000 = grams of fat per 1000 kcal (GFK)
So, say your dog food has 15% fat and 4500 kcal/kg, then the amount of fat in the dog food would be what?
If it’s canned food, try this formula instead…
Fat percentage x ounces per can ÷ kcal per can x 284
If the calories are measured per pound, then try this formula…
Fat percentage ÷ kcal per pound x 4540
After calculating this, you’ll find that most low fat dog food you find actually contain way higher fat content than you think.
How Much Fat should your Dog be Consuming?
To answer this question we consulted the vets. And here’s what they had to say about that.
For a dog food to be considered low-fat, it must contain less than 10% fat, and that’s for dry dog food.
10 to 15% fat content in dog food means that the food has moderate fat content.
And anything higher than 20% is high fat.
If the low fat dog food you get is wet food, these guidelines won’t apply until you convert to dry matter. Now, here’s how you make that conversion.
First, you subtract the moisture percentage from 100. And then, whatever you get, you use to divide the percentage of fat.
So, say you have a wet dog food with 75% moisture and 5% fat. This is how you get the fat percentage, dry matter.
First, subtract the moisture content from 100.
100 – 75 = 25%
Divide the fat content value by result.
5 ÷ 25% = 20%
Get it now?
Now, is that low, moderate or high fat content?
Right again. It’s high!
So, what have we learned?
Low fat dog food should contain less than 10% fat or less than 25 grams of fat per 1000 kilocalories (GFK).
What to Look out for in a Low Fat Dog Food
- High protein.
- Low fat.
- Low calories.
A high protein content means that your dog can feel fuller without having to beg so much. This way, you can be strict with your diet plan. Plus, it will also help to prevent loss of muscle. Oftentimes, this is an unpleasant side effect that comes with dieting in dogs.
With lower calories, dogs get to eat as much food as reasonably possible, while remaining an ideal body weight.
Also, you might want to include canned food to his diet. Canned foods normally come with higher protein content, lower carb content and less calories than a similar-sized kibble.
We have already explained the importance of fat, especially animal fat in your dog’s diet. It’s good for them and actually keeps them healthy. However, there are times when you’ll need a low fat dog food to cut down on the fat content in your dog’s diet. That is, if your dog gets overweight or develops pancreatitis.
To help your dog with any of these problems, you could try preparing a low fat home-cooked meal or try a commercial low fat meal. For even better results, try combining a home-cooked meal with commercial dog food. That should help a great deal.