Health, advice, and information online community for dog and cat lovers.

Dogs Are Omnivores and Should be Fed as Such

Somehow the notion that dogs are pure carnivores has permeated through internet chat forums, among some non-medically trained people working in the pet industry (groomers, trainers, etc.), and those that take their information seriously.  This notion is based by in large on the multiply erroneous notion that dogs are essentially wolves, and since wolves are pure carnivores, then dogs necessarily should be fed as wolves would eat.

I stated multiply erroneous notion because the true fact is that EVEN WOLVES ARE NOT PURE CARNIVORES!  While it is true that wolves generally require and eat a high level of protein in comparison to dogs, they also consume a significant amount of vegetable matters instinctively, as doing so is necessary for optimal physiological balance and gastrointestinal health in the species.  Wolves consume vegetation from routine grazing on grasses and by tearing open the stomachs of their herbivorous prey and eating the contents.

The other true fact is that dogs are not wolves, but differ from the wolf in DNA structure by about 0.8 %.  That may not seem like much, but only a 1.2% difference in DNA separates us from the chimpanzee.  Few would suggest that we should model our diet around that of a chimpanzee.

Thousands of generations and selective breeding that made domestic dogs more adaptable to life with humans was responsible for the evolution that today differentiates dogs from their ancient ancestor.  Among the most prevalent difference between dogs and wolves that resulted is gastrointestinal physiology and how it impacts overall gastrointestinal and other organ health.  In the process of canine domestication, humans essentially their early more wolf-like canine companions what they ate, and over successive generations, the species adapted to a more omnivorous diet.

Dog owners jumping on board with feeding their dogs nothing but meat, essentially a pure protein diet, is fraught with potentially serious health consequences.  All one has to do is understand protein metabolism to see the problem.

Before protein can be absorbed into body’s cells and tissues for metabolic and physiological purposes, it must first be broken down into small chains of proteins called peptides, and in some cases broken down to the individual molecular protein building blocks, amino acids.  Once absorbed by the gut, amino acids and peptides are then repackaged and utilized by the body.

It all sounds lovely, but protein metabolism does not come without a price, as it generates a toxic waste product called ammonia.  In fact, many common meat protein sources are as low as 78% utilized by the body with the rest represented as waste.  Luckily, like us, canines have a liver that converts ammonia into a less harmful molecule called urea, which is then excreted by the kidneys in urine.

However, the liver and kidneys over time become overwhelmed with a diet heavily laden with protein, because these organs are constantly burdened with detoxification.  Over time, if excessively taxed in this manner through diet, these organs become compromised, leading to degenerative disease, chronic renal failure in the case of the kidneys, and cirrhosis in the case of the liver.

Physiologically, dietary protein for the average adult canine should not exceed 25% of the total daily nutrient intake.  In high performance dogs, such as those that participate in in field or agility competition, that requirement may be increased to 27%.  Beyond this level of  protein the dog suffers deficiencies in other key nutrients, such as soluble and insoluble fiber and anti-oxidants to name a few, while unnecessarily taxing his liver and kidneys with excessive protein metabolic waste.

Canine owners that feed raw are the biggest offenders with regard to overloading their dogs with protein, many feeding nothing but a raw meat diet.  For these pet owners that are committed to raw feeding, if they are feeding their dogs nothing but meat, I would urge them to integrate fresh or cooked vegetables to represent at least 50% of total dietary intake.  Green beans, carrots, broccoli, celery, and spinach are all healthy vegetable sources for dogs.  It is also a good idea to integrate complex carbohydrate sources, such as brown rice and sweet potato, as well as some canine safe fruits like cantaloupe, apples, and pears.

What is most troublesome to me is that some commercial pet food companies are taking advantage of the canine pure carnivore hype and creating diets that are heavily laden with protein, even going further to validate this false notion in their promotional tactics.  I was actually inspired to write this post after having seen a TV commercial two nights ago from a large, well known pet food company touting its newest diet as having one of the highest protein percentages in the industry.

I caution all canine owners to not buy into the hype, not listen to non-medically trained people that recommend a dietary regimen without understanding that over time it does damage to the liver and kidneys while denying the canine other essential nutrients; and reject pet food companies touting false claims, who clearly value sales far more than the well-being of their canine consumers.   If in doubt, talk to your veterinarian to help you sift through what is best to feed your dog.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

49 thoughts on “Dogs Are Omnivores and Should be Fed as Such

  1. Mary Crawford says:

    You don’t know much about wolves. Wolves do NOT eat the stomach content of their prey. They rip the stomach open and shake the content out. This has been documented by wildlife biologists. Plus, I spent one year in Canada studying the eating habits of wolves and I never saw one wolf eat the stomach content of their prey. And even if wolves did consume the stomach content of their herbivore prey lets take a look at what these animals eat: grass, herbs, and leaves. They’re not vegetables!!! And what are the starch/carb content of herbs, grass, and leaves?: 0%, as oppose to vegetables like carrots 61 mg; potato 213g; squash 196g. So, to say wolves consume carbs and therefore dogs should too is total rubbish. Liver overburden by detoxing protein??? More rubbish. I’m glad I don’t get nutritional advice from you. Your article is total disinformation. How much is the Pet Food industry paying you to say this?

