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What Is Considered Low-Fat Dog Food

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Low-fat dog food aims to reduce the number of calories dogs get from fat, rather than eliminating fat completely.
  • It is recommended by vets for dogs with conditions like obesity or chronic pancreatitis.
  • Dog foods that derive under 17% of their calories from fat are considered low-fat, while regular dog food can derive anywhere from 20% to 60% of its calories from fat.
  • Common sources of fat in dog food include poultry by-product meal, meat meal, bone meal, wheat, soybean meal, and animal digest.
  • Low-fat dog food may be more expensive than regular dog food, but it is necessary to prevent obesity and other health issues.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Licensed veterinarian and animal behaviorist with over three years of experience and a Ph.D. in Poultry Science.
Published on
Sunday 23 May 2021
Last updated on
Monday 31 July 2023
what is considered low fat dog food
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With pet obesity on the rise in the USA, you might be wondering about low-fat dog food. Or, maybe your vet has recommended this diet to control a medical condition that your dog has. So, what does this kind of dog food contain? And why can’t you simply eliminate all fat from your dog’s diet?

Fat is an essential component of your pup’s diet. As such, low-fat food for dogs aims to reduce the number of calories that your dog gets from fat, rather than completely eliminating it. Ready to find out more about fat in dog food? Read on with us!

Why Choose Low-Fat Dog Food

Most dogs benefit from eating high-quality, complete, and balanced commercial dog food. However, in some circumstances, your vet might recommend low-fat dog food in place of regular dog food. Your vet may recommend this dietary change to combat obesity or chronic pancreatitis. This is because meals that are high in fat can cause these conditions to worsen. However, do not swap your dog’s diet to one that is lower in fat without consulting with your vet first. Your vet must supervise your pet’s treatment to find which methods work best for them.

Although it may seem like a good idea to completely eliminate fat from your dog’s diet, doing so does more harm than good. Your dog still needs some fat in their diet to stay happy and healthy. This is because fat is a macronutrient with several functions in the body. These include supporting cell growth, maintaining body temperature, producing hormones, and absorbing some essential nutrients.

What Is Considered Low-Fat Dog Food

As a general rule, dog foods that derive under 17% of their calories from fat can be considered low-fat. In contrast, regular dog food may derive anywhere from 20% to 60% of its calories from fat. Dry dog food tends to rest on the lower end of the scale, while canned foods are often on the higher end. But how can you tell how many calories in your dog’s food come from fat?

First, consider the total calories in the food. These come from all of the protein, carbohydrates, and fats in the food. Then, consider the total amount of fat in the servings. This total amount can be seen as grams. Multiply the amount of fat by 9, because there are 9 calories per gram of fat. So, for example, if the dog food label states that there are 5 grams of total fat, times this by 9 to equal 45. This number is the number of calories from fat. Then, locate the number of servings on the packaging – this could be cups or ounces. Multiply the calories by the number of servings to find how many calories come from fat. To get a percentage, divide the calories from fat by the total number of calories in the dog food, then multiply the number by 100.

calories in one gram of protein, carbohydrates, alcohol and fat
To understand why low-carb dog food is good, you need to understand why fats are problematic when your dog needs to get into a calorie deficit.

Low-Fat Dog Food – FAQs

Have any more questions about low-fat dog food? Feel free to browse our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If in doubt about your pet’s diet, always consult with a veterinary nutritionist for advice.

What are some common sources of fat in dog food?

Some of the most common sources of fat in dog food are poultry by-product meal, meat meal, bone meal, wheat, soybean meal, and animal digest. This mixture of ingredients provides a good range of essential fatty acids. Other commonly used sources of fat include vegetable oils for linoleic acid, and flaxseed oil or fish oil for Omega-3 fatty acids.

Apart from lessening the risk of pancreatitis, what are other reasons for me to reduce the fat intake of my dog?

Perhaps the most obvious reason to cut back on fat intake is to avoid obesity. In North America, approximately 25% to 30% of the dog population is obese, and a further 40% to 45% of dogs are overweight. Without enough exercise to burn off the excess calories, many dogs have no choice but to store the fat from their food in their bodies. If your dog is not active and begins to put on too much weight, consult with your vet about switching to a controlled diet to prevent obesity.

Are low-fat dog foods more expensive than moderate ones?

Low-fat dog food may be slightly more expensive than regular dog food. This is especially true for dog foods that are made with leaner cuts of meat, as these cuts are more expensive compared to fatty cuts. To compensate for the reduction of fat, many pet food manufacturers will seek to use high-quality protein sources to provide extra energy for your pooch. A quality source of fiber is also needed to provide a long-lasting feeling of fullness for your dog. Some pet food brands are more expensive than others by default, especially “premium” ranges that use the highest quality meats in their food.

Is home-cooked food better than dog food in terms of fat content? 

Home-cooked dog food has several pros and cons when compared to commercial dog food, especially in terms of fat content. Firstly, it is best to consult with a veterinary nutritionist when coming up with your pup’s meal plans. Your vet can help you to determine just how much fat your dog needs, and the best ways to add fats to their diet. Without guidance, it can be difficult to balance all of the essential nutrients, leading to nutritional imbalances. If you restrict the amount of fat too greatly when making your dog’s food, they can suffer deficiencies of other nutrients, too.

Can pancreatitis be cured?

Acute pancreatitis is curable. In fact, most mild cases of pancreatitis have a very good prognosis with early and aggressive treatment. Dogs who do not receive treatment, however, may develop the hemorrhagic form of the disease. This can cause sudden death.

In contrast, chronic pancreatitis is not curable. Chronic pancreatitis is characterized by long-term inflammation of the pancreas, which alters the organ’s normal function and structure. This damage is irreversible and is distinct from acute pancreatitis. The symptoms of pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, steatorrhea, weight loss, and diabetes. Veterinary treatment of chronic pancreatitis focuses on dietary management. Some vets recommend an “ultra low-fat diet” to control the calcification process. To control vomiting, a vet may also prescribe antiemetics for your dog.

what is low fat dog food
Dog food is considered low-fat if the fat content is under 17% of the total calories.

To combat obesity or chronic pancreatitis, some vets will recommend a diet that is lower in fat. Such diets derive less than 17% of their calories from fat. Your dog needs fat regardless of their condition, so you cannot simply eliminate all traces of fat from their diet. Be sure to consult with your vet about your dog’s progress on their controlled diet.

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