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Are dogs carnivores? Or are they not? It’s a question to get your teeth into…

Posted by Dr. Jeanette Thomason on 8/9/2013 to Nutrition
Are dogs carnivores? Or are they not? It’s a question to get your teeth into… Sure, a dog will scavenge now and again. And it’ll seem happy to eat plenty other than meat. But maybe we’re being misled. What’s a dog’s true nature? Read what Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason, writing in The Whole Dog, had to say. There’s a few minutes reading, but it’s not a one-bite subject! I feel this bears repeating these days as so many people are treating their dogs like they are humans. I too love my dogs with all my heart and just like they are my children however, we need to remember they are not humans. Nor do they think like humans nor eat like humans . God created dogs to be carnivores to help keep nature in balance. The assumption that dogs are omnivores remains to be proven, whereas the truth about dogs being natural carnivores is very well-supported by the evidence available to us. Let’s start in the mouth. Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth in their lives. The 28 baby teeth erupt through the gums between the third and sixth weeks of age. Puppy molars. Puppy teeth begin to shed and be replaced by permanent adult teeth at about four months of age. Although there is some variation in breeds, most adult dogs have 42 teeth, with the premolars coming last, at about six or seven months of age. As you look into your dog’s mouth, notice those huge impressive teeth (or tiny needle sharp teeth). These are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 258.). They are not equipped with large flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Their molars are pointed and situated in a scissors bite (along with the rest of their teeth) that powerfully disposes of meat, bone, and hide. Carnivores are equipped with a peculiar set of teeth that includes the presence of carnassial teeth: the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar. Hence, dogs do not chew, they are designed to bite, rip, shred, scissor/crush and swallow. Canine teeth or as some people call them, Fangs are for grabbing and puncturing, incisors for nibbling, premolars for tearing, and molars for crushing (not chewing or masticating) bone — although our sweet, cuddly family dog may appear to be far more civilized than his wild relatives, he still has the same equipment for eating, grooming, greeting, and defense as his wild relatives. Four premolars line each side of the upper and lower jaws in back of the canines. These are the shearing teeth, used to rip great hunks of flesh from prey animals. Although our pets no longer hunt for survival, our dogs can still eat in the manner of wolves – by grabbing the meat with the premolars and ripping it off the bone. The top jaw has two molars on each side, and the bottom jaw has three. These are the crushing teeth, used by wolves to crack medium sized bones like caribou or deer. Their jaws hinge open widely, allowing them to gulp large chunks of meat and bone. The skull and jaw design of a carnivore is a deep and C-shaped mandibular fossa which prevents lateral movement of the jaw (lateral movement is necessary for eating plant matter). Yes, I emphasize the “gulp”. Dogs do not “chew” their food. In the wild, resources are scarce, Carnivores are designed to be able to gorge and fast for this very purpose; as they are hard wired for this no amount of thinking “he knows he gets fed twice a day” etc. will change the dog’s perspective. He may crunch down once or twice but the fact remains that he is just not designed to “chew” his food. Many people new to raw feeding freak out that their dog might swallow the meat and/or bones whole. YES, they will pretty much do that. They will tear large chunks of meat off the bone and then if the bone is smaller such as a chicken or turkey bone, they will crush the bone by chomping down once or twice and swallow. God designed the dog’s stomach acids to be much stronger than ours and they are designed for digesting large lumps of meat and even good size pieces of RAW bone. However much, we humans have done to tinker with and change the dog’s body design (resulting in varying sizes and conformations), we have done nothing to change the internal anatomy and physiology of our carnivorous canines. “Dogs have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore” (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a highly elastic stomach designed to hold large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide. Their stomachs are simple, with an undeveloped caecum (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a relatively short foregut and a short, smooth, unsacculated colon. This means food passes through quickly. Vegetable and plant matter, however, needs time to sit and ferment. This equates to requiring longer, sacculated colons, larger and longer small intestines, and occasionally the presence of a caecum. Dogs have none of these, but have the shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivorous animals. This explains why plant matter comes out the same way it came in; there was no time for it to be broken down and digested (among other things). Some educated people know this; this is why they tell you that vegetables and grains have to be pre-processed for your dog to get anything out of them. But even then, feeding vegetables and grains to a carnivorous animal is a highly questionable practice. “Dogs do NOT normally produce the necessary enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down process of carbohydrates and starches; amylase in saliva is something omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, but not carnivorous animals. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in plant matter. The carnivore’s pancreas does not secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things.” Canine and Feline Nutrition Case, Carey and Hirakawa Published by Mosby, 1995 Experts agree that wolves only eat the stomach contents of their prey when the prey is quite small and it gets consumed as a result of eating the entire animal (like a rabbit for example). L. David Mech, is considered the world’s top wolf biologist. In his book, Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (2003) he and other contributing experts compiled over 300 years of research and observations of the wild canine. An excerpt from this informative work clearly portrays the natural, instinctive eating behavior of the carnivore. “Wolves usually tear into the body cavity of large prey… and consume the larger internal organs, such as lungs, heart, and liver. The larger rumen/intestines [one of the main stomach chambers] is usually punctured during removal and its contents shaken out or spilled. The vegetation in the intestinal tract is of no interest to the wolves, but the stomach lining and intestinal wall are consumed, and their contents further strewn about the kill site.” [description added] The Kerwood Wildlife Education center (Hunting and Meals pages) describes the eating habits of the wolf as: “The wolf’s diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver, and other internal organs are eaten. Bones are crushed to get to the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well.” The only part consistently ignored is the stomach its self and its contents. Although some vegetable matter is taken separately, particularly berries, Canis Lupis doesn’t seem to digest them very well.” Thus, feeding dogs as though they were humans (omnivores) taxes the pancreas and places extra strain on it, as it must work harder for the dog to digest the starchy, carbohydrate-filled food instead of just producing the normal amounts of the enzymes needed to digest proteins and fats (which, when fed raw, begin to “self-digest” when the cells are crushed through crushing and tearing and their enzymes are released). Our dogs do not have the kinds of friendly bacteria that break down cellulose and starch for them. As a result, most of the nutrients contained in plant matter, even pre-processed plant matter are unavailable to dogs. This is why dog food manufacturers have to add such high amounts of synthetic vitamins and minerals (the fact that cooking destroys all the vitamins and minerals and thus creates the need for supplementation aside) to their dog foods. o compensate for this, the manufacturer must add a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than the dog actually needs. The result of feeding dogs a highly processed, grain-based food is a suppressed immune system and the under-production of the enzymes necessary to thoroughly digest raw meaty bones (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones). Dogs are so much like wolves physiologically that they are frequently used in wolf studies as a physiological model for wolf body processes (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation). Additionally, dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their mitochondrial DNA (Wayne, R.K. Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family). This next quote is from Robert K. Wayne, Ph.D., and his discussion on canine genetics (taken from “The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the gray wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of mDNA sequence…” Dogs have recently been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris by the Smithsonian Institute (Wayne, R.K. “What is a Wolfdog?” (, placing it in the same species as the gray wolf, Canis lupus. The dog is, by all scientific standards and by evolutionary history, a domesticated wolf (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 472.). Those who insist dogs did not descend from wolves must disprove the litany of scientific evidence that concludes wolves are the ancestors of dogs. And, as we have already established, the wolf is a carnivore. Since a dog’s internal physiology does not differ from a wolf, dogs have the same physiological and nutritional needs as those carnivorous predators, which, remember, “need to ingest all the major parts of their herbivorous prey, except the plants in the digestive system” to “grow and maintain their own bodies” (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.). I am often berated for recommending a raw diet as being best for our carnivorous pets but after all my research and feeding my own pets this way for many years now, I cannot help but believe that our pet dogs (and cats) were meant to eat RAW meat and bones and if all healthy carnivores were fed such that they would be much healthier in the long run. They would Thrive! Not just survive…. You may also want to read Dogs – The Omnivore Carnivore Question References: Prof. Dr. Sir John Whitman Ray B.A., ND., D.Sc., NMD., CT. MT.. CI, Cert. Pers., PhD., B.C Dip N, MD. (M.A.), Dr. Ac, FFIM., Dp. IM., F.WA I .M., RM., B.E.I.N.Z., S.N.T.R., N Z. Char. NMP, N P A Dr. Francis M. Pottenger Jr. MD Dr. Kouchakoff of Switzerland Dr. Weston A. Price Dr Tom Lonsdale Carissa Kuehn
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