    • Dr. Roger says:

      I am so glad that you posted, as this is the exact “conspiracy theorist” rhetoric that propagates the internet. I have been a veterinarian for nearly 12 years, and have many veterinarian friends…and the notion that we are somehow in league with a pet food industry that gives us kickbacks and expensive vacations so that we base our nutritional advice on what they want us to say is beyond laughable. As much as those of your ilk want to believe that, it simply ios not true. Veterinarians actually by in large loathe the pet food industry, with no real oversight of the industry, they can feed you dog road kill, brand it as the greatest diet on earth, and no one is watching to call them out on it…except us.

      Contrary to what you conspiracy theorists choose to believe, most veterinarians chose this career path because we are generally good people who love animals. Any one of us could have far more easily chose human medicine and made at least double the money, with getting into veterinary school being 5 times more difficult to get accepted than medical school.

      Before I was a veterinarian, I got a bachelors degree in biochemistry, so organ physiology and evolution was well engrained for me well before I learned medical physiology and phygiological chemistry in my veteirnary ciruculum. What you call rubbish is well reaseached and scientific fact based on decades of countless unbiased, peered reviewed clinical studies and feeding trials. What’s more, modern evolutionary biologists in the study of how genetic code of the domestic dog differs from that of the wolf, have discovered starch assymilating genes that suggest that canine evolution in part was sparked by wolves adapting their diets to eat more like us. Here is an article discussing this point, it is by the BBC, who as far as I know, is not funded by the pet food industry:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21142870

      I am glad that you do not get nutritional advice from me as well…you clearly already know everything. :-)

      • James says:

        Wow, what a load of BS. Veterinary clinics do in fact (fact, yes fact) work hand in hand with certain dog food manufacturers, primarily Hills and Royal Canin. These companies “educate” vets on the nutritional benefits *choke* of their foods and offer a variety of rewards in exchange for their promotion. To deny this you are either an unethical vet or just a blatant liar.

        • Dr. Roger says:

          Fact, huh? I suppose you must have worked in every single veterinary hospital in the continental United States to be so certain of this “fact.” I appreciate you also knowing as fact that I am a blatantly lying, and/or unethical veterinarian without ever having even had a conversation with me, let alone met me in person or set foot in my veterinary clinic. Thanks for taking the time to comment…it was most enlightening.

        • Michelle says:

          These are the exact kind of vitriolic posts that make having an open and honest discussion in a forum too often devolve into a miserable experience.

          James “facts” are so untrue, it makes me seethe to read them. I used to work in Dr. Welton’s clinic and still bring my pets to see him because he is not only the most ethical, skilled and knowledgeable veterinarian I know, but one of the best people PERIOD that I know.

          Nobody, certainly the food companies that I never saw him give the time of day to when they called on him, dictates the type of medicine Dr. Welton practices, aside from new techniques and medical protocols he learns from all of the continuing education he constantly does.

          Another reason I continue to and always will being my pets to Dr. Welton is because he practices all facets of medicine, including holistic medicine. He controls acute pain and stabilizes his patients with traditional western medicine and surgery, but encourages owners to transition to techniques like acupuncture, therapy laser, and nutritional supplements.

          I also continue to work with Dr. Welton through a pet rescue I am passionate about, one of several that he donates his time and services to for nothing but love of the animals that he helps us save.

          People like you should really think twice before making generalizations about others simply because you disagree with an article; because if you knew the “facts” about Dr. Welton and his blessed hospital and how our community views him, you would regret having made them.

          Don’t let this person get you down, Doc, no matter how much good a person may do in life, there will always be haters. Thousands of pet owners on the Florida Space Coast and however many of your fans that read your blog and listen to you podcast know better!

          Back to James, before you decide to make any other judgement about Dr. W from afar, you should take a moment to visit his holistic web site:

          http://www.drrogerholisticvet.com/

          m

          • Dr. Roger says:

            Michele, thanks. That was very kind of you, and please know that I have deep admiration for your group and the work you do for the unfortunate innocents in our community. As you well know, I am still waiting for that fully paid Hawaii vacation courtesy of the Hills corporation…perhaps if I even knew my Hills’ rep’s name, that may have come to fruition by now. :-)

            Best regards,

            Dr. Roger

    • Dr. Roger says:

      Wolves do indeed eat the stomach contents from their prey. Our county zoo that has red wolves and its veterinarian substantiate that. They also graze on grasses regularly. The carbohydrate component in grasses are much higher than I am sure you would care to believe, however, the truth is that as plant matter, then undergo photosynthesis, a process that turns water and carbon dioxide (catalyzed by UV light) into glucose. GLUCOSE is a CARBOHYDRATE. Believe what you want, but grasses are loaded with carbohydrates, which is why most of the starchy foods people eat – bread, cereals, beer, ect – are derived from grasses like wheat, barley and rye. Corn is a grass, selectively bred up from being a much smaller grass called maize to the large plant we see today – famously accomplished by Native Americans. So technically, corn too is a grass and is also very carb rich.

