Last month at the Waltham Nutritional Sciences Symposium, researcher Professor Wouter Hendriks presented more evidence that dogs are carnivores (you can see the video summary here). Those of us who feed raw are inclined to say, “Yeah? So what?” We’ve all taken that for granted, given the dog’s sharp, pointy carnivore teeth and carnivorous ancestors. So when I saw some web pages discussing this “new” finding, I was curious to see what anyone would get excited about.
Well, it seems like this might be news to some vets. “In veterinary school we learned that cats are carnivores; horses, rabbits and ruminants are herbivores; and pigs and dogs — like people — are omnivores” says veterinarian Dr Patty Khuly in a recent article.
The vets further solidified their position of dogs as omnivores when a study was published in the scientific journal Nature earlier this year. The summary of that report was:
“Our results indicate that novel adaptations allowing the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.”
Dogs Are Carnivores…
Last month, professor Hendriks added another dimension to this study. His work shows that just because dogs have adapted to omnivorous diets doesn’t make them omnivores. Although the researchers in the starch study found a few genes that reflected adaptation to starches, “just a few genes’ difference is regarded as an adaptive shift to a condition. These alone can’t possibly alter the entire digestive evolution of a species” says Dr Khuly.
Dr Khuly also adds that dogs have the following carnivorous traits:
- Dogs’ teeth are adapted to a carnivorous diet (for tearing muscle and crunching bone to extract marrow).
- Many of their innate behaviors are carnivorous in nature. Consider digging, for example. Like wolves, dogs dig to hide parts of meals for future ingestion.
- Dogs, like many large mammalian carnivores, are metabolically able to survive for long periods of time between meals.
- Dogs have a lot of flexibility in metabolic pathways to help make up for a feast-or-famine lifestyle and a wide range of possible prey.
I’d agree with her up until this point. Dr Khuly then concludes, “The result of these findings, argues Dr Hendriks, is that the dog is undeniably a true carnivore. The dog just happens to have an adaptive metabolism as a result of living with humans for millennia. That’s why the dog is perfectly capable of eating a grain-based diet, as most commercially fed dogs do.”
…But Not To Vets
Hold on there. How did we get from “dogs are undeniably carnivores” to “keep on feeding them a grain based diet” in the same paragraph? What just happened there?
Diabetes, a condition where the body is unable to properly metabolize glucose from carbohydrates, is the most common endocrine disease affecting dogs today and its prevalence is growing every year. Thirty years ago, 0.19% of dogs suffered from diabetes. In 1999, the rate tripled to 0.58%. Today, up to 1.5% of dogs suffer from diabetes.
I’d be the first to admit that diabetes is an autoimmune disease and I’d happily attribute it to vaccine damage. But it also bears stating that unnatural foods lead to unnatural outcomes … like diabetes.
I know that when this article is published, the conventional vets and proponents will say what I’m writing is mostly speculation, there’s no science to back it up. And they’d be right.
But to those vets who continue to feed carbohydrate-laden foods, despite the growing body of research showing that dogs are carnivores, and despite the rise of metabolic disease related to carbohydrate intake, I have this question to ask:
Where is the research backing your carbohydrate-based diets? Feeding trials? Give me a break – just because a dog lives for three months eating your food without any overt signs of disease doesn’t mean that food will sustain him and keep him healthy for a lifetime.
I’m tired of being asked for references and research when vets and kibble companies continuously make huge leaps in logic, despite the overwhelming evidence that dogs are carnivores. Somewhere along the line, shouldn’t somebody stick up their hand and ask why we started feeding dogs corn and rice in the first place? What drove that initial decision?
My vote is MONEY.
Kibble Is Made For People With Wallets, Not Dogs
From the time James Spratt tossed hard tack off the side of his ship to the dogs on the docks, to the first kibbles that had dogs chasing chuck wagons around the house, kibble has had one goal and one goal alone: make money from pet owners.
Does your dog have a wallet? Mine don’t, so I buy all their things for them. And the kibble manufacturers figured that out a long time ago, and directed their marketing to the people with the wallets, not the furry beings who would be consuming their food. So we as humans watched the chuck wagon commercials and thought our dog would really like that stuff. We never paid much attention to what was in the bag, just that it looked cool and we loved potatoes and corn, so why wouldn’t our dogs? Now that we pet owners know better, I have to wonder how much thought vets have given to what’s in the bag.
Now there are two kinds of vets. Those who mindlessly chase chuck wagons and those who don’t. Do you know how to tell the difference between them? That’s simple. One will have shelves full of kibble in their waiting area and one won’t.
I for one wish vets would wake up and see kibble for what it is. It’s a relic from days long gone, when we didn’t know any better. Nobody took the time to figure out what dogs should eat and when people started pumping money into dog food, the pet food companies were more concerned with making their brand better than their competitor than asking, why are we putting starches into these foods? Well, they probably did ask that question and the answer was likely, “because it’s cheaper.”
So now, pet owners are starting to see their furry family members as the little carnivores they are, and the kibble manufacturers are up against it. They need those starches to hold that food together – without starch, those little kibbles would disintegrate into a bag of dust. That’s why the so-called grain free diets are still full of starches like potatoes. They’re just as unnatural for carnivores as corn and wheat, but they’re needed to hold that stuff together.
But while vets may now concede that dogs might not be omnivores, they’re clearly still reluctant to move away from kibble and they’ll continue to view every piece of research through their kibble-colored glasses. They have to, because they’ve got too much invested in it to change so readily. It must be tough to stand in front of a longtime client and say, “Sally, it seems that I’ve been wrong all along and that kibble that I told you to feed Spot might be making him a little sick. You see, I thought he was an omnivore, despite his pointy teeth and relative lack of digestive enzymes to make any use of starches and grains. And then, when research came out saying that he wasn’t an omnivore, I ignored it because, hey, I’ve got all that kibble sitting in my front lobby and all the other vets are doing it. So I hope you’ll forgive me when I still charge you $100 a month for Spot’s insulin.”
Yeah, that’s a tough conversation to have. But wouldn’t we pet owners so love to hear it?
But pet owners have grown up and we can see past the politics and marketing ploys; we just want our dogs to be healthy. That’s why many pet owners don’t see dogs as carnivores as big news; we knew it all along. It’s just common sense – something that’s severely lacking in the conventional world today.
Are you still chasing chuck wagons?