As identified by the Smithsonian institute, the domestic dog, the Canis lupus familiaris, is a domesticated form of the grey wolf.
Domestic dogs and cats are carnivores. Providing them a diet that is species appropriate is one of the most important things to consider for their health and welfare.
Dogs and cats have a short gastrointestinal tract designed to quickly digest and eliminate their food. This digestive tract is designed to consume fresh prey as it was available. Dogs and cats have digestive tracts able to handle the large amount of naturally occurring pathogens and bacteria present in the foods they consume.
The mouths and teeth of cats and dogs provide further evidence regarding their carnivorous status. Jaws of carnivores are only able to open and close, they do not have flat molars designed to chew. Instead, they have sharp interlocking teeth are designed to rip and tear flesh.
If dogs and cats are carnivores, then why do so many dog foods have ingredients that are not meat? Many people can become confused – they have fed their dogs dry foods for years and they haven’t died. So what’s the problem?
Dogs and cats are extremely resilient. Sudden death does not often occur as an immediate result of feeding an inappropriate diet. This is one of the primary reasons that kibble type (dry, convenient) pet foods have developed such a following. These foods keep them alive, however they do not allow the animals to thrive. Generations of nutritionally weakened animals, suffering nutritional deficiencies contributing to degenerative disease, is the result.
What should you avoid?
Products such as pasta, rice, bread and most dry pet foods have high levels of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not necessary in the diet of a canine. Whilst dogs are one of the most effective metabolisers of protein and fat, they lack the ability to effectively digest carbohydrates.
Dogs produce very little salivary amylase; without appropriate levels of amylase, and other digestive enzyme secretion, dogs are unable to effectively digest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are used in pet foods as they are cheap, abundant, have a long shelf life – not because they are good for your dog’s health.
The process of producing commercial dry foods requires an intense amount of heat. This heat greatly diminishes and can even destroy the nutritional quality of the food, reducing vitamin, mineral and enzyme contents and negatively affecting the amino acid digestibility.
The digestibility of meat proteins by carnivores is far superior to the digestibility of plant based proteins. The length of the canine digestive tract does not allow for the fermentation of plant based proteins to occur and the lack of required digestive enzymes means that the majority of plant proteins are passed undigested. This does not allow dogs to obtain the required nutrients.
What should you look for?
Feeding your pet a species appropriate diet, and helping it thrive is not difficult if you follow the points below.
- Ensure you review the ingredients of any packaged dog food you feed. Can you easily identify them? Are the ingredients appropriate to feed to a carnivore?
- Check the nutritional panel and avoid foods with grains and carbohydrate laden products listed.
- Consider the quality of the ingredients; is there meat or only meat by-products included? Are the products human grade?
- Is the product manufactured within Australia or does it require treatment to enter the country?
- Make use of raw feeding sites and experts and ask any questions you have.
Enjoy the healthy long life of your pet.