Bonny Canteen 2020; 1: 110-120.
Anton C. Beynen
Carob for dogs
Carob is the fruit, in the form of a pod, of an evergreen tree that is cultivated mainly in the
Mediterranean area (Note 1). The ingredient panels of several canine nutritional products list
carob, mostly with suffix, such as pods, meal, powder, chips or gum. Carob treats for dogs are
generally positioned as chocolate replacers (Note 2). Two supplements and four complete dry
foods make claims, based on their carob ingredient, going from digestive support to diarrhea
management (Notes 3, 4). Carob gum is a thickening agent that is occasionally found in wet foods
Carob pods have a wrinkled, leathery surface and softer inner portion that surrounds and
separates the seeds. Pods can be divided into two parts: pulp (70-90%) and seeds. Carob pulp may
undergo drying and grinding. It can also be dehulled, ground, roasted and milled into a powder,
serving as chocolate substitute. During the roasting process the pulp obtains a cacao-like aroma.
Isolated seeds’ endosperm (nutritive tissue for the embryo/germ) serves as carob gum, also called
Carob contains tannins, polyphenols that can bind proteins in the intestinal lumen and make them
resistant to digestion. Dry dog foods with carob generally contain less than 3% pulp, which brings
in tannin levels that slightly reduce net protein digestion, but do not jeopardize protein supply.
There are no published dog studies providing any evidence for dietary carob as promoter of
digestive health or as controller of diarrhea.
Roasted carob pulp is used as chocolate replacer because of near comparable appearance and
taste. Contrary to cacao in chocolate, carob does not contain theobromine, which can be toxic for
dogs. Acute, chocolate poisoning in dogs occurs frequently, the signs being vomiting, diarrhea,
excessive thirst, lack of coordination and irregular heartbeat. There is wide variation between
individual dogs in their sensitivity to theobromine. Thus, keeping all dogs away from chocolate is
prudent (Note 6). Some dog owners appear to fill the abstention with carob treats (Note 7), given
their market supply (Note 2).
Size, pulp:seed ratio and proximate compositon of carob pods depend on cultivar and horticultural
condition (1-3). As a rough guide, carob pulp contains 5% crude protein, 1% crude fat, 7% crude
fiber, 3% ash, 8% moisture and 76% soluble carbohydrates (nitrogen-free extract). The pulp’s
carbohydrate fraction has about 60% sucrose and 5% pinitol (4, Note 8). Seeds’ germ and
endosperm may contain 57 and 6% crude protein and 18 and 91% soluble carbohydrates (5, 6). The
carbohydrates of endosperm (carob gum) comprise about 80% galactomannans (6), which provide
A wide range of phenolic compounds is found in carob fruit, among them hydrolysable and
condensed tannins (7). Hydrolysable tannins (8, 9) have a core of glucose, or another polyol, that is
poly-esterified with gallic acid (trihydroxybenzoic acid, C7H6O5) or hexahydroxydiphenic acid, the
non-lactone form of ellagic acid (C14H6O8). Gallo- and ellagitannins vary greatly due to mixed and
elongated forms. Condensed tannins (8, 9), also called proanthocyanidins, are oligo- or polymers
composed of derivatives of flavan-3-ols (C15H14O2) that are linked via carbon-carbon bonds between
C8 and C4. The derivatives are catechin (C15H14O6), epicatechin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin and
epigallocatechin gallate (cf. 10).
The reported amounts of hydrolysable and condensed tannins in carob depend not only on carob
type and cultivation, but also on the methods of extraction and analysis. A certain lot of carob-pulp
kibbles was subjected to both spectrophotometric- and HPLC-based measurements (11). The
amounts of spectrophotometrically determined (12, 13) total phenols (expressed as gallic-acid
equivalents) and condensed tannins (expressed as catechin equivalents) were 8.31 and 1.00 g/kg
Identification and quantification of gallic acid and catechins in the very carob-pulp kibbles was done
with the use of high-performance liquid chromatography―UV absorption―electrospray ion trap
mass spectrometry (11). A kibble extract was obtained by pressurized liquid extraction and solid-
phase extraction. The workings resulted in 0.174 g gallic acid, 0.026 g hydrolysable tannins and 0.015
g condensed tannins per kg carob-pulp kibbles (11).
In 1934, Valenti isolated germ from carob seeds by an unspecified thermo-mechanical treatment
(14). The germ product contained 55% crude protein, 5% crude fat, 2% crude fiber, 7% ash, 9%
moisture and 22% nitrogen-free extract. For three periods, lasting 11, 6 and 8 days, a 9.6-kg dog was
fed on a 1:2.4 mixture of the germ meal and water. In quantitatively collected feces and urine,
nitrogen was analysed. When assuming nitrogen balance, average apparent protein digestion
amounted to 76% of intake (but see the section Carob tannins).
Using the difference method, Kendall and Holme (15) have determined apparent, total-tract
digestibility of locust-bean meal in dogs. The basal diet, a canned diet containing 8.8% protein and
27.3% dry matter, was fed as such or after mixing with carob meal in a 1:1 ratio. The carob meal
contained 4.0% crude protein, 0.8% crude fat, 2.5% ash and 15.0% moisture. The calculated,
apparent digestibilities were 58, 59, 26 and 62% for dry matter, organic matter, crude protein and
crude fat (but see the section Carob tannins).
Pancreatic α-amylase of dogs cannot hydrolyse galactomannans so that ingested carob-gum
galactomannans are broken down by bacteria in the colon. A study compared the in-vitro
fermentability of fibrous substrates by dog fecal inoculum (16). The test materials included air-dry
carob-bean and locust-bean gum (96.5 and 98.9% organic matter; 43.9 and 86.0% total dietary
fiber). After 24 hours of incubation, organic-matter disappearance and short-chain fatty acid
production were greater for locust-bean gum. The paper does not explain why the two gums were
Tannins and proteins
Tannins in food- and feedstuffs are generally classified among the anti-nutritional factors that
combine with nutrients and thereby reduce their bioavailability. Tannins can form insoluble
complexes with ingested proteins by covalent, hydrogen, ionic and/or hydrophobic bonding. Such
interactions, involving endogenous and ingested proteins in the intestinal lumen, depress apparent
(net) protein digestion.
In rats, both dietary hydrolysable and condensed tannins increased fecal nitrogen excretion, or
reduced apparent protein digestibility, whereas catechin, gallic acid and ellagic acid did not (17, Note
9). Rats fed diets containing polyphenol fractions prepared from green and ripe carobs had elevated
contents of insoluble nitrogen in their digestive tract and feces (18). Extra loss of endogenous
protein could be a major contributing factor to the increase in fecal nitrogen in rats fed carob
tannins (19, Note 10).
The effect of carob tannins on protein digestibility in dogs has not been reported, but a rat study
provides some insight. Rats were fed semipurified diets containing 0, 2.38 or 11.9% de-sugared,
powdered, ripe carob pods (19). Those carob inclusion levels were equivalent to 0, 1 or 5% total
polyphenols (expressed as catechin equivalents) as based on the spectrophotometric, vanillin
method (20). Apparent protein digestibilities for the three diets were 91.3, 88.6 and 80.3% of intake.
The dietary levels of de-sugared carob pulp in the rat study correspond with 0, 4.3 and 21.4% whole-
carob pulp. Kendall and Holme (15) fed dogs a mixture equivalent to air-dry food with 68% carob
pulp, or 16% total phenols (Note 11). Thus, the tannins had depressed protein digestibility of both
carob and base food proteins. Consequently, the difference method wrongly further reduced the
calculated digestibility of carob protein.
Valenti (14) fed dogs carob-seed germ as the only source of nutrition. Germ dry matter has been
reported (21) to contain 4.02% polyphenols (expressed as gallic acid equivalents) as based on a
spectrophometric method of chemical analysis (22). Thus, the calculated apparent protein
digestibility most likely was depressed by the polyphenols.
Dietary carob most likely lowers net protein digestive efficiency in dogs, which is at odds with the
allusions to carob supporting the digestive system (cf. Note 4). More concretely, there is no evidence
that intake of carob beneficially affects the digestive tract, or for that matter, the gut flora in dogs
(cf. Note 3).
The anti-diarrhea claims for carob (Notes 3, 4) probably trace back to studies published 30 to 70
years ago. Those studies showed that (de-sugared) carob powder, as adjunct therapy, reduces the
duration of infant diarrhea (23-26). Perhaps, carob tannins bind enterotoxins, thereby expediting
recovery from diarrhea. In 2003, the Canadian Paediatric Society published a position statement on
the treatment of diarrheal disease, remarkably enough, without mentioning carob (27, Note 12). But
beyond that, studies dealing with carob in the treatment of canine diarrhea are unavailable.
Commercial dry dog foods with carob pulp may not contain much more than 3%. It may be assumed
that 3% carob inclusion lowers apparent total-tract protein digestibility in dogs by about 1.7% units,
as it did in rats (cf. 19). That reduction does not jeopardize protein supply of dogs fed commercial
dry food with carob (cf. 28). In a 90-day study, dogs fed canned food supplemented with 0.23%
crushed carob (equivalent to about 1.15% in dry food) did not show abnormalities (29).
No adverse signs were noted in dogs fed diets (presumably dry) containing 0, 1 or 5% of a pre-
cooked mixture (proportions unknown) of guar and carob gum for 30 weeks (30). It is tempting to
conclude that carob gum in commercial wet dog food is safe, when assuming a maximum inclusion
level of 0.5% (2.5% in dry matter).
Compared with rodents, Beagle dogs degraded theobromine (3,7-dimethylxanthine) slowly, while
metabolizing it primarily to 3-methylxanthine (31), which may act as muscle relaxant. Mongrel dogs
received a single oral dose of theobromine ranging from 15 to 1000 mg/kg body weight (32). No
dogs given 200 mg/kg or less died, but some given 300, 500 or 1000 mg/kg did, albeit that the death
frequencies were dose unrelated. Dogs given 15 mg theobromine/kg showed considerable individual
variation in peak-plasma theobromine concentrations.
The between-dog variation in susceptibility to fatal theobromine intoxication extends to acute
chocolate toxicosis. A paper describes the dogs that ate chocolate and were presented to a
veterinary clinic over a one-year period (33). There were 9 dogs with and 10 dogs without clinical
signs of intoxication; their chocolate intakes corresponded with theobromine intakes ranging from 3
to 107 and from 2 to 46 mg/kg body weight. The overlapping ranges illustrate the considerable inter-
individual variation in response to chocolate consumption.
The calculated theobromine intakes are rough and possible biased-influenced estimates. The
amounts are based on owner-reported chocolate intakes (33) and estimates for theobromine
quantities in chocolate (Note 13). Chocolate toxicity in dogs has not been studied under controlled
conditions. Several case reports have been published over the last 10 years (33-39).
The fruit of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua L.) is also called Saint John’s bread. Translations with
meal as suffix, “johannesbroodmeel” and “Johannisbrotmehl”, may be found in dog-food ingredient
lists written in the Dutch and German language. Noteworthily, Saint John’s wort (Hypericum
perforatum) is a flowering plant with supposed anti-depressant activity. The herb sometimes shows
up among the ingredients of dog food.
Besides Saint John’s bread, locust bean is another descriptor of carob. That name is also used for
“African locust bean tree” (Parkia biglobosa), a perennial, deciduous, pod-producing tree of the
The five brands of treats shown below are positioned as chocolate replacers on the basis of their
carob constituent. They declare carob as carob chips (a), solids (b) or powder (c-e).
Treat brands: Ancestry, Carob Chip Snackers (a), Jumbo Pets, Carob Drops (b), Buddy Valestro Foods,
Peanut Butter & Carob Recipe (c), Carob Button Dog Treats (d), Black Dog Carob Buttons (e)
Two carob-containing supplements make the following claims. ANiFiT FRUCTOSAN (f): The product
stops diarrhea through its carob-meal component. Kyli® Johannisbrotmehl (g): Carob meal is utilized
to support the gut flora and to control defecation.
Four brands of dry dog foods use the following texts to connect their carob component with gut
KONACORN dog food (h): “Johannesbrood werkt preventief tegen het ontstaan van diarree”: Saint
John’s bread (carob) acts preventively against the development of diarrhea.
Belcando Active Adult (i): “Carob. Supports the digestive system. Contains a high quantity of natural
tannins and vital substances.”
