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Canine Nutrition


Dog food companies would like you to believe dogs, like us, are omnivores but Dr. Hendriks has a different idea. What do you think and why? Your comments welcomed.





compiled by Delilah Penn


Are you curious about whether a dog is carnivorous (meat) or omnivorous (meat/veggies) you will be interested in what I found because my dogs eat EVERYTHING! Tell us below.


Dogs are classified as members of the family Canidae in the order Carnivora, the name leads you to believe they are carnivores, right? The name doesn’t necessarily mean they eat meat. Dogs are mostly considered omnivorous; because they can eat and stay healthy with animal and plant foods (per the internet/dog food companies).



We’re taught cats are carnivores; cows are herbivores; and pigs, dogs and people, are omnivores (meat and veggies).


I found out about a 2013 Nutritional Conference where 300+ researchers and veterinary professionals presented a strong argument that dogs really are carnivores, huh?? Here we go…


If we were to rethink the idea that dogs are not omnivores, listen to Dr. Wouter Hendriks of Utrecht University’s veterinary school in the Netherlands. He laid out a convincing argument in favor of canine carnivorous-ness (meat-eaters) at the Nutritional Sciences Symposium in Portland, OR. He said “dogs still have plenty of traits that are 100% carnivorous.


But how can that be? We’ve been studying the dog’s nutritional needs for a very long time. Here are examples of animals that look and act like carnivores or are “dog-like”. Are they carnivores, omnivores or what?


Wolves. They eat plant-eating animals (herbivores) and the first thing they eat from the downed animal is its stomach contents and viscera {Ref a} (the internal organs in the abdomen, ie; intestines). The stomach contains the vegetation that the herbivore eats. Researchers have also said wolves eat grains too; our dog’s wild ancestors ate plenty of grains including berries. Leaning toward Omnivore?


Dr. Hendriks’ conclusion is that it is a myth that wolves eat stomach contents first. Researchers have concluded that wolves are clearly carnivorous. Current research of wolves demonstrates that foraging is a tiny part of a wolf’s intake and that wolves tend to leave stomach contents behind after a kill. When they searched for the source of “wolves feast on stomach contents”, they come up empty.


Coyotes. Eat a wide variety of foods including small mammals, amphibians, birds, fruits and the feces of herbivores.



Panda Bears. Also in the order Carnivora, consume bamboo leaves. Herbivore…


I agree, the term "opportunivore" describes the dog best or mine at least (is that a real classification?) they will eat whatever they come across, plants, animals, etc…


A true carnivore, like cats, require taurine (an amino acid), arachidonic acid (a fatty acid), and certain vitamins (niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin A), which is abundant in an animal’s proteins and fat, they have to have it to be healthy.


Omnivores don't require high amounts of taurine and other vitamins. Dogs can create their own acids from vegetable oils they eat. Dogs can create vitamin A from beta-carotene found in plants. Dogs can digest almost 100% of any carbohydrates they consume {Ref b}. Dogs have adapted to eating grains and vegetation. It was recently found that dogs are different from their wild cousins in that they have three genes related to starch and glucose digestion.


There are other behaviors and physical aspects that separate omnivores and carnivores.


Conventional thinking: dogs have molars with flat surfaces designed to grind up bones as well as fibrous plant material. Dr. Hendriks states that dogs’ teeth are adapted to a carnivorous diet (teeth for tearing muscle and molars for crunching bone to extract marrow).


Conventional thinking: Go by intestine size. Because meat is easier to digest, the intestinal length of carnivores like cats is shorter, taking up about 15%. Dogs, like other omnivores, fall somewhere about 23% of the total stomach area. {Ref c,d}


A dog’s stomach is only slightly longer than the cat, so it again makes sense that dogs might be classified as omnivorous.  Plant material is more difficult to break down, so herbivores have much longer intestinal tracts. Dr. Hendriks’ rebuttal to this idea is that when you figure in the wider girth of the feline intestine, the total volume of dog and cat's intestines they are quite similar.


He further states that when we compare animals' gastrointestinal systems, maybe we should not compare intestinal size, length, and girth, but look at the “coefficient of fermentation.” Herbivores have a high ability to extract nutrition from plant matter as the result of their ability to ferment it. Herbivores have a high coefficient. Carnivores aren’t equipped to ferment food and have a low coefficient. By the way, it is equally low in both dogs and cats.


He further points out that many of dog’s behaviors are carnivorous in nature. Like digging. Dogs like wolves dig to hide parts of their meal to eat later.


Dogs, like many large mammalian carnivores, were able to survive long periods of time between meals. Today they have adapted metabolically to make up for the feast-or-famine lifestyle because dogs are domesticated. This has allowed them to cope with life as an omnivore. Dogs have adapted well but that doesn’t mean they aren’t carnivores.


It is believed dogs have lived beside humans for fifteen thousand years, they’ve evolved genetically and neurologically but so have we. We’ve changed from a hunter-gatherer diet to one that reflects an agrarian condition.


Dogs just so happened to adapt (results of living with humans) allowing them to eat grain-based dog food as most dogs do. (It doesn’t make it great for them to eat mind you.) Dr. Hendriks offered this in his final statement, “it helps to improve our understanding of the dog’s digestive physiology and metabolism and may contribute to the ongoing optimization of foods for our pet dogs.


This doesn’t mean you will take grain-based diets away from your dogs but knowing what a dog’s ideal diet might look like as a carnivore makes us more aware of what they should be eating. Comment below and tell 24,600 subscribers if you think your dog has evolved into an omnivore like the dog food companies would have you believe or is your dog still a carnivore as Dr. Hendriks points out?


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