Have you seen the Purina video explaining why ‘dogs are omnivores?’
We decided to go through it, point by point, and see if they know something we don’t!
Here is the transcript from the video, and our response….
(You can watch the video clip at the end)
“Some people will try to tell you your dog is a carnivore and requires only a diet of meat.”
Raw Essentials will tell you that your dog is a carnivore, but we will definitely NOT tell you they require a diet of only meat. A meat-only diet results in serious nutritional deficiencies.
A carnivorous diet is based on whole-prey. Read our Nutrient Analysis report for a more in-depth, scientific breakdown of how a dog’s nutritional needs are met by a prey-based diet.
Internationally renowned nutritional ecologist, Professor David Raubenheimer is an expert on the classification of animals based on their nutritional requirements. He describes dogs as 'domesticated carnivores' in his fascinating investigations into the ideal macronutrient balance for carnivores.
“They may tell you your dog is like a wolf, but even a wolf’s diet is built on more than just meat. A recent study found that 74% of wild wolves consumed plant-based food (pic of vegetables, grains and fruits flashes on screen).”
The study referred to found there was evidence of some plant material (mostly grass) in the faeces of 74% of a particular population of wolves over the summer. Their primary diet was as follows:
“Wolves in YNP hunt in packs and, upon a successful kill, share in the evisceration and consumption of highly nutritious organs first, followed by major muscle tissue, and eventually bone and hide.”
It is normal and common for carnivores to ingest some level of plant matter. ‘The Waltham Book of Clinical Nutrition of the Dog & Cat’ states: “both dogs and cats eat grass and other plants.”
This fact in no way...
...Turns a dog into a omnivore (by this rationale cats and wolves would also have to turn into omnivores, as would cattle who ingest animal products)
...Makes it logical to feed the inexpensive carbohydrates readily used by manufacturers of processed pet-foods (corn, wheat, soy, potatoes, rice etc).
“The truth is both wolves and dogs thrive on a diet that goes beyond meat.”
We agree – raw meat, bones, organs and tripe.
But if Purina are suggesting that ‘beyond meat’ means grains, fruits and vegetables (these words flash across the screen during the clip), we say let’s not turn the relatively tiny bit of grass that they occasionally chew on (because they aren’t actually running around eating a whole load of grain, fruit and vegetables in the wild) into anything more than it is.
“You want a long and healthy life for your dog, and we do too. A Labrador retriever for example can live a happy and full life of 15 years when properly fed a balanced and nutritious diet.”
Yes. Agreed. A balanced and nutritious diet should contribute greatly to a long and healthy life.
“Thankfully your dog isn’t a wolf. He’s a dog. And he isn’t a carnivore. He’s an omnivore, meaning he derives nutrition from both plant and animal sources.”
Refer again to our Nutrient Analysis report which demonstrates how a balanced raw diet fulfils all the nutrient requirements for a dog, as outlined by the National Research Council (considered the highest authority on nutrient requirements within the Veterinary profession). The NRC also states that there is no known carbohydrate requirement for dogs.
“How do we know? Science and biology tell us your dog’s body is built to consume an omnivore’s diet. Nature has given him molars to break down plant matter.”
This is interesting...
The picture on the left is from the Purina video. The picture on the right is a photo of a dog’s jaw.
Omnivores and herbivores have flattened molars to allow them to grind up plant matter. