Research from 1979 Refutes Current Dog Food Pyramid

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There is a common notion that dogs are omnivores. And, the bottom line is that they are omnivores. Of course that’s because they have no choice but to eat what we feed them. This is typically processed kibble containing at least 30% carbohydrates.

Think about this; if we captured all the polar bears in the world and started feeding them nothing but bananas, we could say that all polar bears are bananavores. Of course that is not the best diet for them. They naturally eat what is best for them from their normal environment.

Since dogs have been removed from their natural environment, how can we tell what they were meant to eat? What does their genetics dictate is best for them to eat for optimal health? What does science tell us?

This study, published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 1979 starts by stating the purpose of the research. “A good deal of disagreement exists within the veterinary profession about the proper diet for dogs… We conducted a review of the available wildlife literature, with the intent that the information gathered concerning food selection among feral carnivores might influence future considerations regarding the feeding of domestic carnivores…”  Unfortunately, today there is little disagreement among veterinary nutritionists – dogs are omnivores they say.

The researchers in this study surveyed the stomach contents of the coyote, fox, wolf, bobcat, cougar, and lynx. That’s an interesting approach to the mystery. But, is it valid? Why would they think that dogs should eat like wild carnivores? What do they have in common? The researchers offer this explanation.

“Anatomically, our domestic breeds of dogs possess gastrointestinal systems similar to those of the feral carnivores studied. They share in common strong carnassial teeth, simple stomachs of great digestive capability, thickly muscled esophagus, stomach and intestine, residual cecae, and simple non-sacculated colons.”

In other words, the fact that the domestic dog’s digestive tract is very similar to that of the wild animals studied indicates they evolved to eat similar diets. Anatomy dictates function. Dogs appear to be genetically programmed to eat like a wild carnivore. I am not saying that dogs are identical to wolves (I would not want one of those in bed with me). However their digestive anatomy indicates that they are adapted to eat similar diets.

So, what did the researchers conclude that dogs should eat? “From these many studies into the food habits of feral carnivores, it may be concluded that the staple diet of carnivores living in a natural setting includes other animals, carrion, and occasionally fruits and grasses… carnivores in their natural environments consume diets high in animal protein, bulk, and roughage (not plant fiber, but indigestible or poorly digestible parts of animal carcasses…) and low in carbohydrates, and caloric density.”

I am not proposing that we feed our pets carrion (dead and decayed animals). But notice that the diets that appear to be best for our dogs are high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. This is basically the opposite of what dogs foods offer. We need to turn the current, dog food pyramid upside down.

Have you turned the dog food pyramid upside down?

5 thoughts on “Research from 1979 Refutes Current Dog Food Pyramid

  1. Bernard

    Hypothetically, shouldn’t dogs eat raw meat? And if so, do Vets recommend boiled meats (chicken) only because we can’t trust the quality and safety of our meat?

    Reply
  2. Carol

    In Dec my pugs were on are RAW diet 2 years. When traveling or snowbirding in FL in the winter I use dehydrated raw.

    Keep up your posts Dr Doug! Love reading them!

    Reply
  3. Maggie

    Curious. Could not one make the argument that wild animals only eat raw meat because that’s all that is available to them? People also should be aware that raw meat fed to a dog with a compromised immune system (cancer, etc) is risky.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doug Post author

      You are exactly right. The ancestor of the dog could not cook his food so ate it raw – for millions of years. The genetics of the dog and cat has adapted to raw food. And you are correct that there can be pathogenic bacteria in raw meat products. It’s interesting that you mention cancer though since heat processing meat creates carcinogens. http://drdougknueven.com/?p=373

      Reply

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