When you think dog food, you may envision the ads on TV depicting a wolf hunting in the forest. Pet food trends and marketing have certainly led us to believe that ancestral diets are the ideal, much like the Paleo diet for humans.
“Beliefs about the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats are often based on the notion that whatever wild canids and felids eat must be a 'natural,' and thus, a healthy diet for our pets," says Brennen McKenzie of Veterinary Practice News. Should we really be striving to feed our dogs the diet of a wolf?
Ancestral diets & domestication
Wild carnivores like wolves often suffer from malnutrition and other diet-associated illnesses. The diet available to them in the wild may not perfectly optimize their health. "Natural history does have an influence on the nutritional necessities of a species, but these requirements are not always best met by feeding a diet identical to that eaten by the wild ancestors of modern animals," says McKenzie. "This is especially true for animals that have been domesticated, a process that induces significant changes to the anatomy and physiology of domestic species." Learn more about dogs' domestication here.
Dogs' association with humans over many thousands of years has drastically impacted their diet. Even breeds with a more "wolf-like" anatomy have undergone changes in morphology and physiology that reflect their adaptation to human foods. Dogs are able to digest starches, making them well-suited to a plant-based diet.
Plant-based diets for dogs
Without a doubt, dogs require specific nutrients in their diets in order to thrive. However, these nutrient requirements need not be met with animal ingredients. Thanks to their evolutionary history alongside humankind, dogs can digest and make excellent use of starches in their diets. Studies show that their nutritional requirements can be met with a vegan diet that is properly balanced and complete. Learn more about vegan diets for dogs here.
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Source: Veterinary Practice News