Dogs Are Carnivores
By Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason
Photos courtesy of National Geographic and Astrid Beutler, Thuringia in Germany
I feel this bears repeating these days as so many people are treating their dogs like they are humans. I too love my dogs with all my heart and just like they are my children however, we need to remember they are not humans. Nor do they think like humans nor eat like humans . God created dogs to be carnivores to help keep nature in balance.
The assumption that dogs are omnivores remains to be proven, whereas the truth about dogs being natural carnivores is very well-supported by the evidence available to us.
Let’s start in the mouth. Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth in their lives. The 28 baby teeth erupt through the gums between the third and sixth weeks of age. Puppy molars. Puppy teeth begin to shed and be replaced by permanent adult teeth at about four months of age. Although there is some variation in breeds, most adult dogs have 42 teeth, with the premolars coming last, at about six or seven months of age.
As you look into your dog’s mouth, notice those huge impressive teeth (or tiny needle sharp teeth). These are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 258.). They are not equipped with large flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Their molars are pointed and situated in a scissors bite (along with the rest of their teeth) that powerfully disposes of meat, bone, and hide. Carnivores are equipped with a peculiar set of teeth that includes the presence of carnassial teeth: the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar. Hence, dogs do not chew, they are designed to bite, rip, shred, scissor/crush and swallow.
Canine teeth or as some people call them, Fangs are for grabbing and puncturing, incisors for nibbling, premolars for tearing, and molars for crushing (not chewing or masticating) bone — although our sweet, cuddly family dog may appear to be far more civilized than his wild relatives, he still has the same equipment for eating, grooming, greeting, and defense as his wild relatives. Four premolars line each side of the upper and lower jaws in back of the canines. These are the shearing teeth, used to rip great hunks of flesh from prey animals. Although our pets no longer hunt for survival, our dogs can still eat in the manner of wolves – by grabbing the meat with the premolars and ripping it off the bone.
The top jaw has two molars on each side, and the bottom jaw has three. These are the crushing teeth, used by wolves to crack medium sized bones like caribou or deer.
Their jaws hinge open widely, allowing them to gulp large chunks of meat and bone. The skull and jaw design of a carnivore is a deep and C-shaped mandibular fossa which prevents lateral movement of the jaw (lateral movement is necessary for eating plant matter). Yes, I emphasize the “gulp”. Dogs do not “chew” their food. In the wild, resources are scarce, Carnivores are designed to be able to gorge and fast for this very purpose; as they are hard wired for this no amount of thinking “he knows he gets fed twice a day” etc. will change the dog’s perspective. He may crunch down once or twice but the fact remains that he is just not designed to “chew” his food. Many people new to raw feeding freak out that their dog might swallow the meat and/or bones whole. YES, they will pretty much do that. They will tear large chunks of meat off the bone and then if the bone is smaller such as a chicken or turkey bone, they will crush the bone by chomping down once or twice and swallow. God designed the dog’s stomach acids to be much stronger than ours and they are designed for digesting large lumps of meat and even good size pieces of RAW bone.
However much, we humans have done to tinker with and change the dog’s body design (resulting in varying sizes and conformations), we have done nothing to change the internal anatomy and physiology of our carnivorous canines. “Dogs have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore” (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a highly elastic stomach designed to hold large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide. Their stomachs are simple, with an undeveloped caecum (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.).
They have a relatively short foregut and a short, smooth, unsacculated colon. This means food passes through quickly. Vegetable and plant matter, however, needs time to sit and ferment. This equates to requiring longer, sacculated colons, larger and longer small intestines, and occasionally the presence of a caecum. Dogs have none of these, but have the shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivorous animals. This explains why plant matter comes out the same way it came in; there was no time for it to be broken down and digested (among other things). Some educated People know this; this is why they tell you that vegetables and grains have to be pre-processed for your dog to get anything out of them. But even then, feeding vegetables and grains to a carnivorous animal is a highly questionable practice.