      If you do not believe that the liver has to work overdrive to process excessive protein, try feeding protein to a dog in liver failure and see what happens.

      • Tess says:

        Thank u!!! Finally someone who knows what she is talking about! Vets know very little about prey feeding!!,, as is seen in this article. My dogs are so healthy,happy and NEVER need a vet for anything,, I guess this is this issue!
        Maybe the vets should go see how this yummy nutritional “kibble” is made,, then let them eat it!’,,,it is vile..

  2. Anon says:

    Thanks Dr Roger – finally someone speaking sense on this issue instead of the silliness regurgitated by many (well meaning) folks who happily accept so-called facts from non-experts (without any scientific backing), but somehow ignore the professionals!

    Case in point – one Raw dog food company website I looked at says this:

    “You will probably have come across the expression ‘as fit as a butchers dog’. This is a commonly used phrase to describe a person (or animal) that is in optimum health. The phrase itself derived from the fact that not too long ago, healthy dogs were fed from the butchers, not the supermarket. It was a well known fact that a dog fed on butchers scraps would be a very lucky (and well fed) dog indeed.”

    See how liberally the word “fact” is banded about without any evidence whatsoever. It gets worse further in, but that gives you a taster, so to speak.

    I implore all dog owners to buy the highest quality dog food they can afford, but don’t get taken in by the latest nonsense trends!

    • Dr. Roger says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I will concede that there are some dogs that do better fed raw, and the risk of raw food pathogens is justified…however, for the optimal health of the dog, even thee cases should have a significant vegetable component to their diet. We have to look at each dog individually. Anybody claiming that one modality of feeding is right for every dog at every life stage is either being disingenuous or is simply rather misinformed. Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Mr. Factual says:

    The fabric of our society is bull. It saddens me that so many people are deceived as usual. What God made, is simple as that. Yes God, and not evolution.Being a wolf biologist, and observing several subspecies; that would include: Iberian, Italian,Tundra, 3 different Canadian species, 1 Alaskan, giant Russian wolf species, the American Midwest wolves,and the red wolves of South Carolina, and coy wolves of New England. I serve on a holistic vet council and have 2 border collies, a real german shep, a corgi, and 2 wolf hybrids. I know beyond compare, that Canis Lupus Familiaris is a carnivore, period. 1 percent difference in wolves and dogs. Science has proven this. You people are so brain washed and want your beloved pet to be human like yourselvs. Even through time, the gut of the dog has not evolved. Only a small percentage of the brain and skull has. Having said that, When I feed my canines raw chicken leg quarters, and or whole rabbits some days, and ground venison and or beef with ground whole eggs another and an E400 with fish oil with them all,and with a liver of sorts maybe thrice a week, they thrive. Even on Orijen, Back to Basics, and Evo Dog Foods, they do exceptionally well. On other foods like Nutro, Eukanuba, and Blu; they did ok, not nearly as well or thrive. For one, Wolves do not eat stomach contents of their prey. However, cats do. Canines go for organs first. Wild Felidae will eat guts first. Also, cats do eat grass and berries in the wild. We’ve seen wild lions eat melons. This all what has been observed in the wild across the world. Also, science had been established. I said all of this to say that the physiology of the animal tells us things we know to be fact; couple that with natural life style of the animal, common sense will kick in. Note that grains and starches are in our cats foods and they do just as well on an omnivorous diet,let you people tell it. Something else we have observed in the clinics is that protein from plant sources are not equal to that of animal protein. I have so much data i cant share it all right now. But people, wake up and dont fall for the nonsense. In our clinics, we see sooo many dogs and cats healed just by being put on a protein based low carb diet. High and moderate meat based diets. Raw, dehydrated, and kibble. lOOK it up.

  4. Mr. Factual says:

    Let me add, most Vets dont get much education on nutrition while in school.

    • Dr. Roger says:

      I appreciate you taking the time to post, but having actually attended veterinary school, I will tell you unequivocally, that veterinary students receive a great deal of education in nutrition. It starts in first semester first year with species specific nutrient needs in a course called “Animal Nutrition.” In second semester of first year, moving on through the entirety of third year, we have physiology, which essentially tells us how the organ systems and biochemistry of the body works from the tissue, all the down to the cellular and molecular level. Nutrition and how it relates to these systems, how a proper balance or lack of proper balance per species affects these systems is frequently discussed.

      From there, we begin medicine and discuss disease specific nutrition, that is, how diseases are managed in large part nutritionally, eg., protein, phosphorus, and sodium restricted diet for chronic kidney failure. We learn to avoid copper rich diets for dogs with hepatitis from copper storage disorder, feeding diets heavy in L-Carnitine for dog breeds predisposed to dilative cardiomyopathy, and supplementing with omega-3 fish oils for management of arthritis, allergy, and autoimmune disease…to name but a few examples of disease management through nutrition and nutraceutical supplementation.

      Once veterinarians, we receive regular continuing education on nutrition. I consideration of all of this, this notion that we do not receive nutritional education in veterinary school and as practicing veterinarians, is clearly complete fabricated myth beyond calculation, and one that is propagated by people do not even know a veterinary, let alone experienced a veterinary curriculum first hand.

      • jium says:

        But if you spend so much time on animal nutrition at vet school, why so many vets still recommend cat owners to feed their cats with dry food when they know it’s full of carbs, low on animal protein and low on water? Stuff that can cause many diseases to felines? Don’t they teach that cats need water, animal protein and low carbs IN their food?

        I remember not once did the doctors at my local clinic say to switch my cat’s food from dry kibbles to at least wet food (cans or raw meat)!

        I had to learn like a dummy that dry kibbles is the worst BS to give to a cat. One did suggest to change from my Costco bag of kibbles to his Science Diet but I told him the Costco was cheaper. Three years ago, I have since made the transition to from dry to cans to raw meat and my cat is healthy and back to a normal weight. I also probably avoided potential urinary infections. It must have been a miracle that my cat didn’t get any in his first 12 years on that BS dry food.

        • Dr. Roger says:

          Thanks for taking the time to comment. Nutrition, like any other branch of science, is ever evolving. You make good points that simple carbohydrates are not good for cats, and we thus should be limiting their intake. On the other hand, while not a physiological requirement for optimal digestive health like dogs and people, many cats benefit from fiber in the diet, especially those that experience constipation issues as they age. As such, moderate amounts of vegetable complex carbohydrate and insoluble fiber are generally good for cats. Still. a feline’s diet should be most heavy in protein as, unlike dogs and people, cats are really a pure carnivore, in that their are capable of making any nutrient they need from protein. They are better adapted at synthesizing glucose from protein, which makes adding glucose in their food detrimental, increasing their risk of obesity, endocrine disease, and pancreatic issues.

          This unique understanding of feline nutritional physiology has been known for quite some time, yet the industry until recently has provided feline diets that are too canine like in their nutrient breakdowns. It was just not recognized enough, nor given enough credence until recently. True to the western approach to medicine, the focus has always been treat the disease once it manifests, but prevention and wellness through nutrition and lifestyle were not emphasized. That is rapidly changing for the better, just as it is in human health, where even we are recognizing that simple carbohydrates are not really good for us either!

          At any rate, these issues are not from lack of education, but more to the point less of a focus on how powerful nutrition really is. Cats need to be fed as cats and their evolution dictate. From my point of view, that would be 80% protein and 20% complex carbohydrate and insoluble fiber. However, there is nothing wrong with going 100% protein and adding fiber down the road in the event of GI issues (chronic vomiting, constipation, chronic loose stools, etc.). I also find that cats do well fed raw, with the risk of raw meat bacterial toxicity quite low. I would caution watching your sources of the raw meat, however. I did a three part series on raw feeding some time ago, that details the best sources of raw meat to feed animals that will minimize the risk of raw meat toxicity…take a look when you get a chance.

          The general notion that kibble is terrible for cats, however, I disagree as a blanket statement. With periodontal disease representing the second most common chronic disease in cats, good kibble technology is a powerful tool to clean the teeth the massage the gums. High quality kibble can fulfill ideal nutrient requirements for cats and need not be laden heavily with carbohydrate to achieve the necessary texture. Diets like Fromm, Innova, and Solid Gold are good examples of high quality diets that come in kibble form while staying true to the physiological nutritional needs of the feline. One draw back to these diets, however, is cost. In order to provide a species appropriate nutritionally balanced diet for cats and take as much carbohydrate filler out of the diet as possible, it makes the diets expensive (filler is cheap). The majority of kibble diets on the market, however, are not appropriately nutritionally balanced for cats, and the worst offenders are grocery store and super store brands of cat foods. It is these diets where your statement about kibble is true.

          • jium says:

            Thanks for the answer, doc.

          • jium says:

            Kibble no matter what brand, the cheap or expensive ones that you mentioned, are still too dry with its 10% moisture. You’re looking at higher chances, although not guaranteed, of expensive urinary infections.

            Better not take any chances and well hydrate one’s cat with cans with their 80% moisture or raw meaty bones.

  5. jane Bennett says:

    Great article – thanks for this. Based on good science and fact, of which there is not enough around. I’m sorry you got some of the ‘what you say is crap’ level of response that passes for ‘debate’ too often on the net. Keep up the gret advice:-). And how nice to see someone speaking up who knows you also.

  6. Amy says:

    Thank you for this informative and insightful piece. It’s nice to have an actual vet talk about these things, half of what I find on the topic is from sites which are quite obviously bias towards raw diets so having someone who is qualified and knowledgeable rip into these theories is fun to see.

  7. Jill Pipkin says:

    I find your article very valuable. I would definitely visit your practice if I lived in your area.
    I have a chow-shapei dog fifteen years old. She is deaf and has cataracts, but enjoys walks. I feed her canned food Merrick, Innova and SC, and some kibble and human food –chicken or beef with brown rice and peas and carrots.
    Yesterday I was in a pet store and spoke to the representative from BilJac. I have been feeding my dog some senior food from BilJac.
    I was ready to buy more. The rep insisted that dogs are carnivores, which I did not agreet to.
    She talked about the high protein — all chicken — in the adult food. When she old me the %, I think over over 30%, I became worried. But I bought the food because it is only a small part of my dog’s diet.
    However, after reading your article I am taking the food back.

    On another point. I have had cats for so many years. The problem with the urinary tract went away when I switched to Science Diet. I believe this is because of the ph, which SD carefully monitors. In the six years with SD, no more urinary tract issues.
    I am dismayed because the vets never talk about this issue, nor warn about the problem with too basic a diet.
    I worked for SD for two years until they laid off all their reps. I learned very valuable info from their training.
    I know people still believe that SD pays vets to
    carry their product. I do not believe this.

  8. Jill Pipkin says:

    Again, Dr. Roger, your comments are very valuable to be as a long time guardian of dogs and cats.
    Re greens: there is a wild grass in my yard that both the cats and dogs like very much. The dogs nibble when they are outside. The cats as well- if I pick it (long blades) and give it to the cats they pounce on it as if were catnip. I would lie to know the name of this plant and I am going to take some to a nursery to find out.

    Can you tell me why corn has gotten such a bad rap. The cats like it all by itself.

  9. Jill Pipkin says:

    Dr. Roger, Is there a difference in the metabolism of plant protein vs. animal protein?
    thank you.

    • Dr. Roger says:

      Jill,

      Excellent question! The answer to it is not black and white, as the metabolism of vegetable protein versus animal protein depends on the source of the plant/animal. There is a term we use in protein nutrient assimilation called bioavailability. This refers to the amount of protein is broken down and absorbed, versus the amount that is excreted as waste. An example of a highly bioavailable animal protein source would be eggs, which provides 91% available protein; versus one of the least bioavailable animal protein sources, beef, which is about 78% bioavailable.

      In general, animal source protein is more bioavailable than than plant protein, with soy representing the most bioavailable plant protein with a bioavailability of 72%. On the up side, waste associate with plant protein is generally innocuous to the body, non-toxic, easily process and eliminated, whereas animal protein waste is primarily ammonia. The good news, is that dogs and cats have livers and kidneys the former that converts ammonia into urea, which the latter then eliminates via the urine. The bad news is, that less animal proteins have a much higher tendency to cause food allergy.

      Back to your original question, in general, the canine utilizes animal protein more efficiently than plant based protein. This is probably doubly true for felines. On the other hand, animal protein is over time can have more pay backs with regard to the development of food allergy, and must be restrained in cases of kidney and/or liver disease. This is why pure animal protein based diets for dogs does not make sense and that benefit from a more omnivorous diet. Cats are better equipped for a pure animal protein diet, but they do benefit from some integration of plant based protein, which also provides some fiber that has a positive effect on their GI systems, while also providing anti-oxidants that have powerful immune boosting and detoxification properties.

      Thanks so much for your contribution. As I stated, excellent question!

      Best regards,

      Dr. Roger

      • Dr. Roger says:

        Your experience serves you well, as the lion’s share of feline urinary tract problems are pH related. Thus, regulating pH tends to be the best method to maintain healthy urinary tracts; and as you stated, this is most effectively accomplished through diet. Regarding Biljac, good choice to stop it…it has a bad reputation for having poor nutrient sources, and full of filler and poor quality animal by-product.

        Thanks for taking the time to read the article, as well as provide valuable feedback. Good luck!

        Dr. Roger

        • Dr. Roger says:

          Once again, great comments! Case in point that there is benefit to some integration of plant based nutrition for both dogs and cats…and as your experience dictates, many even crave it. Good call on finding out the type of grass your fur kids are nibbling on to ensure its safety.

