“We are what we eat”, a well-known saying that not only applies to people but also our best friends, dogs. A healthy diet brings multiple benefits, such as a healthier, happier, and longer life. In this article, we will focus on a well-balanced dog diet. So what food is good for dogs?
Omnivores with a Carnivore Tendance
Dogs followed a carnivorous diet at the beginning of their domestication. It’s easy to understand since canines are related to wolves and dingoes. However, they also adapted to an omnivorous diet.
The presence of premolars and molars in canines indicates an evolved dentition for an omnivorous diet. Among all of them, the gray wolf is the one that has a more carnivorous diet, occasionally eating fruits and other foods. If we were to imagine a percentage, this could be around 80-85% carnivorous. The rest of the canids are on a more omnivorous level.
However, felines could be classified as strict carnivores. They don’t have molars or premolars for chewing, just sharp teeth to tear and cut food.
If you are a dog or cat parent, you can perform a small test at home. While cats usually show great interest in raw meat, dogs are more interested in cooked food. And while most cats would reject something like an apple, dogs would accept it. So, we can see that dogs are more omnivorous than cats. This is confirmed with many studies, like Juliana and Eveline (2016), Rosana et al. (2015). They even mention that an evolutionary history of the dog suggests a more omnivorous diet in nature compared to the cat, and Bernardo Legwoy (2013), who proves the normalization of the omnivorous diet for dogs in the last century.
Dogs, More Omnivorous than They Seem
Observing their teething, we conclude that dogs are more omnivorous than cats and gray wolves. However, the most interesting thing is their digestive system.
Dogs have a unique digestive system that sets them apart from cats and other carnivorous animals. Unlike cats, dogs have a longer small intestine, which allows them to digest and absorb nutrients from plant-based foods more efficiently. Additionally, dogs have a more acidic stomach environment that helps break down proteins and kill harmful bacteria that may be present in their food.
Moreover, dogs have a remarkable ability to adapt to different diets, which is evident from their history of domestication. For instance, as humans started farming and producing grains and vegetables, dogs gradually adapted to a more omnivorous diet. This adaptability allowed dogs to thrive in different environments and survive on a variety of food sources.
In conclusion, understanding the unique digestive system of dogs is crucial for providing them with a balanced and healthy diet. While dogs are more omnivorous than cats, it’s important to note that each dog’s dietary needs may vary based on their age, breed, and activity level. Consulting a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist can help pet owners determine the best diet for their furry friends.
According to the famous broadcaster on natural nutrition in Brazil, the postgraduate veterinary doctor in animal nutrition, Dr. Sylvia Angélico explains that it seems to be a consensus among experts that an ideal diet would be composed of 50% of animal protein, 25% carbohydrates, and 25% of vegetables.
However, according to her empirical observations, on her former canine clients, this is not a model tolerated by most dogs, but rather by young, fairly active dogs of medium or large size. With this diet, urine tends to show unwanted high levels of protein and a reduced number of leukocytes (defense cells). Because of that, she proposes another model that is better accepted by most of her canine clients: 35% food rich in animal protein, 35% food rich in carbohydrates, and 30% of vegetables.
In the following sections, you can see examples that this same doctor suggests that meats, carbohydrates, and vegetables can be offered to dogs as Natural Food. It is important to note that you still have to consult a canine nutritionist to prepare the recipe for your dog and select the best ingredients for them.
Natural Diet is not Just Raw Meat
There are three main types of canine diets:
Boiled natural diet;
Raw with bones;
Raw without bones.
Important: Consult Your Vet
Regardless of which diet you choose, consulting a vet is mandatory to avoid deficiencies, excesses, and toxic foods. Be careful with the raw diet, including bones, because dogs do not digest them.
It is important to be very careful with raw food. Biological contamination, particularly salmonellosis, and other contaminations such as toxoplasmosis and verminous are the weak points of raw food (Natural food for dogs and cats – Flávia Maria de Oliveira and Janine França – 2010;). In addition, cooked (boiled) food has better digestibility (Tavares et al. 2010) and is preferred by dogs, as mentioned in the study Palatabilidade das comidas para cães, by Diogo Almeida and José Luiz Domingues (2008).
What Natural Foods You Can Give Your Dog?
Dr. Sylvia Angélico recommends a balanced diet that includes a variety of animal protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates. However, it’s important to note that not all foods are safe for dogs to eat. For example, some fruits like grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs, while chocolate and caffeine can be toxic to their nervous system.
Additionally, certain vegetables like onions and garlic can damage a dog’s red blood cells and cause anemia. It’s also important to avoid giving dogs cooked bones, as they can splinter and cause choking or perforations in their digestive system.
According to Dr. Sylvia Angélico:
Animal protein (meats or eggs – avoid fat): chicken, pork, beef, fish, eggs (in low quantity);
Fruits: blueberry, apple without the seeds, pear without the seeds, peach, banana, apricot, plum, watermelon, strawberry, melon, kiwi, raspberry, mango without the seeds.
Potentially Toxic Foods: chocolate, cannon, raw dough, onion, garlic, corn, macadamias and Queensland nuts, avocado skin, grapes, and raisins.
What About Dog Food?
The great advantage of dog food is it is a ready-to-eat meal, usually well balanced. However, the downside is that there are many brands on the market with questionable food quality. Unfortunately, a famous brand doesn’t always guarantee the best quality product.
Experts frequently criticize dog food because many of them look like made for herbivores due to the low presence of meat and animal proteins. Therefore, make sure to analyze the quality of food before you buy it. Look for meals with the highest quantity of meat and, preferably, with the type of meat specified. According to Carciofi (2006), a minimum of 18% for adult dogs and 22% for puppies of protein animals. Based on natural diets, don’t exceed 50%.
On the other hand, the dog nutrition market grows rapidly, offering pet parents countless options of excellent quality ready meals for their furry friends. So if you can’t cook for your pup, don’t worry – make sure to research brands that put dog’s health benefits first.