I've always thought that dogs were omnivores, and cats were carnivores. I've supported a grain-free diet for both dogs and cats for years, knowing that neither animal processes these types of carbs well, and seeing first-hand what eliminating starches can do for dogs with allergies. But I always thought that dogs could benefit from the vitamins in fruits and vegetables, too!
Reading this article made me think a little more about my ideas... Are dogs carnivorous? Are grains/vegetables/fruits completely unnecessary in their diet? Here's some evidence to support the answer "YES":
- Teeth and chewing style
- Dogs have the teeth of a carnivore. No flat molars for grinding down grains and veggies. Their jaws are made to rip, tear, and chop their food in an up-and-down motion. Their jaws aren't made to move side to side.
- When omnivores eat plants, we produce a chemical called amylase in our saliva to help start the break down of starches in our mouthes. Dogs don't have amylase in their saliva. They DO have it in their small intestines, so breaking down starches is not impossible, but it is decidedly more difficult.
- Digestive Anatomy
- Plants and starches take longer to digest. This results in omnivores having a longer intestinal tract and larger stomaches than carnivores. Instead of this dogs have small (but extremely elastic) stomachs, and an abundance of stomach acid (which breaks down animal proteins and kills bad bacteria in decaying meat)
The thing is, dogs have survived and even THRIVED for years on our meat and non-meat scraps! They are extremely adaptable, and can get the nutrients they need from many sources, although they definitely process meats best. I'd like to say that dogs are omnivores with a carnivorous bias. This supports my love of grain-free diets for dogs, and at the very least, diets that have meat proteins as a primary ingredient.
Cats, on the other hand, are TRUE carnivores. There are numerous chemicals and vitamins necessary in a cat's life that the cat cannot make on its own. It must eat these nutrients pre-formed by another animal. Cats also have a much higher protein requirement than humans and even dogs. So meat as a first ingredient in a cat's diet is a necessity.
The majority of foods we carry for both cats and dogs feature meat as a first ingredient, and we have a few types of grain-free foods available too! Come by and discuss your pet's unique needs, and we'll help you find something that works for him/her.