          Regarding the corn bad wrap, it started among groomers and breeders for the most part…essentially people in the pet industry that may be knowledgeable, but for the most part, lack real veterinary medical training; believing more in “research” or innuendo they may hear from colleagues and friends more than hard science. These folks also tend to be the most active on internet forums and pet chat sites, so once something becomes popular in this community, it tends to spread like wildfire.

          The corn-phobic crown generally found out that corn in its native form has an outer shell that it near impossible for dogs and cats to break down, thus negating any of its nutrient properties for these species. What they fail to accept, however, is that reputable pet food manufacturers remove the outer shell prior to adding corn to the food. Once the outer shell is removed, corn actually provides many important nutrients, including protein building amino acids.

          Another notion got percolated among the corn naysayers, that it is highly allergenic. This is actually rather untrue, as corn generally falls in the mid to high twenties on most food allergy ranking lists, based on actually blind feeding studies. While I would agree that all grains including corn should be eliminated for suspect food allergy cases, realistically, corn does not even come close to making the top 10 of food allergens.

          Best regards,

          Dr. Roger

          • Jill Pipkin says:

            Yes, the info I was given when I worked as a science diet rep showed that corn was far less allergenic than other grains, and that it had important nutrients.
            Would corn I can buy at the market have this other shell? If so, if I mash the corn, will it be digestible by my dog and or cat?
            My cats like corn, btw.

        • Jill Pipkin says:

          the BilJac rep said they use only organic chicken and chicken organs. How do I square that with what you have said.
          Would it just be among vets that their reputation is bad?

          Thank you.

  10. C-Dog says:

    Have you seen this? http://www.dogaware.com/health/kidneyprotein.html

    I have done my fair share of reading on the subject. And what I have gathered is that dogs are carnivores as far as their teeth, jaws, and digestive tract is concerned. It’s short. They’re not obligate carnivores though. And a more recent reading I’ve done…a study about how they digest and use grain shows that they have evolved to digest grain quite well. This big fear of grain is a really weird trend these days. (If it’s got to do with allergies, well then…okay.) They did, after all, have a convergent evolution with humans so over all this time, some change would be expected. I might almost say that behaviorally, they’re omnivores. I don’t know whether or how much vegetable matter they need. But I tend to like the premium dog foods that have lots of protein, even for my senior dogs and also have some vegetables, berries and some suppliments. Fish oil is good to give them. I also feed an egg once or twice a week with their premium kibble and/or canned. Merrick, Hound and Gato, Taste of the Wild Kibble right now. Sometimes a few bites of my food if it’s something like chicken, green beans, carrots, steak. I try not to give too much fatty stuff because I’m paranoid about pancreatitis. (Poodles) Anyhow, I think I can take something from both sides of the argument above…some good points from both imo. Good topic!

  11. Deb says:

    Hello, I am tying to get a better understanding of this topic and while I generally tend to lean towards the side of pro grain in pet food, I have seen some fairly compelling arguments against it. What really compels me is the argument concerning coefficient of fermentation. While there is evidence that dogs have digestive tracts that are longer, they still ferment starches and fibers at the same level as a carnivore as compared to an omnivore. This would lead one to believe that dogs are more carnivorous and should be fed a higher amount of animal protein and less starch. Could you please explain this?

    • Dr. Roger says:

      Deb,

      I would not necessarily lean toward pro-grain diet, but also not necessarily fear the grains as the devil as some would have you believe. Realistically, there is no one dietary strategy that works for every dog. There are some dogs that have sensitive GI tracts, for example, and consequently thrive best on a low residue, simple carbohydrate laden diet, admixed with enough well assimilated, lean protein source such as poultry to meet their protein needs. Other dogs may be prone to obesity, so they are best served avoiding grains and relying on lean protein and complex carbohydrates from vegetables to provide optimal nutrition.

      We are learning that evolution is a much more complex process than simply survival of the fittest. As Carrie pointed out in an earlier post, dogs evolved away from being wolves in large part because their more human like diet by some measure driving their evolution. While survival of the fittest played some role to be sure, other phenomena, such as evolution of cooperation likely also played a role. If you are interested learn more on evolution of cooperation, here is a Wikipedia link that explains it pretty well:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-operation_(evolution)

      With regard to fermentation rates, I really do not put much credence in focusing on the length of the GI tract, as many factors beyond length affect the rate at which starches may ferment in the gut. Individual tolerances play a big role in this process, as well as individual basal metabolic rates. Beans have historically carried the stigma of causing people to emit excess flatulence. The reason for this is because beans have a higher tendency to ferment in the hind gut of people compared to other foods, making those who ingest beans more prone to experiencing the gassy bi-product of said fermentation. Realistically, however, the overall percentage of people that get very bad gas from beans is low…for the most part, it is just a funny joke about that “magical fruit.” :-) The reason I bring this up is because individual varying tolerance of beans has more to do with one’s own physiology than it does the length of our guts.

