Did you know that dogs have no minimum dietary carbohydrate requirement?

Who’d have thought your dog’s ancestors were prey-hunting carnivores?

It’s hard to believe that your dog descends from a long line of hunters. But it’s true. 

Dogs are partial carnivores (known as facultative carnivores) now, but their ancestors were true carnivores. This genetic inheritance means that they still efficiently use animal fat and, if needed, protein as their primary energy source.

Whilst humans require carbohydrates in their diet, your dog doesn’t. That’s right, dogs don’t have a minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrates1. In fact, dogs have only come to eat carbs as a result of their close bond with humans. Research has shown2 that as humans evolved to farm crops and digest more starches, dogs adapted with us. The research suggests that the rise of farming led to both species eating more carbohydrates and starches. However, that doesn’t mean that high amounts of starchy carbohydrates are healthy.

An ilume diet is high in protein and fat, with only small amounts of carbohydrate to emulate the natural diet that your dog needs.

Let’s dig into the science. 


While dogs can digest low amounts of carbs, animal protein is still their go to.

Research has shown that when allowed to self-select, dogs consume 45% protein, 51% fat and 4% carbohydrate3. Similar to the diet of their ancestors. 

Several studies have shown the benefit of a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet in dogs including improved digestibility, predominant use of fat for exercise, better glycaemic control, improved fuel utilisation during exercise, improved performance, endurance and delayed onset of fatigue in working dogs4.

Healthy active senior dogs benefit from an appropriately portioned high protein and high fat diet as it preserves muscle mass and calorie intake5. Improved muscle mass is associated with better healthspan and lifespan6.


Why do so many pet companies include high carb content?

If you look on the back of the pack, you’ll see that some dry dog food contains up to 60% carbs, most of it being a rapidly digestible form of starch. In fact, starchy carbs are used because they are a cheap ingredient and energy source, they help in gelatinisation of wet dog food, and in structural integrity of kibble7.

Essentially, they make the manufacturing process a lot easier. However, rapidly digested starch causes glucose and insulin peaks, fat deposition and weight gain8.

Many dog food companies justify the high starch by citing a study that showed that compared to wolves, dogs have genetically adapted to metabolise starch in the diet2. Yet, being able to metabolise starch is very different from consuming a diet high in starch.

If the high starch diet also comes with high amounts of certain fibre, then the digestibility of protein and fat may be reduced9. By lowering the digestibility of other food groups, these added fibres from some carbs can negatively impact your dog’s nutrient absorption.

The next time you pick up a pack of dog food, look at the ingredients list to check for high amounts of carbohydrates in your dog’s food. You may see them in the form of cereal grains (corn, wheat, rice), legumes (lentils, beans, soy, peas) or tubers (potato, sweet potato, tapioca).


The ilume difference.

Science-based and nutrient-dense, ilume follows a high protein, high fat, low carb diet. The carbohydrate and fibre in ilume meals are mindfully chosen. We are careful to ensure the quantity doesn’t reduce the digestibility and absorption of protein and fat. 

Several studies state benefits of a high protein, high fat, low carb diet. These include improved digestibility, better glycaemic control, and improved fuel utilisation during exercise.

Shop our meals and discover the best diet for dogs.


  1. Hilton, J. (1990). Carbohydrates in the nutrition of the dog. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 31(2), 128.
  2. Axelsson, E., Ratnakumar, A., Arendt, M. L., Maqbool, K., Webster, M. T., Perloski, M., … & Lindblad-Toh, K. (2013). The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature, 495(7441), 360-364.
  3. Roberts, M. T., Bermingham, E. N., Cave, N. J., Young, W., McKenzie, C. M., & Thomas, D. G. (2018). Macronutrient intake of dogs, self‐selecting diets varying in composition offered ad libitum. Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition, 102(2), 568-575.
  4. Hill, S. R. (2010). Changing the metabolism of dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus) at rest and during exercise by manipulation of dietary macronutrients: a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Nutritional Science, at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand (Doctoral dissertation, Massey University).
  5. Lemons, C. L. (2014). The Canine Diet: A Look into the Evolution and Current State of Diet in the Dog.
  6. Penell, J. C., Morgan, D. M., Watson, P., Carmichael, S., & Adams, V. J. (2019). Body weight at 10 years of age and change in body composition between 8 and 10 years of age were related to survival in a longitudinal study of 39 Labrador retriever dogs. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 61(1), 1-16.
  7. Rankovic, A., Adolphe, J. L., & Verbrugghe, A. (2019). Role of carbohydrates in the health of dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 255(5), 546-554.
  8. Corsato Alvarenga, I., & Aldrich, C. G. (2020). Starch characterization of commercial extruded dry pet foods. Translational Animal Science, 4(2), 1017-1022.
  9. Burrows, C. F., Kronfeld, D. S., Banta, C. A., & Merritt, A. M. (1982). Effects of fiber on digestibility and transit time in dogs. The journal of nutrition, 112(9), 1726-1732.

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