“Dogs do NOT normally produce the necessary enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down process of carbohydrates and starches; amylase in saliva is something omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, but not carnivorous animals. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in plant matter. The carnivore’s pancreas does not secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things”
Canine and Feline Nutrition Case, Carey and Hirakawa Published by Mosby, 1995 Experts agree that wolves only eat the stomach contents of their prey when the prey is quite small and it gets consumed as a result of eating the entire animal (like a rabbit for example). L. David Mech, is considered the world’s top wolf biologist. In his book, Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation (2003) he and other contributing experts compiled over 300 years of research and observations of the wild canine. An excerpt from this informative work clearly portrays the natural, instinctive eating behavior of the carnivore. “Wolves usually tear into the body cavity of large prey… and consume the larger internal organs, such as lungs, heart, and liver. The larger rumen/intestines [one of the main stomach chambers] is usually punctured during removal and its contents shaken out or spilled. The vegetation in the intestinal tract is of no interest to the wolves, but the stomach lining and intestinal wall are consumed, and their contents further strewn about the kill site.” [description added] The Kerwood Wildlife Education center (Hunting and Meals pages) describes the eating habits of the wolf as: “The wolf’s diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver, and other internal organs are eaten. Bones are crushed to get to the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well.” The only part consistently ignored is the stomach its self and its contents. Although some vegetable matter is taken separately, particularly berries, Canis Lupis doesn’t seem to digest them very well.” Thus, feeding dogs as though they were humans (omnivores) taxes the pancreas and places extra strain on it, as it must work harder for the dog to digest the starchy, carbohydrate-filled food instead of just producing the normal amounts of the enzymes needed to digest proteins and fats (which, when fed raw, begin to “self-digest” when the cells are crushed through crushing and tearing and their enzymes are released). Our dogs do not have the kinds of friendly bacteria that break down cellulose and starch for them. As a result, most of the nutrients contained in plant matter?even pre-processed plant matter are unavailable to dogs. This is why dog food manufacturers have to add such high amounts of synthetic vitamins and minerals (the fact that cooking destroys all the vitamins and minerals and thus creates the need for supplementation aside) to their dog foods. o compensate for this, the manufacturer must add a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than the dog actually needs. The result of feeding dogs a highly processed, grain-based food is a suppressed immune system and the under-production of the enzymes necessary to thoroughly digest raw meaty bones
(Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones).
Dogs are so much like wolves physiologically that they are frequently used in wolf studies as a physiological model for wolf body processes (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation). Additionally, dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their mitochondrial DNA (
Wayne, R.K. Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family). br>This next quote is from Robert K. Wayne, Ph.D., and his discussion on canine genetics (taken from www.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.html). “The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the gray wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of mDNA sequence…”
Dogs have recently been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris by the Smithsonian Institute (Wayne, R.K. “What is a Wolfdog?”(www.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.html), placing it in the same species as the gray wolf, Canis lupus. The dog is, by all scientific standards and by evolutionary history, a domesticated wolf
(Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 472.). Those who insist dogs did not descend from wolves must disprove the litany of scientific evidence that concludes wolves are the ancestors of dogs. And, as we have already established, the wolf is a carnivore. Since a dog’s internal physiology does not differ from a wolf, dogs have the same physiological and nutritional needs as those carnivorous predators, which, remember, “need to ingest all the major parts of their herbivorous prey, except the plants in the digestive system” to “grow and maintain their own bodies” (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.). Some people are under the impression that the bacteria in raw meat may hurt the dog. IF your dog has an imunocompromised system or some underlying health problem then the bacteria may cause a problem and should be introduced slowly and carefully. Sadly, Raw diets have also been blamed for causing things like pancreatitis and kidney disease, when in reality the underlying disease was already there and is was simply brought to light by the change in diet and detoxing or going through a healing crisis. Dogs are surprisingly well-equipped to deal with bacteria. Their saliva has antibacterial properties; it contains lysozyme, an enzyme that destroys harmful bacteria. Their short digestive tract is designed to push through food and bacteria quickly without giving bacteria time to colonize. The extremely acidic environment in the gut is also a good bacteria colonization deterrent. People often point to the fact that dogs shed salmonella in their feces, (but, then again, even kibble-fed dogs do this as well!) without showing any ill effects as proof that the dog is infected with salmonella. In reality, all this proves is that the dog has effectively passed the salmonella through its system with no problems. Yes, the dog can act as a salmonella carrier, but the solution is simple – do not eat dog poop and wash your hands after picking up after your dog. As mentioned above, even kibble-fed (processed commercial diets) dogs can and do regularly shed salmonella and other bacteria. Most of the documented cases of severe bacterial septicemia are from kibble-fed animals or animals suffering from reactions to vaccines. Commercial pet foods have been pulled off shelves more than once because of bacteria AND molds that produce a deadly toxin. The solution? Use common sense. Clean up well and wash your hands. And think about your dog ? this is an animal that can lick itself, lick other dogs, eat a variety of disgusting rotting things, and ingest its own feces or those of other animals with no ill effects. The dog, plain and simple, can handle greater bacterial loads than we can. Let’s face it, a healthy dog will not suffer from bacterial infections or bacterial septicemia. it is just common sense. A dog suffering from “salmonella poisoning” is obviously not healthy, especially when compared to a dog that ate the same food with the same salmonella load but is perfectly healthy and unaffected. The first dog has suffered a ‘breakdown’ in its health that allowed the bacteria to become a problem; if one is talking in homeopathic medicine terminology, this is simply one more symptom that shows the dog is suffering from chronic disease.
I believe that it is the kibble, not the raw meat, that causes bacterial problems. Kibble in the pet’s intestine not only irritates the lining of the bowels but also provides the perfect warm, wet environment with plenty of undigested sugars and starches as food for bacteria. This is why thousands of processed food-fed animals suffer from a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 85). Raw meaty bones, however, create a very inhospitable environment for bacteria, as RMBs are easily digestible and have no carbohydrates, starches, or sugars to feed the bacteria.
What about Cooked diets?
“There are several aspects of cooked diets that pose problems”. Tom Lonsdale deals with this in depth in Chapter 4 of his book. I highly recommend you read, “Raw Meaty Bones”.
Okay, now to the effects of heat. If you burn your finger, what happens? The skin tissue dies. Overly apply heat to food and the nutrients are progressively killed/destroyed. First of all, the act of cooking alters the proteins, vitamins, fats, and minerals in a food. This alteration can make some nutrients more readily available and others less available. Cooking can alter fats to the point of being toxic and carcinogenic. (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. April 2004. Meat Consumption Patterns and Preparation, Genetic Variants of Metabolic Enzymes, and Their Association with Rectal Cancer in Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 134: 776-784.), and cooked proteins can be altered to the point where they cause allergic reactions whereas raw proteins do not. (Clark, W.R. 1995. Hypersensitivity and Allergy, in At War Within: The double edged sword of immunity, Oxford University Press, New York. pg 88.).
If an animal has an “allergy” to chicken or beef, it may very often be cooked chicken or beef and not the raw form.