      Back to you original question, I would agree that dogs are more carnivorous than people, but less so than wolves. Thus, I would advise a higher percentage of protein for the average dog than what would be recommended for the average person, as well as a limitation put on the amount of starch they consume (many people would do well to do the same for themselves). While I will always maintain that dogs are omnivorous, I would never agree that they are as omnivorous as we are. We can consider them as kind of a “tweener” between us and wolves.

      Thanks for taking the time to contribute. I have seen some excellent thought and great discussion points raised to day. This is all very refreshing!

      Dr. Roger

  12. TJL says:

    God, thank you for this piece. All I’ve been hearing is people getting up on their high-horses and preaching about the glorious raw-diet, and it’s just- you’re not vets. You’re not. I’ll take my vet, who’s been studying animals for over thirty years, over the fear-mongering any day.

  13. dogperson says:

    My dogs have all lived to be 14 (Heinz 57, a Siberian/shepherd and a Lab.) On a varied, somewhat omnivorous diet without health problems. My Sib/GSD in particular enjoyed carrots, sweet potato, snap peas right off the plant, pureéd pumpkin, squash etc. He also liked meat. Isn’t it true they have the gut and dentition of an omnivore, unlike cats?!

  14. michael says:

    I came to this site for learned onfo. I’m not expert in dog digestion. But this stopped me from taking you seriously: your characterization of breeding as “evolution.” Evolution is a theory used model the divergence of SPECIES as a random progression. Breeding merely demonstrates the variety WITHIN a species. Dogs are a variety of wolf, not a separate specie. That rummy “mistake” leads me to search elsewhere for truth about dogs’ diets.

    • david says:

      Yes. This is a very biased untruthful vet, and I would not believe anything he said. Especially when he advocates dogs using sugar as energy over fats.

      • Dr. Roger says:

        Well, as Taylor Swift eloquently puts it, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate, hate…Shake it off, Shake it of.” LOl! I saved several lives today, what have you done except hate on a veterinarian you have never even met?

        Have a great day!

        Dr. Roger

  15. Anne says:

    Thank you for this article. It brings knowledge to people that doubt whether to believe the raw meat hype or not. I agree with you on this matter and we see it all happening on front of our eyes. I find it very sad to see how angry the people get at a veterinarian that speaks with knowledge and tries to advise against this hype. It is almost becoming a religion. They all shout (in anger?) and repeat the statements they read online and in forums. It’s a very sad development, but I think that it will not be too long from now that the long term negative effects will become visible and dog owners will change again from trusting online dog nutritionists to trusting educated veterinarians and veterinary science.

  16. Holly says:

    Im a big fan! Thank you so much for being an amazing Dr!!
    I have always had Golden Retrievers.
    It is well documented that they get Lymphoma. I’m on my 3rd Golden and she is 8 and healthy. I just visited my vet and she said the same thing you said about dogs not needing so much protein. Is it best to buy the kinds they sell in the office? She likes the total canin because its also good for her teeth. I was wondering if there is a food that is best for her breed that typically get lymphoma. Or am I just as good buying Purina?

    Help!! Thank you so much and i’m sorry you got such a crappy email from that person earlier. I love you!!!!!!!! Thank you for your smarts and your time.

    • Dr. Roger says:

      Holly,

      Thanks for the feedback and the kind words. With regard to diet, there really is no one perfect dietary strategy for each individual dog. What may work very well for one dog, may not agree with another. As a general rule of thumb, I generally advise avoiding commercial pet food brands sold in grocery stores or superstores. If you are looking for a convenient, well rounded food, the two brands that balance quality with cost from my perspective are Royal Canin and Science Diet. I would advise a large breed senior formulation of either; and both can be found in large retail pet stores.

      However, if you really want to be proactive in feeding in a manner that is preventive for cancer, I would refer you to my cancer management article at my holistic veterinary website. While this article is meant for dogs living with cancer, the dietary and supplementary regimens outlined in the article are also appropriate for cancer prevention in an aging dog, of a breed that tends to be prone to cancer.

      http://www.drrogerholisticvet.com/#!cancer-prevention-and-support/c241e

      Feeding in this manner does not rule out that a dog could get cancer one day – many factors in the predisposition to cancer are genetic, environmental, or random in nature – but it can help to slow or delay the onset and severity of cancers if/when they are imminently to arrive.

      You are keeping yourself well informed, clearly pursue regular wellness veterinary care, and seem quite dedicated to doing what you can to maintaining your dog’s quality of life and longevity…that goes a long way. The best tool we often have against the onset of cancer is early detection. Thus, it would be a good idea at this point in your Golden’s life to have yearly wellness blood work done for the purpose of early disease screening.

