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?