Energy Producing Nutrients

Protein, fats, and carbohydrates provide pets with the energy that they need for everyday living. The amount your pet may need depends on your pet’s activity level, environment, life stage, and/or individual needs. By gaining more knowledge about nutrients your pet gains a healthy and balanced diet.


  • Proteins are continually being used for the body’s daily maintenance.
  • The requirement for proteins can increase with life changes such as: growth, performance, reproduction and illness.

Essential Amino Acids

  • Proteins are made of long chains of amino acids. Once in the body, proteins are broken down into small chains of amino acids and reassembled into needed proteins.
  • Essential amino acids are required for body growth and maintenance. When the body cannot make them, they must be given in the diet.
    Example: Cats require more protein in their diet than dogs. (Cats are true carnivores and dogs are omnivores). Cats require an essential amino acid called taurine. The cat’s body cannot make taurine so therefore it must be supplemented into the diet. Taurine plays a very important role in healthy heart and eye function.
  • Protein is the most expensive nutrient in most diets. The higher the quality the higher the price BUT the higher the quality the less that is required (due to the body being able to absorb and use better).


The role of fats:

  • Surrounds and cushions vital organs
  • Stored fat acts as an insulator
  • Increases palatability
  • Aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Contains 3 times more energy than protein and carbohydrates

Essential Fatty Acids

  • Much like protein, fats are made up of long chains of fatty acids. Once in the body, the fats are broken down into smaller fatty acid chains and used as needed.
  • Essential fatty acids are required for everyday metabolism. When the body cannot make them, they must be given in the diet.
    Example: Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both fatty acids that cannot be made by the body. Therefore it is crucial that they both be supplemented into the diet. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both essential for brain and eye function as well as decreasing inflammation.


Carbohydrates are broken down into two groups: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble Carbohydrates

  • Also called nonstructural and/or starch
  • Highest concentrations are found in plant seeds/grains (needed for germination and growth)
  • Easily digested
  • Can be used as a quick source of energy
  • In most pet foods starch is the main form of energy

Insoluble Carbohydrates

  • Also called structural, fiber, roughage, and/or bulk
  • Highest concentrations are found in plant stems, leaves, and the wood of trees
  • Indigestible
  • Fiber is used to help bulk up a diet (commonly used in weight loss/control diets)
  • Can help regulate blood sugar levels
  • Can also be used to help treat diarrhea and constipation:
    • Helps absorbs water
    • Stimulates intestinal contractions
    • Helps regulate the amount of time it takes to pass food through the intestines

Hopefully learning a little more about the basic energy producing nutrients will help in the taunting task of selecting the right pet food.