Cooking denatures protein. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, denaturation is a modification of the molecular structure of protein by heat or by an acid, an alkali, or ultraviolet radiation that destroys or diminishes its original properties and biological activity. Denaturation alters protein and makes it unusable or less usable. According to Britannica, protein molecules are readily altered by heat: Unlike simple organic molecules, the physical and chemical properties of protein are markedly altered when the substance is just boiled in water. Further: All of the agents able to cause denaturat-ion are able to break the secondary bonds that hold the chains in place. Once these weak bonds are broken, the molecule falls into a disorganized tangle devoid of biological function. Again, according to Britannica the most significant effect of protein denaturation is the loss of the its biological function. For example, enzymes lose their catalytic powers and hemoglobin loses its capacity to carry oxygen. The changes that accompany denaturation have been shown to result from destruction of the specific pattern in which the amino acid chains are folded in the native protein. In Britannica is the acknowledgement that “cooking destroys protein to make it practically useless” There are two ways to denature the proteins: chemically using digestive enzymes, or through the use of heat. Via heat, the body does not have the recombinant ability to utilize damaged denatured protein components (amino acids) and rebuild them once again into viable protein molecules. Some Physiologists claim that cooking and digestion are virtually the same: that cooking is a form of predigestion where heat is used to hydrolyze nutrients that would otherwise be hydrolyzed at body temperature through digestion. This due to the enormous heat exposure during cooking, that denatures the protein molecule past a point of being bioactive, however, body heat is too low to effect the protein molecule so adversely. When proteins are subjected to high heat during cooking, enzyme resistant linkages are formed between the amino acid chains. The body cannot separate these amino acids. What the body cannot use, it must eliminate. Cooked proteins become a source of toxicity: dead organic waste material acted upon and elaborated by bacterial flora. When wholesome protein foods are eaten raw, the body makes maximum use of all amino acids without the accompanying toxins of cooked food. It should be well understood and recognized in scientific literature that heat breaks down vitamins, amino acids and produces undesirable cross-linkages in proteins, particularly in meat. At 110 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 43 degrees Centigrade) two of the 8 essential amino acids, tryptophan and lysine, are destroyed. When food is cooked above 117 degrees F for three minutes or longer, the following deleterious changes begin, and progressively cause increased nutritional damage as higher temperatures are applied over prolonged periods of time: *proteins coagulate *high temperatures denature protein molecular structure, leading to deficiency of some essential amino acids *carbohydrates caramelize *overly heated fats generate numerous carcinogens including acrolein, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, and benzopyrene (one of the most potent cancer-causing agents known) *natural fibers break down, cellulose is completely changed from its natural condition: it loses its ability to sweep the alimentary canal clean * 30% to 50% of vitamins and minerals are destroyed *100% of enzymes are damaged, the body?s enzyme potential is depleted which drains energy needed to maintain and repair tissue and organ systems, thereby shortening the life span. Dr. Kouchakoff of Switzerland conducted over 300 detailed experiments, which pinpointed the pathogenic nature of cooked and processed foods. Food heated to temperatures of just 120 to 190 degrees F (a range usually relegated to warming rather than cooking which, nevertheless destroys all enzymes), causes leukocytosis in the body. Leukocytosis is a term applied to an abnormally high white corpuscle count.
Second, cooked food lacks all the benefits of raw food. Cooked food is deficient in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, because the very act of cooking destroys or alters much of them (exceptions to this are things like lightly steamed broccoli or tomatoes, but these are not appropriate foods for carnivores!). This decreases the bioavailability of these valuable chemicals and makes them less available to the animal. This is why these things have to be added back into cooked diets or processed pet foods This is why a variety of supplements need to be added and why a variety of species inappropriate items are utilized as ingredients in these meals!
Vitamins and minerals can be added back into cooked food, but finding the appropriate balance is incredibly difficult if not impossible. Synthetic vitamins and minerals do not always exhibit the same chirality (three dimensional structure) that the natural forms had, which means their efficiency and use to the body are substantially decreased. This is compensated by over-supplementation, which then results in the inhibited uptake of other necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, excess inorganic calcium reduces the availability of iron, copper, iodine, and zinc.
(Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 88).
