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What Percentage of a Dog's Diet Should be Fat?


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Updated: 9/17/2021

Humans are aware of the importance of including all 3 macronutrients essential to health in their diet. These macros are carbs, fat, and protein.

But when it comes to your dog, they are leaving it up to you to make sure they are eating as they should. They can’t read the dog food bag label after all, and most often will happily eat just about anything you put in their dish.

Feeding your four-legger a diet with adequate amounts of carbs, protein, and fat is a part of pet parenting.

What are the nutritional components of good dog food?

  • Water

  • Carbohydrates (grains, rice, fruits, and vegetables)

  • Protein (lean meats, fish, and poultry)

  • Vitamins and minerals

  • Fat (typically from animal fat and seed oils)

Let’s look at your dog’s fat needs.

What is fat?

Fat is a required nutrient. Dietary fats support cell, muscle, nerve, and tissue growth and will also give your dog the energy needed to go on lots of walks and keep up a game of fetch.

Fat is essential to hormone production and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) found in your dog’s food. The condition of your dog’s coat is dependent on adequate oil in the diet also. Fat helps to insulate and cushion the body, too. 

Of course, healthy fats are what you want to see in your furry best friend’s diet. 

You may see these ingredients for essential fats on the dog food bag label:

  • Fish oils (like salmon and herring)

  • Oils like canola, safflower, sunflower, and flaxseed

  • Animal fats like poultry, beef, and pork fat

Low-quality fats, such as lard, are not ideal. Steer clear of these ingredients.

What are the dangers of too much fat in the canine diet?

It’s not recommended that you give your dog table scraps. Human food is often more spice-laden and fat-containing than is good for canine members of the family. 

It is okay to give your dog a dollop of full-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese on the top of their food as a healthy bonus, but table scraps with gravies and sauces may add too much fat, resulting in conditions like pancreatitis. Check with your vet before adding these foods, and keep in mind that some dogs may not tolerate dairy.

Even a dog-appropriate food high in fat and lower in the other macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates) can cause issues because of the added calories the fat brings.

However, working dogs (such as search and rescue dogs, herders, and athletes) may benefit from added fat. This is why consulting the veterinarian about the best food for your dog is wise. 

Puppies have a special need for essential fats, too. Dry, coarse coats, impaired learning, and vision problems can result in pups who are fed ultra-low fat diets.

Although dogs (and cats) do not get heart disease as humans do as a result of clogged arteries, lower-fat diets can be necessary. Dogs that have diabetes, are overweight, have gastrointestinal issues, have a risk or a history of pancreatitis, or already have high-fat levels in the blood may require a low-fat food.

What percentage of a dog’s food should be Fat?

What percentage of fat your dog needs will depend on several factors:

  • Life stage

  • Activity level

  • Size 

  • Breed

  • Health condition, including illnesses

The very minimum that should be seen as fat in the diet is 5.5%. On average, canines should have less than 25% fat calories in their diet. Most dry dog foods range in that number, but some canned foods can have as much as 60% of their calories from fat.

Fat Takeaway

No matter the life stage of your pooch, whether they are a frolicking puppy, a mid-life canine athlete, or a senior dog happy to relax on the porch, consult your vet about their diet.

Your veterinarian or experienced food technician can advise you on the guidelines for feeding your dog. You’ll rest assured knowing that you are feeding your pooch the right number of cups per day. The veterinary team can determine the proper percentage of fat, and the best food for your dog’s current health condition and activity level.

Always provide your dog with fresh food that is not expired for optimum nutrition. You'll also ensure that mold or bacteria has not formed and the fat in the food has not turned rancid.

A high-quality diet is essential for keeping your dog happy and healthy. Digestive problems and food allergies can be expensive to treat. Compare pet health insurance plans to save more than $270 a year on vet care.

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