      Best regards and thanks again for the great feedback!

      Dr. Roger

    • david says:

      Hi Holly, how unusual a vet telling you to feed your dogs carbohydrates, and having a surgery full of dog food loaded with carbohydrates. Ever seen a dog in nature eat rice or wheat from the fields, or vegetables from the crops, or jump up to eat fruit from the trees? LOL Ever wonder why your dog doesn’t produce the specialised enzyme amylase in the salivary gland to help it break down carbohydrates? Ever wonder why your vet wants you to feed your dog carbohydrates that are converted into sugar as energy, when your dogs natural biology should be burning fats as energy?

  17. Vicki says:

    Thank you for this article! I work in a vet clinic as a CVT and I’m so tired of people taking the advice of someone working at PetSmart , i.e. the GROOMER over their veterinarian. Great article!

  18. Erik says:

    I was trying to pick out a food for our miniature poodle. I saw your recommendations about 25% protein for base and up to 27% protein for active dogs. I also read our recommendation about what brands to look at to Holly. When I went to look up Royal Canin Miniature Poodle mix they have a 30% protein content in the food. Do miniature Poodles really need that much more protein?

  19. david says:

    I am really not sure why Dr. Welton you are making false claims about dogs being omnivores, and modern dogs having no ancestry to timer wolves. A simple google search would indicate there is enough scientific DNA evidence and data available to determine that modern dogs evolved from timber wolves around 15,000 years ago. Modern dogs also lack the specialized enzyme amylase from the salivary gland to break down carbohydrates. Yet, with the scientific biological evidence in front of you, you still advocate individuals feed there dogs carbohydrates that their pets are incapable digesting. Why would do this?

  20. david says:

    I don’t understand how a professional Vet in good conscience could advocate feeding a carnivore 50% carbohydrates in their diet. You do realize the cats and dogs natural biology will covert all these carbohydrates into SUGAR as energy? I suppose you are suggesting sugar is a good energy source for a carnivore – LOL Tell me again Dr what brand dog food do you sell in your surgery – Purina; Advantage; Royal Canin?

    • Dr. Roger says:

      I actually don’t sell any food from my veterinary hospital outside of disease specific prescription diets. If I had my choice, I would not even sell those, as like most vets, we detest being in the pet food business…pet food takes up too much space, and the margins on it are horrible.

      In my surgery, I do surgery, no food in there…not sure what you are getting at there.

  21. Jayne says:

    What an interesting article and what a confusing subsequent thread.
    A little while ago I listened to a talk given by a proponent of raw feeding. I listened carefully but still couldn’t find a sound reason for feeding only raw food. One thing that the speaker did say that I knew was nonsense was this – she said that years ago, dog droppings were mainly white and that was due to raw feeding. Well I remember those times years ago, I even knew some of the dogs that were responsible and they had never seen raw meat in their lives. Years ago the main diet of dogs was table scraps mixed in with the odd tin of dog food and some dried dog biscuit if the table scraps were insufficient. Most dogs were given bones fairly regularly for no other reason than they liked them. This may have accounted for the lack of dental problems at the time. Canine nutrition was something that nobody bothered about, not because they didn’t care about their dogs, they did, but because the dogs remained healthy. Most dogs in our neighbourhood were mongrels and were full of hybrid vigour, living long and healthy lives. I have often wondered how this squares up with today’s emphasis on raw feeding.
    I am always deeply suspicious of anyone who bangs any particular drum as there is usually a hidden agenda. I have known vets who sell ludicrously expensive foods and the fact that it is being sold in the vet’s seems to give it some credence as a good food. I rather suspect that most of the time it’s being sold because there’s a decent profit to be made. On the other hand I have also encountered half baked ‘nutritionists’ who once did a half day course on dog biscuits (yes I am being sarcastic) and claim that they are qualified to give nutrition advice. I am even more suspicious of them.
    Every dog we’ve ever had has enjoyed very good health indeed. This has included a vet not believing me when I assured her that one of my greyhounds was nine years old. She said that I must be mistaken because the dog couldn’t be more than 6 in view of her physique, her teeth and her general wellness. We currently have one greyhound who has lived with us for 4 years who has never had to go to the vet at all. Over the years we have had mongrels and pedigrees, many rescued dogs and cats. They’ve all enjoyed good health and long lives, this cannot possibly be happy coincidence. They have however had this in common. They have had a mixed diet – very mixed. They have eaten kibble, dog biscuits, tinned dog food, cooked raw meat, cooked vegetables, cooked pasta, table scraps (low salt) They get plenty of exercise, they aren’t fat, they are wormed regularly and treated for fleas regularly.
    So perhaps the answer is not to get hung up on any one way of doing things and that perhaps to remember that dogs have evolved to live with humans over many thousands of years and that for many of those years they remained healthy and reproduced by eating whatever was around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>