cat and dog smallersmallfeedingdoglikecat

I want you to look at the following pictures of the skulls of two different animals.

Here’s the first one:

And here’s the second:








Look at the difference in the shape of the shape and number of teeth. Do you think these animals should be eating the same foods?

Clearly, these are different animals with different needs.

In fact, they’re about as different as cats and dogs.

If you haven’t guessed already, skull number one belongs to a cat and skull number two belongs to a dog. I want to take a look at the differences in dogs and cats and how that should determine what we feed them.

Now before I get started; if you’re a diehard prey model raw feeder, don’t get upset at what you’re about to read …

… I promise you’ll be with me at the end. But let’s first continue to the parts you might not want to hear.

A New Look At Species Appropriate Diets

There are as many different types of raw feeders as there are breeds of dogs. You can feed your dog BARF, Prey Model, Species Appropriate or any other type of raw diet. There are lots of ways to play.

These different raw diets are similar but not quite the same. However the goal of most of these diets is to feed our dogs what mother nature intended your dog to eat. This is why we often model their diet after their closest wild relatives, the wolves. We figure this is the best glimpse into the ideal natural diet for our furry family members. At first glance, that’s a really good idea.

But the problem is, most raw feeders aren’t feeding their dogs like wolves at all …

… they’re feeding them like cats. That’s hardly species appropriate!

Let’s take a close look at the difference between dogs and cats and how this dictates what they should be eating.

What The Mouth Tells Us About Diet

See those pointy teeth that both dogs and cats have? They’re called canine teeth and they’re meant to tear and rip flesh. In fact all of the teeth of the dog and the cat are pointy, so that, in addition to the pronounced canine teeth, gives us a good idea that they’re both meant to eat meat. They’re both carnivores.


Let’s compare that to our own omnivorous teeth!


We don’t have those long sharp canine teeth. And if you look at the back of our mouth, you’ll see the molars are flat. The job of the molars is to crush and grind plant matter. This is why we’re classified as omnivores … our teeth tell us we have a dietary need for plant matter.

Now let’s look again at the teeth of the dog. You can see they also have molars at the back of their mouth. They’re pointier but they have them. They also have a sharp, interdigitation but they’re clearly there and they look capable of grinding.

Compare that to the cat, where the molars are very sharp and elongated and much, much less capable of grinding.

So the dog’s mouth is somewhere between the human mouth and the cat’s mouth. You might also have noticed that dogs and humans have a lot more teeth than cats too.

Amylase: A Moot Point

There’s something we humans have in our mouth that neither dogs or cats have … something called salivary amylase.

Amylase is an enzyme that breaks complex carbohydrates down into simple sugars.

Try this experiment … hold a piece of bread in your mouth for a few minutes and you’ll notice it starts to taste sweet. That’s amylase converting that bread into sugar.

Neither cats or dogs have salivary amylase.

That makes a lot of raw feeders think that dogs can’t digest plant matter. This simply isn’t true.

Because amylase also lives in your dog’s pancreas.

Dogs have four times more pancreatic amylase than cats and the activity of the enzyme rises much more in dogs with the amount of starch content in the diet. This means dogs can digest over 99 percent of processed starches and about 90 percent of many raw starches. The cat’s ability to digest starch is more limited. (Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, NRC)

If we move down the digestive tract, you’ll see more fundamental differences between the dog and cat.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

The human digestive tract averages 30 feet in length. Our appendix is actually the remnant of a fermentation system in the large intestine, from when we ate a more herbivorous diet.

The average length of the dog’s digestive tract is 2 feet.

The average cat’s digestive tract is 13 inches.

Here are a few more differences between the digestive systems of dogs and cats.

Humans (as well as other omnivores and herbivores) can convert plant based ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants, to its useful constituents, EPA and DHA.

Dogs can convert approximately 5 to 15 percent.

Cats completely lack the enzymes necessary for this conversion.

And finally, dogs can manufacture taurine (an amino acid from animal protein), whereas cats can’t.

Clearly cats must eat a predominately meat-based diet … but dogs are a little fuzzier in that definition.

So let’s take a look at what dogs eat in the wild to help us understand how the dog’s physiology (or rather the wolf’s) dictates what he eats when he’s in the wild and eating what’s available to him.

What About The Wolves? What Do They Eat?

Most scientists report very little plant matter in wolf scats and many raw feeders will take that to mean wolves don’t eat plant matter.

But the problem is, most wolf scats are analyzed in the winter months when it’s easiest to track them … there isn’t much in the way of berries and vegetation in the winter months!

When wolf scats are analyzed from the summer months, we see something different (Diet composition of wolves (Canis lupus) on the Scandinavian peninsula determined by scat analysis, S Muller).

What we see is a diet that contains 8% grasses and berries.


