Fat content of some commercial diets for dogs

Updated: Mar 6

We are often contacted by dog owners asking for help comparing the fat content of different commercial diets. It can be surprisingly tricky to do this - some pet food manufacturers provide nutritional information on an as fed basis, some on a dry matter basis, and some just don't provide much information at all. So I have put together a brief summary for some of the most requested diets - I hope it's helpful. A few initial points:


1) I have calculated the following percentages as accurately as possible. However, sometimes this is difficult, because many manufacturers only provide maximum and minimum percentages for protein, fat, fibre, ash and moisture - not typical or actual values. As you can see in the examples below, fat is generally given as a 'minimum percentage', meaning the guaranteed analysis for the diet specifies only the minimum amount of fat in the diet - however the actual amount could be significantly higher.




Some manufacturers do provide detailed typical analyses for their diets though, so these figures are usually more accurate and reliable. Here's an example of (part of) a detailed typical analysis for a Ziwi Peak diet:


2) All of the percentages I've provided (protein, fat and carbohydrate) are on a caloric basis or metabolisable energy basis (ME basis) - this is the most accurate way to compare different types of diets. This requires some basic mathematics, however there are online calculators you can use (for example, https://secure.balanceit.com/tools/_gaconverter/) to calculate these percentages yourself. For example:



So, here are some percentages I have calculated; I hope they are useful. I'll try to add more diets to the list when I have time. For the different diets, I have noted how accurate my calculations are likely to be. There are some general comments and observations following the figures below.


K9 Natural freeze-dried diets


Source: https://www.k9natural.com/pages/nutritional-information

Full analyses of diets provided by company; figures below should be accurate.


Lamb and salmon:


26.6% calories from protein

71.9% calories from fat

1.6% calories from carbohydrate


Hoki and beef:


35.6% calories from protein

62.5% calories from fat

1.8% calories from carbohydrate


Beef:


24.8% calories from protein

72.3% calories from fat

2.9% calories from carbohydrate


Lamb:


27.4% calories from protein

70.1% calories from fat

2.5% calories from carbohydrate


K9 Natural canned diets


Source: https://www.k9natural.com/pages/nutritional-information

Full analyses of diets provided by company; figures below should be accurate.


Lamb and salmon:


26.4% calories from protein

72.0% calories from fat

1.6% calories from carbohydrate


Hoki and beef:


35.5% calories from protein

62.6% calories from fat

1.9% calories from carbohydrate


Beef:


24.8% calories from protein

72.3% calories from fat

2.9% calories from carbohydrate


Lamb:


27.5% calories from protein

70.1% calories from fat

2.4% calories from carbohydrate



Ziwi Peak air-dried diets:


Source: https://www.ziwipets.com/dog-food/air-dried#original_series

Figures below calculated using the downloadable typical analysis provided for each product. Should be accurate.


Tripe and lamb:


30.1% calories from protein

63.7% calories from fat

6.2% calories from carbohydrate


Venison:


39.5% calories from protein

55.7% calories from fat

4.7% calories from carbohydrate


Beef:


33.6% calories from protein

64.9% calories from fat

1.5% calories from carbohydrate


Mackerel and lamb:


37.9% calories from protein

58.8% calories from fat

3.2% calories from carbohydrate


Chicken:


33.2% calories from protein

66.0% calories from fat

0.8% calories from carbohydrate


Lamb:


29.6% calories from protein

68.2% calories from fat

2.2% calories from carbohydrate



Ziwi Peak canned diets:


Source: https://www.ziwipets.com/dog-food/wet-dog-food#original_series

Figures below calculated using the downloadable typical analysis provided for each product. Should be accurate.


