My dog eats pretty much anything, except three things which he doesn’t regard as food. These are – Big Macs, his own crap, and some commercial dog foods. Other than that he’s good to go.
But what should dogs eat if you are trying to apply a paleo/primal philosophy to your whole family, including the dog?
I’m onto my third border collie, Bluey. I love running and playing and generally having him as part of the family. Our family eats whole food with a paleo philosophy where possible. That considered, what should Bluey eat? He’s a dog, not a human, and humans and dogs (probably they were actually wolves then) came together around the time of the agricultural (see a study on this) revolution. There have been many more generations of dogs than humans over that time. They have had to change with us alongside us selectively breeding the ones we wanted.
There is evidence that they are adapted to digest starches better than their wolf cousins (see study In Nature). In fact, there is no such thing as a “paleo” perspective for a dog because they weren’t around in their current form. My take is that modern dogs are in human symbiosis.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what would be a healthy diet for Bluey.
Here’s what I have come up with – along with some principles.
Commercial pet food?
I am assuming that because there is no law in most countries (including NZ) that requires manufactures of pet food to have actual nutritional composition on their food, that this means that the food is probably relatively low quality. Nutrient density is likely to be poor, and how animals do on these sorts of foods is unlikely to be explored.
My bottom line assumption is that there is no sensible business reason for pet food manufacturers to make high quality food. Even the premium brands; we have no way of knowing what is actually in them and if animals do well on them.
Should we ask veterinarians what they think on the issue? Probably not…they have a serious conflict of interest. It’s such a hard business to make money as a vet. No government subsidies. Pet food is a big earner and they survive by selling you this stuff. I’m assuming most vets do actually like animals and want to see them do well, but they really have no training in the science of nutrition (although to be fair that training in human nutrition appears to have been a disadvantage in modern medicine).
Bottom line: Modern commercial pet food is almost certainly poor quality and scarce of nutrients. There is no sensible commercial reason to make it high quality. Avoid it.
ps, if someone can show me some “nutrient dense” commercial food then cool.
Are dogs carnivores?
Nope, they can eat starches and other veges. They can eat raw meats and be quite happy. The have a mouth structure which is full of canines, some molars (I can feel a couple at the very back of Bluey’s mouth) and some small incisors at the front. I am assuming that are evolved to chomp up things tother than meat and bones.
So what is Bluey eating?
- Whole rabbit – shot on Great Barrier Island and bought from Canivoro in Akotaganga Drive, Northcote (who I don’t get free stuff from and have no financial interest in). I’m assuming that a whole wild animal eaten raw with bones and organs has some decent nutritional value for a dog.
- Some dried food - we are using the last of it. I agree its crap but I’m too tight to throw it out!
- Goat, beef, horse – again from Carnivoro – same as above; at least likely to have some nutritional density.
- Bones – lamb shanks, pork ribs, chicken carcasses etc – Our family eats all these meats and what we don’t eat we give to Bluey. I am assuming that scavenging off humans for bones is likely to be a “evolutionary heritage” for modern dog?
- Left overs – bacon, eggs and other scraps the kids throw to him and various left overs on bowls that he displays some interest in. Frankly, this is simply laziness as it helps us do the dishes (the first stage of it anyway) and produces less waste. We do wash the plates properly after Bluey’s done his bit I promise!
- Crap - from any other animal including humans (some claim this is the reason they became endeared to humans in the first place!). I don’t willingly feed this to him as it grosses me out, especially when he later licks me….but he finds shit around the place from time to time.
What he doesn’t eat
The only things he has sniffed and walked away from are:
- a Big Mac
- Several varieties of commercial dog food. I guess he didn’t regard that as food!
- His own crap
Can you have a vegan dog?
Apparently there are such animals living quite well and actually having quite long lives. Who knows how or why? Perhaps they do have such metabolic efficiency. Perhaps they are essentially on severe caloric restriction and therefore live longer like other calorie restricted animals do. Who knows?
I doubt any dog willingly chooses not to eat raw meat though!