DERA CROC Premium NATUR (NATURNAH) (j): “Ausgewählte Faserquellen wie z.B. Rübenschnitzel,
Karottentrester, Äpfel, Luzerne, Johannisbrot, Chicoree oder Hefen wirken sich positiv auf den
Verdauungstrakt des Hundes aus”. Selected fiber sources, for instance beet pulp, carrots, apple,
alfalfa, Saint John’s bread (carob), chicory or yeast have positive effects on the digestive tract of
Markus Mühle Naturnah, pressed dog food (k): “Carob pods are rich in flavonoids, gallic acid and
glycosides which contain important antioxidant properties and have a beneficial effect on the
Five examples of wet dog food products declaring carob/locust-bean gum in their ingredient lists:
l. Royal Canin Renal Support E. https://www.royalcanin.com/us/dogs/products/vet-products/renal-
m. Eukanuba Canned Dog Food With Lamb & Rice. https://www.pawdiet.com/reviews/eukanuba-
n. Weruva Dogs in the Kitchen POOCH POUCH PARTY. https://www.samscatsanddogs.com/weruva-
o. Fromm Pâté Pork & Brown Rice. https://frommfamily.com/products/dog/pate/can/pork-and-
p. H.E.B. Texas Pets Porterhouse Wet Dog Food. https://www.heb.com/product-detail/h-e-b-texas-
It has been suggested that toxic effects in dogs may occur at theobromine doses of 20 mg/kg body
weight (40). The following approximate doses of chocolate products equivalent to 20 mg of
theobromine have been presented (41): dark chocolate (4.8-8.8 mg theobromine/g; median 5.3):
2.3-4.5 g (3.8 g); milk chocolate (1.0-2.1 mg theobromine/g; median 1.4): 9.5-20.0 g (14.3 g); white
chocolate (insignificant theobromine): risk of theobromine toxicity minimal.
In 1984, Craig and Nguyen (42) reported HPLC-analysed theobromine contents in cocoa and carob
products obtained from supermarkets. The results, expressed as mg/g, were as follows: carob
powder (n=1), none detected; carob candy bar (n=3), none detected; cocoa (n=1), 20.3; baking
chocolate (n=2), 13.0; dark sweet chocolate (n=2), 4.41; milk chocolate (n=6), 1.88. Baking or
unsweetened/bitter chocolate is relatively high in theobromine.
As cocoa substitute, carob has various food applications that relate to its cocoa-like flavors and
sensory properties that are enhanced by carob-powder roasting (43). Replacement of 75% cocoa
powder by carob flour in cakes did not result in significant differences in taste attributes as scored by
50 untrained, randomly recruited panelists (44). However, full replacement of cocoa powder
lowered the scores for color, odor, flavor and texture.
Pinitol (C7H14O6) is a cylclitol. More specifically, pinitol is a cycloalkane with ring of six carbon atoms,
five hydroxyl groups and a methyl ether group. Under experimental conditions, D-pinitol may have
insulin-like effects (45).
Dogs were fed a rice-based diet (50.7% broken rice) without or with 0.1% hydrolysable tannins (46).
The purified tannins were from a commercial extract derived from chestnut bark. Addition of the
tannins raised apparent total-tract protein digestibility by 2.1% units, but did not increase the
digestibilities of dry matter and organic matter. When 0.1% of the hydrolysable tannins were
included in a rice-sorghum diet (26.2% broken rice, 25.0% sorghum), apparent digestibilities of
protein, dry matter and organic matter were reduced by 2.7, 1.8 and 1.0 %units. The increase in
protein digestibility seen after incorporating tannin into the rice-based diet might be aberrant.
Insoluble tannin-protein complexes, arriving in the colon after carob consumption (18), likely cannot
be utilized by colonic bacteria. Thus, dietary carob may lower rather than increase protein
fermentation in the hindgut.
Rats fed a diet containing 2.32% tea extract, or 1% catechin equivalents, showed about threefold
increases in fecal excretion of both total nitrogen and stable-isotope-labelled nitrogen (19). The rats
had been injected in the tail vein with [15N]glycine. Thus, ingested tea tannins increased loss of
endogenous, intestinal proteins, which probably holds for carob tannins also.
The food mixture consisted of canned food (27.3% dry matter) and carob pulp (85.0% dry matter) in
a 1:1 ratio (15), or 27.3:85.0 ratio on a dry matter basis. Thus, an air-dry mixture (90% g dry matter)
contained 68% g carob pulp (85.0/112.3 x 0.9) or 37% de-sugared carob pulp (68 x 0.544), which
equals 16% total phenols (37 x 0.42). Carob pulp contains 45.6% sugar (0.76 x 0.6) or 54.4% de-
sugared matter (section Proximate composition). De-sugared carob pulp contains 42% polyphenols
A research paper published in 2016 (47) concludes that carob-bean is effective in reducing
uncomplicated gastro-esophagal efflux in infants.
The authors (33) have tabulated body weight, amount and type of chocolate, and presence or
absence of clinical signs for 26 dogs that had consumed chocolate. For 19 dogs, theobromine intake
could be calculated. Dark and milk chocolate were assumed to contain 5.3 and 1.4 mg
theobromine/g (Note 6).
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