Stadler et al (Foraging and Feeding Ecology of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus): Lessons from Yellowstone National Park) also found that 74 percent of wolf scats collected in the summer contained plant matter.

American wolf expert David Mech notes that wolves in Italy, where fruit is more available, have been shown to eat cherries, apples, plums, figs, pears, grapes and even melon. Wolves in all regions also consume grasses. Many believe this is to prevent parasites but Mech believes the reason may be for the vitamin content. (Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation)

Are you following me?

What About Wild Cats?

Most studies show that cats also eat plant matter. But it’s different than that of the wolf.

In one study, 25 percent of wild cats had plant matter in their scats and another showed a higher percentage. But what’s interesting is the vegetation isn’t grass, fruit and berries …

… it’s grass and twigs.

So we know the dietary habits of wolves and wild cats also differ.

Taxonomy: How We Group Animals

Animals (and plants) are grouped by scientists according to their description and identification.

Dogs and cats are both from the order Carnivora (meaning they are carnivores). Carnivore means the diet is mainly made up of meat.


But the order Carnivora splits into several groups and you can see that dogs and cats don’t share the same taxonomy.

Cats and most wild cats share the same taxonomy: Felis. They all share the same traits, ancestry and physiological makeup. All members of the felid family are obligate carnivores.

Obligate carnivores must have meat as the mainstay of their diet or they can’t thrive. And this makes sense looking at the diet of cats … which is a lot of meat and some grasses and sticks.

Dogs and wolves share the Canis classification. Their needs are different than the cat and we can see these differences in the ancestry, their anatomy and their physiology.

Members of the Canis family are facultative carnivores. This means they are carnivores with omnivorous tendencies. And this makes sense because dogs are much better scavengers than cats … they can thrive on a wider variety of foods and the wild dog’s diet shows a greater willingness to eat berries and fruits.

Don’t Start Feeding Those Carbs Just Yet …

Now if you’re looking to feed your dog kibble or a diet with lots of those carbohydrates you now know he can digest … don’t!

Most kibbles and cooked diets are 30 to 60 percent starch or carbohydrate.

While wolves are eating plant matter, it’s not starch. It’s not potatoes, it’s not rice and it’s not corn.

So why are you feeding it to your dog?

In nature, the wolf or wild dog would eats, on average, four to seven percent starch. And we know that most of that would come from plants and fruits, not grains.

Dogs (and people) have eight hormones for raising blood sugar and only one to lower it (insulin). They’re made to live in a world with very little starch and on the rare occasion they’ve eaten too much, then that one hormone is there to lower it.

The other seven hormones are there to raise blood sugar because starch is not normally a large part of the diet.

Animal nutrition researcher Richard S Patton PhD says this constitutes literal hormone abuse.

So while dogs clearly have the teeth, digestive tract and physiology to eat plant matter, you need to stick to what they’d eat in the wild if you really want to feed a species appropriate diet.

And that means four to seven percent plant matter (and this shouldn’t include starches your dog wouldn’t find in the wild, such as corn, sweet potatoes or rice).

Now for you raw feeders who aren’t feeding any plant matter at all … you’re not feeding a species appropriate diet!

You’re essentially feeding cat food to your dog.

If you’re going to feed your dog a species appropriate diet, then you need to look at the species! The dog is different from the obligate carnivore cat in these major ways:

The Difference Between Dogs And Cats

  • More teeth
  • Flatter molars
  • More pancreatic amylase (four times as much)
  • More amylase activity
  • Longer digestive tract (nearly twice as long)
  • Can convert some plant based ALA to DHA and EPA (cats can’t)
  • Can manufacture taurine (cats can’t)

So if you don’t take this into consideration and feed your dog a small amount of berries and plant matter, then you aren’t feeding a species appropriate diet!

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the dog isn’t an omnivore like us, so he must only eat meat. Your dog wasn’t made to eat our diet, but he clearly wasn’t made to eat the cat’s diet either.

The Takeaway

I can’t tell you what to feed your dog. But I can tell you that if you’re feeding a meat-only diet, it’s not species appropriate!

In fact, if you’re not feeding hair, feathers, eyes, brains and other icky parts, you’re not feeding a species appropriate diet either … and your dog will be lacking in many important vitamins and minerals.

Your dog needs to eat skin or he will likely be vitamin D deficient. He needs to eat wool, hair or feathers or he will probably be manganese deficient. And so on …

Are you feeding all of the animal parts to your dog?

I bet you aren’t.

So this means your dog’s raw diet (not including some but not all commercial raw diets), is deficient.

In light of that, wouldn’t it be a good idea to throw just a few fruits and grasses at him to help make up for this?

You won’t solve all of his deficiencies but it’s certainly a start.

And best of all, you’d be feeding him an actual, species-appropriate diet.