Had anyone told me that I would seriously question whether or not the descendant of a wolf was a true carnivore or not, I would have laughed.
This all started several years ago when I had a client who feed their dog a human diet. Of course she was on the health conscious kick so, she and the dog ate mostly vegetables. The dog was fat, lethargic and looked a bit down. I suggested increasing the animal protein in the dogs diet and here came a spew of rhetoric regarding vegetables and organics in the canine diet.
Just like Motley’s top 10, Never get stuck on one theory or idea. And please, don’t just follow the current trend without looking into it validity. I listened and went to work researching the issue.
I thought … simple… I will call a vet and ask. Well that did not work. To her credit she told me she was not sure and proceeded to do some research of her own. In deciphering her answer, I came to the conclusion that dog where indeed Carnivores.
Reporting this to my client.. she insisted that too much protein would constipate the dog. From my own experience, too much protein is hard on the kidneys and gives you the trots. To many vegetables will block you up and give you ferocious gas and constipation (look it up). Long story short, you don’t win em all.
I recommended the carnivore diet based off of science. Still the onslaught of advice to feed your dog like an omnivore persisted. Finally, I stumbled across Mike Ritland’s book and found a carnivores diet like no other. Now I honestly don’t know if this was Mr. Ritland’s invention or it was based off of Navy research. I do know that the Navy is great at researching things. I am attempting to clarify this point. So, I realized that I could support the carnivore position with a very simple experiment.
There is a rule in nature that is straight forward. Those that adapt to their environment will survive. Those that lack the equipment to adapt to their environment will not.
This is how it works.
This is called comparative anatomy.
1 Cat – Carnivore (luckily the marketing people haven’t screwed this one up…yet!! ) we all seem to agree that Cat’s are still Carnivore’s
2. Cow is a herbivore
3. Bears are known omnivores, as are humans. I use a Bear because there could be some confusion since they love meat but, they are confirmed omnivores.
Now if we wanted to do it the hard way we could study every organ and every digestive function of each animal. Fortunately we are in luck. I realized that all we need to do is compare teeth.
Teeth are specifically designed over time to break down what the animal is designed to eat. The most clear cut examples of this are sharks and snakes. Now back to our four variables for comparison.
Bear -note larger “square molars” Crush vegetables and/or bone. Most similar to human. (known omnivore) Also, note that the back molars of the Bear and Human are far more similar to a cow than a Wolf, Cat or Dog.
Note- premolars of canine and feline are far more similar in design then those of the omnivore/ herbivore side.
Now this is just a sample of the comparisons you can make but, my findings are that the Dog is a carnivore. This is even supported by the scientific definition of a carnivore.
Even sharks gain some plant material from the fish the eat. The small animals eat the plants, the bigger animals eat the small animals with the plants in them. Dogs are even known to eat grass. This does not mean they are like cattle. They are Carnivores.
Feeding your dog is a lot like training your dog… One Size, Does Not Fit All.. Do to the lack of regulation on pet food, I think. It is very difficult to just recommend a food for all dogs. It is also not good advice to say that you get what you pay for.. some of the most costly foods are so, because of great marketing and popularity of trends. Do not follow trends. There is another tidbit that I have noticed dog trainers and even some vets forget to factor in and that is horrible breeding. I am sorry people but, if you have a purebred dog these days you likely have a genetic time bomb. This also goes for those more exotic dogs… People have made the mistake of breeding for appearance and not adaptive characteristics as nature would.
When you investigate this subject you are confronted with poor information. Comparing a Wolves teeth to a canines teeth shows a lack of understanding that a Wolf is a Canine. So, my conclusion is that Dogs and Wolves have the same gross anatomy when it comes to teeth. The only other useful observation I could make it that we have added Obligate Carnivore…. has to eat meat. A Cat is a good example, and guess what a lion and your house cat have the same diet so, my guess is that your Dog and Wolf do as well.
I have a funny feeling that it should be classified on a continuum as opposed to a strict definition.
Obligate Carnivore : Majority of the diet must consist of meat to thrive
Carnivore/Lesser Carnivore: May eat a majority of meat but, Diet contain some plant matter. Higher protein requirement then an true Omnivore but, less then an Obligate Carnivore.
Omnivore : lower meat requirement then a carnivore but, must have the correct intake of protein to thrive. This protein can be animal or plant based.
Herbivore: Eats only plants. Has special digestive features that obligate and lesser carnivores do not have.
There is likely a correlation between “dental design” and digestive enzymes, bacteria and/or probiotics in the animal that would help define their appropriate diet more accurately. A guess a good question would be, if you and your dog are both Omnivores can you both digest the same stuff? If you can, does this offer all of the nutrition you both need?
We will continue to investigate this very important subject but leave you with the thought that you need to learn as much about your dog the challenges they face and adapt their diet accordingly.