Potatoes are a regular addition to many dog food brands and recipes. They are easy to source and an affordable source of carbohydrates. However, other Potato ingredients sometimes appear on your dog’s ingredient list. They include Potato Protein and Potato Starch. But what exactly are these ingredients? Should you be concerned about these ingredients and the kind of nutrition they will provide? Sit back as we answer all these questions and more.
It is important to note that Potatoes must be cooked to be safe for your dog to consume. Uncooked Potatoes shouldn’t be a concern if you are feeding your dog commercial dry dog food as these are thoroughly cooked during the manufacturing process, long before they reach your dog bowl.
Generally, it is advised to peel potatoes before they are fed to dogs. The logic behind this is that Potato skins can sometimes cause irritation or an adverse reaction in your dog’s stomach and esophagus.
In addition, avoid feeding your dog’s fried potatoes such as fries as these are high in fat and could cause weight gain. Boiled or baked potatoes are far more suitable, and if leftover from you or your family’s meals could be a tasty snack for your dog.
The most notable mineral provided by Potatoes is Potassium. Potassium is vital to maintaining healthy blood pressure and has been proven to help prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Beyond some notable minerals, Potatoes are primarily a source of complex carbohydrates. While this is fantastic for humans, dogs need a far lower proportion of carbohydrates in their diet. However, in moderation, Potatoes can provide a smaller portion of carbohydrates that are suitable for dogs.
As you might imagine, Potato Protein is high in Protein. It is a by-product in the form of a protein-rich liquid that is derived from Potato processing. This liquid is then processed further by heating the liquid and filtering, leaving a protein-rich powder.
Potato Protein is a far cheaper source of Protein than higher-quality and more biologically appropriate ingredients like meat or fish. Therefore pet food brands often use Potato Protein, or other similar plant-based protein by-products, to inflate the overall protein level in a dog food formula without splashing out on the more premium ingredients.
But if Protein is the most important nutrient in a dog’s diet, then why would additional Protein from Potatoes be considered a problem? Unfortunately, plant-based Protein from vegetables like Potatoes does not contain the full range of amino acids needed for the repair, maintenance, and growth. In addition, the Protein contained in Potatoes is less digestible to dogs as their digestive systems have evolved to digest animal-based Protein.
Potato Starch is another by-product of potato processing, but it is drastically different from Potato Protein. Potato Starch is most commonly used as a binding agent in dog foods that do not contain traditional binding agents. In the past, starch from grains such as Wheat, Corn, or Oats was used as binding agents. But due to the pressure to move away from grains in dog food, Potato Starch has been pushed as a viable alternative.
However, while whole Potatoes contain many beneficial nutrients and vitamins, Potato starch only contains starch, which has little nutritional value to dogs beyond its carbohydrate content. Potato Starch has a poor nutritional profile as Potato processing removes the skin of the Potato, which includes many of the beneficial minerals and vitamins. Also, Potato starch contains little Protein as it has been eliminated to create Potato Protein.
Potatoes and Heart Disease
In July 2018, the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration)announced that it had received reports about a type of heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy, which can cause an enlarged, weakened heart and eventual heart failure in dogs. These reports suggested a link between grain-free dog foods, high in Potatoes, Peas, and other Legumes could be the cause.
The heart disease occurred in select breeds such as golden and Labrador retrievers, a whippet, a Shih Tzu, a bulldog, and miniature schnauzers. None of these breeds are genetically prone to the disease, which suggests that there must be another cause, and the reports pointed the finger at ingredients such as Potatoes, which have replaced grains in many dog food recipes.
If true, this could have enormous consequences and massively shake up the commercial dog food world as almost all brands, especially premium brands, utilize Peas and other legumes as their primary carbohydrate source. While far fewer recipes contain Potatoes in comparison to Peas, if there is a link found between Potatoes and Heart disease, then there will still have to be a significant change made.
However, at this time, this link is far from conclusive and may be unfounded. Unfortunately, a significant amount of research and studies conducted in relation to pet food are funded by pet food manufacturers and, therefore, can be biased or misleading.
Nevertheless, this claim should be taken seriously and further investigated. However, until there is indisputable evidence to link heart disease and a diet high in ingredients such as Potatoes, we will not negatively review or exclude dog food recipes that contain Potatoes any differently than we have in the past.
However, we will continue to mark down dog food recipes that use inferior quality ingredients like Potato Protein and Potato Starch as we believe these are not a positive addition to dog food.
Ingredient Splitting is a somewhat sinister technique employed by many dog food brands, including some which are widely considered premium brands. The Ingredient Splitting Technique goes something like this. If you split up an ingredient into a range of sub-ingredients, then those sub-ingredients can appear lower down on the ingredient list due to them taking up a smaller proportion of the overall product.
Consumers are often told to pay particular attention to the top five or top ten ingredients listed on a dog food recipe. The Ingredient Splitting technique makes it appear as if the less high-quality or nutritious ingredients such as grains, vegetables, or plant-byproducts are less abundant. When in reality, if all these sub-ingredients were combined, they would very likely take a spot near the top of the ingredient list.
The splitting of Potatoes into by-products such as Potato Protein and Potato Starch is one of the common examples of this technique. Quite often, a dog food formula will contain Potatoes and Potato Protein. This technique allows a manufacturer to vastly understate or mislead the consumer on the volume of Potatoes present.
For more information on Ingredient Splitting, check out our dedicated article to the technique Ingredient Splitting in Pet Food – Exposed.
Dog Food Free of Potato By-products
Merrick and Fromm two dog food brands we rate highly that exclusively use whole Potatoes and do not use any Potato By-products. While neither of these recipes is perfect, the exclusion of Potato by-products influenced both of their scores. Be sure to check out the full reviews of these brands for more information. You can find Merrick here and Fromm here.
Dog Food with Potato By-products
It would come as a surprise to many that some of the most highly rated and premium dog food brands use Potato by-products such as Potato Protein and Potato Starch. Taste of the Wild and Wellness are two dog food brands that do use these by-products but are still widely considered high-quality both by ourselves and other reviewers. If these formulas were to stop using Potato by-products, they would likely have near-perfect scores. Check out more information on Taste of the Wild here, and Wellness here.