Dogs... Carnivores or Omnivores?

This is the age-old debate that seems to go around in circles. Each party being sure that dogs are, or are not carnivores.  

As a pet owner, all we want to do is ensure that our pets received great nutrition and are given more than they can handle. After all, that is all they ask for, but in return, we get so much more!

Here are some of the facts and you can make your own decision.  


The Omnivore Argument    

Digestive Tract: 

The intestinal length of a herbivore is intentionally long to allow for the fermentation of plant matter, whereas the intestinal length of a carnivore is much shorter as meat is believed to be relatively easy to digest. Like dogs, the intestinal length of an omnivore falls somewhere in between. 

Meat equals Anger

It is believed by some that an excess of meat in a dogs diet can fuel unusual outbursts of aggression. I have been unable to find evidence that supports this belief. But, trainers and pet owners alike confess that they have seen noticeable changes in their dogs when an excess of meat is fed. 


Dogs have evolved

One study headed by Erik Axelsson, details how the genes of a domestic dog have evolved and adapted over time from that of wolves to allow their gastrointestinal tracts to process grains, vegetables etc. The argument for dogs being carnivores has always relied heavily on believing that dogs are the same as wolves. But now science has the power to back up the theory of canine genetic evolution.  


The Carnivore Argument  

It's all about Coefficient of Fermentation 

When comparing gastrointestinal systems, it is surprising that while the length of a dogs intestine is longer than a cats, a cats intestine is wider in girth making the total volume quite similar. 

Dr Hendricks believes that it is best not to compare length, width or volume, it is better to compare the metric 'coefficient of fermentation'. This is the ability to ferment and break down food. Herbivores have a high ability to extract nutrients from plant matter as a result of their ability to ferment it. Meaning they have a high coefficient of fermentation, while carnivores are not equiped to do this and have a low coefficient of fermentation.  

Surprisingly, both dogs and cats have a low coefficient of fermentation


How well have dogs really adapted

Even over the thousands of years that dogs have lived alongside humans, Dr Hendricks believes that they still have many traits to confirm they are carnivores and have not adapted as well as people think. 

  • Teeth - Dogs have teeth for tearing and chewing through meat, pulling out bone marrow and crunching bone
  • Carnivorous behaviour, such as digging and burying of food for feasting on later. 
  • Flexible metabolic pathways that allow dogs to eat a variety of prey and go days without food.  

Knowing where your dog's roots lie, can help you make the best decision for their diet. It has always been believed that from the beginning, dogs have often eaten the stomach contents (seeds, root vegetables etc.) of their prey. While this may be true and sounds like a viable option, the key to remember is that is was minimal.  

Through all of my research, one major fact was noted... that dogs have evolved and so has their gastrointestinal tract to a degree, but no one has undoubtedly proven that dogs are carnivores or omnivores.   

I am a firm believer that feeding naturally is essential for continued healthy growth and development. While feeding high carb or fatty leftovers may be ok every now and then, it should never be the majority of a dogs diet. 


With all of that said, I am going to leave you with one question.... 

What happens to your body and how do you feel when your diet consists of large amounts of heavy carbs, sugars, artificial additives and highly processed ingredients? 

I would love to hear any feedback or experiences that you have! 


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