This is an article written last year, but I wanted to repost it on our new site. It’s one of those discussions that constantly appears when some ill informed vet says that dogs or cats are meant or better off eating extruded kibbles.
One thing that truly irks me is the fear mongering campaign waged by those so against a raw natural diet, which is largely those with vested interests in selling cheap refined waste/garbage at huge mark-ups. Whether stated by an “uneducated” vet, an owner, or members of the kibble industry, those opposed to a raw natural diet will spout out ill informed diatribes full of smoke-and-mirror falsehoods regarding raw. Often a bit of reading will see past the smoke screen and lead folks to a educated choice when it comes to feeding and caring for their fur kids. I hope that this series of ‘raw myth’ posts will help guide people in knowing that there are other choices to feeding your dog or cat beside that of rendered waste product.
In this first installment, I’ll explore “Is the Dog a Carnivore”?
This is a truly important question in how we choose to best feed our dogs the best and most appropriate diet possible. Understanding what a dog’s digestive tract is designed to ingest will help us understand what should be placed into it. It’s like a car, without understanding how the engine works how do you know whether it needs diesel or gasoline to power it? Our dog’s nutritional care requires the same understanding in order to allow for peak performance and optimal nutritional intake.
Dogs are certainly adaptable and could be considered a ‘non-obligatory’ carnivore, simply meaning that the animal ‘can’ survive by eating a variety of foods, but that does not mean that simply ‘surviving’ is the best means to achieve it’s nutritional requirements. I could live off of Cheeseburgers and Fries for my entire life, but doesn’t mean it’s HOW my diet should be maintained for optimum health.
To understand the question of ‘carnivore’ or ‘omnivore’ (hopefully no one in their right mind would consider the dog a herbivore – so I won’t spend time discussing a herbivore’s digestive system in detail) one must first understand the principle differences between the two. An ‘omnivore’ ~ from the latin words ‘omni’ meaning ‘all’, and ‘vorare’ meaning ‘devour’ and as implied can eat all – plants or meats. Whereas ‘carnivore’ has the origin of ‘carne’ latin for ‘flesh’ – implying a meat diet. Examples of omnivores are humans and pigs. And carnivores would be wolves, cats, carrion birds, and of course dogs.
We could spend time discussing the entire anatomy and structure of a dog and how it is designed to hunt and kill prey, but for sake of time we’ll stick with just the digestive tract for this post.
The mouth of a dog is one of the very indicative example of how a dog is classified as a carnivore and has all the tell tale signs of an animal designed to ingest prey. A dog’s mouth is almost identical to that of it’s wolf ancestor – incisors and canine teeth designed to latch onto prey and to tear flesh. The carnassial teeth (first molar on lower, and last premolar on upper on each side) create a scissor effect to cut meat and tendons. The molars are then used to crush bone. What they lack is flattened molars used to grind vegetation as found in omni and herbivores. Look into your dog’s mouth – you won’t find a flat molar surface like we have to grind food (we’ll get to that reason shortly).
In addition to the jagged teeth designed for quick ingestion without chewing and pre-digestion in the mouth (such as in omni and herbivores) the dog lacks the ability to laterally move it’s jaw (if you’ve never looked go check out your dog – the jaw will only move up and down). Picture a cow chewing it’s grass – the jaw moves in a lateral motion grinding the vegetation to begin the digestive process. Same with humans, when we eat there is and up down and sideways movement to break down consumables prior to the next stage of digestion. This lateral jaw movement and grinding is essential for the digestion of vegetation due to thick cellular walls.
Dogs are designed to “bolt” down their foods. 42 teeth and 2000 taste buds, compared with our 32 and 9000 taste buds, dogs are not built to chew and savour their foods. They ‘wolf’ it down and the mouth is merely an entry portal. Their system is efficient and meant to ‘grab and dash’ or ‘load and go!’.
A dogs mouth also produces lysozyme, an agent which helps kill pathogens ingested (stomach acids will help destroy others).
Prior to exploring further down the digestive tract, it also needs to be added that dogs do not produce salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme produced in the mouth to be mixed with ground food during the mastication process and assists with the digestion of carbohydrates. This does not mean that dogs cannot digest carbohydrates as amylase is produced in the pancreas, but is another sign that they are not predisposed to be eating a carb laden diet. Most all omnivores and herbivores produce salivary amylase for carb digestion to begin immediately, while all carnivores lack the presence of the enzyme in the mouth. Some folks who like to claim “well cows don’t have salivary amylase” are not comparing apples to apples – ruminant animals such as cows and sheep operate on an entirely different system not acid based but fermentation based. When faced with this point, one ‘dog is an onmivore’ supporter stated ‘well, salivary amylase isn’t that important anyhow’ – funny, one would think if the secretion was so unimportant that nature would have sought efficiency and evolved beyond it in other animals.
Down to the stomach where we find more examples of how the canine system is designed for that of meat above all else. The dog has an extremely acidic stomach with pH levels as low as 1 (7 is neutral). These strong acid levels allow for the breakdown of animal proteins for further digestion by enzymes.
Moving onwards. The dog has an intestinal/body length ratio of 6:1 – extremely short when compared with 12:1 in humans and pigs, and 20:1 in ruminants such as cows. The reason is simple – vegetation requires long digestion times to break down the mater. Dogs do not require long intestinal tracts and animal proteins are broken down quickly in the stomach and can be moved rapidly thru the intestines.
Raw dog food can move thru the entire digestive process, from entry to exit in approximately 4-6 hours. Dry kibble foods can take 10-12 hours to run the course due to the nature of it’s composition – the dogs system needs to work longer and harder to try and extract the needed nutrients – which it still fails to fully achieve when one compares excrement (crude I know, but a great indicator of how the system is functioning).
Notice how when your dog eats a piece of grass, how it’ll often arrive at the other side as green as it was when eaten? Or feed your dog a carrot and guess what comes out later – a carrot. As illustrated above, their systems from their teeth onwards are not designed to chew, ingest, or digest vegetation. It’s important to understand this when considering the best possible diet for our dogs. And hence the importance to seriously consider the correct classification as carnivore. And by using that as a starting point we can further examine why a raw natural diet is the most superior form of feeding for our dogs nutritional needs.
To suggest a dog is otherwise is no different than stating ‘there are vegan humans, therefore the human is a herbivore’. Incorrect obviously. So holds true with our canine friends, simply because they can survive on a certain diet does not mean it is the diet BEST suited for them.
Part II of the raw myths dispelled series will look at the negative campaigning against raw with concerns of salmonella or e-coli.