Mackerel and lamb:


43.0% calories from protein

44.7% calories from fat

12.3% calories from carbohydrate


Venison:


42.5% calories from protein

47.7% calories from fat

9.8% calories from carbohydrate


Lamb:


34.4% calories from protein

53.1% calories from fat

12.5% calories from carbohydrate


Beef:


29.8% calories from protein

59.3% calories from fat

10.9% calories from carbohydrate


Tripe and lamb:


36.0% calories from protein

47.7% calories from fat

16.4% calories from carbohydrate


Chicken:


33.9% calories from protein

54.8% calories from fat

11.3% calories from carbohydrate



Big Dog Pet Foods

Source: https://www.bigdogpetfoods.com/raw-food-for-dogs

Carbohydrate content of diets calculated based on available percentages for protein, fat, moisture and ash. Only guaranteed analyses provided, so figures below may be slightly inaccurate.


Big Dog Pet Foods Tasmanian Salmon Raw Dog Food


28.7% calories from protein

64.3% calories from fat

7.1% calories from carbohydrate


Big Dog Pet Foods Lamb Raw Dog Food


27.1% calories from protein

68.5% calories from fat

4.4% calories from carbohydrate


Big Dog Pet Foods Turkey Low Allergy, Single Protein Raw Diet


24.5% calories from protein

69.5% calories from fat

5.9% calories from carbohydrate

Meat Mates freeze-dried diets:


Source: https://meatmates.com/dinner/

Carbohydrate content of diets calculated based on available percentages for protein, fat, ash and moisture. Only guaranteed analyses provided, so figures below will be slightly inaccurate.


Beef dinner:


30.6% calories from protein

67.1% calories from fat

2.2% calories from carbohydrate


Lamb dinner:


29.0% calories from protein

70.3% calories from fat

0.7% calories from carbohydrate


Chicken dinner:


39.2% calories from protein

59.5% calories from fat

1.2% calories from carbohydrate



Hill’s Prescription Diet

Source: https://www.hillspet.com.au/prescription-diet/dog-food

Analyses of each diet provided by the company, including the figures below.


Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care dry diet


24.1% calories from protein

30.3% calories from fat

45.6% calories from carbohydrate


Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Low Fat canned diet (original flavor)


24.0% calories from protein

20.0% calories from fat

56.0% calories from carbohydrate


Royal Canin

Source: https://www.royalcanin.com/au/dogs/products/vet-products

Analyses of each diet provided by the company, including the figures below.


Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat dry diet


25.8% calories from protein

19.9% calories from fat

54.3% calories from carbohydrate


Royal Canin Sensitivity Control dry diet


24.3% calories from protein

25.3% calories from fat

50.4% calories from carbohydrate



General comments and observations


First of all, this is not a 'review' of the diets above and no criticism is intended. Many healthy dogs are able to tolerate and do well on high fat diets with no problems. This information has just been provided to help dog owners choose appropriate diets for their dog - it is predominantly relevant to dogs with a history of pancreatitis or hyperlipidaemia, or overweight dogs.


Sometimes dog owners assume that meat-based or 'raw-style' diets are very high in protein, moderate to low in fat and very low in carbohydrate. As you can see from the percentages above, this is not necessarily the case. Some of these diets are actually very high in fat, with moderate or even low protein. I have provided the figures for the Hill's Prescription Diet and Royal Canin low fat gastrointestinal diets just as a point of comparison - so you can see how much fat is actually in a fat-restricted prescription diet (on a caloric basis), and what is considered appropriate.


As an example, have another look at the percentages for K9 Natural's freeze-dried beef diet:


24.8% calories from protein

72.3% calories from fat

2.9% calories from carbohydrate


72.3% calories from fat is very high, and 24.8% calories from protein is actually moderate to low, especially for growing animals (almost all of these diets are advertised as AAFCO-formulated for all life stages). 56.3 grams per 1000 kcal ME, or approximately 23% calories from protein is the AAFCO minimum requirement for protein, for growing puppies.


For many pet dogs, very high fat diets may increase the risk of excess weight gain - this is because even over-feeding by just a little bit can cause a big increase in caloric intake. Dogs that are doing strenuous exercise (for example, running the Iditarod) can benefit from diets with similar macronutrient percentages to this. For example, Royal Canin 4800 is intended for dogs performing long periods of sustained activity, and it contains 57% calories from fat. True working dogs will also likely benefit from a higher fat diet, because this can increase storage of fat in muscle and fat utilisation, which preserves glycogen within muscles and helps to increase endurance.