If you are feeding a cooked, home-made diet, how can you be sure that your pet’s needs are being sufficiently met if the very act of cooking destroys much of what is beneficial to your pet? Essentially, once you cook your pet’s food you have destroyed the amino acids, and other important nutrients and are now left to guessing which vitamins or minerals have been destroyed, which means you would have to know how much was present in the food in the first place, and how much supplementation your pet now needs. Then you run into another problem: no one really knows what our pets REALLY need and use in terms of vitamins and minerals. We only know what amounts are too much and what amounts are too little OVER A SIX-MONTH PERIOD, not over a period of years. Additionally, how can we be sure that researchers have discovered all the nutrients in raw food that are necessary for our pets? This still is an on-going process (such as Eukanuba adding DHA to their foods; DHA is naturally found in raw prey, so any dog or canid eating raw prey has been receiving appropriate levels of DHA). Feeding cooked food also causes pets to miss out on these ‘unknown’ nutrients, whereas raw food contains them in appropriate amounts. Some try to compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies without resorting to supplements and ignorantly add vegetables, grains, and dairy products to their carnivores’ diets. Complex recipes are developed that create a wide range of foods for the dog (or cat) that must be cooked, steamed, blended, etc. in order for the dog to receive proper nutrition. Our carnivores once again have an omnivorous diet forced upon them in order to help them obtain all the appropriate nutrition that could simply be had by feeding a variety of raw meaty bones and organ meats. Simplicity and perfection are traded for complexity and imperfection. Raw food, however, has the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals if fed as a part of a prey-model diet (i.e. a whole rabbit)
(Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 4.)
Raw food also has unaltered proteins and nutrients, and the bio availability of these nutrients is very high. And raw food, particularly whole carcasses and raw meaty bones provide the NECESSARY teeth-cleaning effects that are lacking in any cooked diet. Periodontal disease-causing bacteria are scraped away at each feeding, whereas a cooked food-fed dog has that bacteria remaining, which are then coated over by a sticky plaque resulting from the cooked grains, vegetables, and meat proteins.
According to the textbook Nutritional Value of Food Processing, 3rd Edition, (by Karmas, Harris, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold) which is written for food chemists in the industrial processed food industry: changes that occur during processing either result in nutrient loss or destruction. Heat processing has a detrimental effect on nutrients since thermal degradation of nutrients can and does occur. Reduction in nutrient content depends on the severity of the thermal processing. Protein molecules under ideal eating and digestive conditions are broken down into amino acids by gastric enzymes. Every protein molecule in the body is synthesized from these amino acids. Protein consumed IS NOT used as protein: it is first recycled or broken down into its constituent amino acids AND THEN used to build protein molecules the body needs.
There are 23 different amino acids. These link together in different combinations in extremely long chains to create protein molecules, In school, we were told it is like individual rail cars form a train. The amino group gives each amino acid its specific identifying characteristic that differentiates it from the others. Excessive heat sloughs off or decapitates the amino group. Without this amino group, the amino acid is rendered useless and is toxic.
I am often berated for recommending a raw diet as being best for our carnivorous pets but after all my research and feeding my own pets this way for many years now, I can not help but believe that our pet dogs (and cats) were meant to eat RAW meat and bones and if all healthy carnivores were fed such that they would be much healthier in the long run. They would Thrive! Not just survive….
You may also want to read Dogs – The Omnivore Carnivore Question
For more information on cooked food versus raw food diets for our dogs, please check out the articles below:
The Pottenger Cat Experiments
Pottenger’s Cats – A Study In Nutrition
Cooked Vs. Raw Foods For Pets I also highly recommend Carissa Kuehn’s web site:
References: Prof. Dr. Sir John Whitman Ray B.A., ND., D.Sc., NMD., CT. MT.. CI, Cert. Pers., PhD., B.C Dip N, MD. (M.A.), Dr. Ac, FFIM., Dp. IM., F.WA I .M., RM., B.E.I.N.Z., S.N.T.R., N Z. Char. NMP, N P A Dr. Francis M. Pottenger Jr. MD Dr. Kouchakoff of Switzerland Dr. Weston A. Price Dr Tom Lonsdale Carissa Kuehn
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