At Petcurean, we are proud to create a recipe for each and every pet. Different pets do well on diets with different types of ingredients, that’s why we don’t believe in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy when it comes to feeding your pet. This includes providing a wide variety of recipes using different ingredients to meet nutrient requirements. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are two ingredients that add variety and offer both nutritional and functional benefits for pet food.
Key Nutrients in White & Sweet Potatoes
White and sweet potatoes are sources of many important nutrients including protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. White potatoes and sweet potatoes are both rich sources of manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, and vitamin B6. White potatoes are high in vitamin C, whereas sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. Both types of potatoes are rich sources of complex carbohydrates to provide a readily available supply of energy.
The biggest difference between white and sweet potatoes really comes down to appearance. The characteristic orange colour of sweet potatoes comes from beta-carotene, an antioxidant also found in carrots, that dogs and humans can convert to vitamin A.
Other Benefits of Potatoes
Besides being a rich source of many essential nutrients, potatoes provide texture and structure properties in kibble and wet pet foods. When creating a kibble, potatoes are used as a carbohydrate source to form the kibble and improve its shape and texture. Without carbohydrates, kibble would not have that distinct crunch that our pets know and love. Carbohydrates also play an important role in creating the texture and form of wet foods. This is particularly important for cats who are very sensitive to texture and mouthfeel.
Carbohydrates also give us the flexibility to create a variety of recipes with different nutrient levels.
To create a complete and balanced recipe, the macronutrients that provide energy (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) must be balanced to meet the requirements of the pet.
When the content of one macronutrient goes up, the content of one or more of the other macronutrients must go down. This means that without carbohydrate, protein and fat levels would drastically exceed a pet’s nutrient requirements. Carbohydrates are especially important to help control protein levels in a recipe. This not only has nutritional benefits, but also plays a part in helping the environment.
Protein is a metabolically and environmentally expensive nutrient. With this is mind, most healthy pets will thrive on a diet containing moderate protein levels. Most dogs can obtain adequate protein from a diet containing 22-26% protein (dry matter basis), while most cats do best with diets ranging from 26-32% (dry matter basis). Of course, there are some cases where higher protein levels are needed, such as working dogs or critically ill patients.
However, it is important to remember that excess dietary protein cannot be stored by the body; rather, it is broken down and its nitrogen is converted to urea and excreted in urine. Not only does this result in wasting protein, but excess nitrogen is an environmental contaminant and can contribute to yellow patches on your lawn.
Read More: How Much Protein Should Pet Food Contain?
In addition, the environmental impact of producing meat is much higher than that of plant-based proteins. Using potatoes in pet food as a source of protein and carbohydrates, in combination with moderate levels of animal protein, is a sustainable way of meeting the nutrient requirements of pets.
When it comes to comparing carbohydrate sources in pet food, the glycemic index is a topic that often comes up. The glycemic index was first developed as a tool to rank human foods based on their effect on blood glucose levels. In humans, low glycemic index foods have been associated with weight control and chronic disease prevention, but these same benefits have not been verified in dogs and cats.
Another consideration is that in human nutrition research, the glycemic index is determined for single ingredients, not full meals. However, most dogs and cats consume recipes that contain a variety of ingredients, and pets often eat the same food for months or years. Just because an ingredient has been shown to have a low glycemic index in humans, does not mean that a pet food containing the ingredient will also have a low glycemic index. In fact, research in dogs and cats suggests that the glycemic index does not vary significantly for kibble that contains different carbohydrate sources. Therefore, glycemic index is not a useful tool to evaluate pet foods.
Allergies and Yeast Infections
Potatoes are not considered to be a common allergen in dogs and cats. In fact, both white and sweet potatoes are often used in hypo-allergenic pet foods.
It has been suggested that eating foods like potatoes that contain carbohydrates increases the risk of a dog or cat developing a yeast infection. Yeast needs carbohydrates (i.e. glucose) for growth, but eating a diet that contains carbohydrate does not increase the risk of yeast infections.
When carbohydrates are consumed, they are broken down into glucose to provide energy, but the amount of glucose in the blood is very tightly controlled in healthy animals. Yeasts are naturally present on skin and usually do not cause any problems. For a yeast infection to occur, a change in the skin surface that supports growth must occur. If a yeast infection does occur, it is likely because the body became vulnerable due to illness or an allergy.
Summary on Potatoes in Pet Food
When it comes to pet food, the most important consideration is that the recipe contains all the nutrients required to keep an animal healthy and sustain life.
Ingredients are the vehicles for providing these nutrients, but ultimately the nutrient levels in a recipe are what is most important. Nutrient requirements of pets can be met by many different ingredient combinations.
At Petcurean, we use potatoes not only as a source of essential nutrients, but also for their functional benefits, and to help reduce our impact on the environment.
By: Natalie Asaro
Natalie Asaro, Companion Animal Nutritionist at Petcurean, received both her BSc in Honours Biological Science and MSc in Companion Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph. Her MSc research focused on investigating energy and macronutrient metabolism in cats, resulting in multiple published peer-reviewed papers. Her passion lies in pet food formulation and keeping up to date with research in pet nutrition. Growing up, she had many different pets including frogs, birds and cats. Today, she enjoys spending time with her miniature dachshund Gus who loves treats, naps, and more treats.