Critically ill dogs can also sometimes do well on high fat diets like Hill's Prescription Diet a/d canned diet (55% calories from fat) or Royal Canin Recovery canned diet (47.5% calories from fat), as the high fat content reduces the volume of food per day that the dog needs to eat. However, for many less active pet dogs, a moderate fat diet may make it easier to maintain a healthy weight - and ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight is probably the most important thing you can do as a pet owner.


The association between high fat diets and pancreatitis remains an area of ongoing research, however there are some studies that indicate that very high fat diets, or intermittent consumption of fatty foods/scraps, could be associated with the development of pancreatitis in dogs. No safe upper limit for fat has been established though, and the role of the type of fat (for example, saturated fat vs. polyunsaturated fat) is largely unknown.


As an interesting exercise, compare some of the diets above with another example - Royal Canin Satiety dry diet:


42.4% calories from protein

32.6% calories from fat

24.9% calories from carbohydrate


Royal Canin Satiety is a diet that was formulated to assist with weight management and/or weight loss in dogs that are overweight. What surprises many dog owners is that this diet, as you can see, is actually higher in protein that any of the other examples given above, with the exception of two of the canned Ziwi Peak diets. It has a moderate fat content, and moderate carbohydrate. It is also very rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, allowing for larger portion sizes (because the diet is less energy-dense). These features are intended to help with maintenance of muscle mass during weight loss, and also with satiety.


My Labrador, Willow, needs around 990 kcal per day to maintain her ideal weight. If I was to feed her Ziwi Peak air-dried lamb diet (5.6 kcal per gram), she would be fed approximately 175 grams of food per day, or 88 grams per meal. 88 grams is about the same weight as the contents of one small can of Fancy Feast cat food (85 grams), so not a lot for a large dog.

Alternatively, if I feed her Satiety dry diet (2.6 kcal per gram), she gets 380 grams of food per day, or 190 grams per meal. If I fed her canned Satiety (0.6 kcal per gram), she gets 1650 grams of food per day, or 825 grams per meal - 10 times the volume of food per day, compared with the air-dried diet. Food for thought, given that many owners sometimes struggle with begging and overfeeding. Anyway, this is just an example - I hope it demonstrates that feeding a moderate fat diet can work well for some dogs, from the perspective of maintaining lean body condition.


To summarise, what are the points I'm making here?

  • Be careful making assumptions about the fat and protein content of commercial diets, based on the ingredients, the guaranteed analysis, or the type of diet. Meat-rich or fish-rich diets aren't necessarily very high in protein, or low in fat. Even diets advertised as containing lean proteins like turkey or venison can still be high in fat.

  • If you own a dog that does a moderate to low amount of exercise (realistically, most pet dogs), keep in mind that a fatty, energy-dense diet may increase your dog's risk of excess weight gain, unless you are very good at sticking to appropriate portion sizes. Feeding a canned diet may reduce this risk a bit, because canned diets are often more than 70% water, and are therefore less energy-dense.

  • Owners of dogs with a history of pancreatitis or hyperlipidaemia need to be careful when trying to select commercial diets other than prescription low-fat diets, because the available information can be confusing and difficult to interpret.

  • Be careful giving high fat diets or foods (such as cheese, sausage, bacon etc) as occasional treats, as this may increase the risk of pancreatitis in some dogs.

Questions and feedback always welcome: admin@vetnutritiongroup.com




Medical disclaimer: All content and media on this website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional recommendations made by your pet's veterinarian. Always seek the guidance of your pet's veterinarian with any questions you may have. Never disregard the advice of your veterinarian, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this website. If you think your pet may have an emergency, call your veterinarian, or visit the nearest emergency hospital or clinic.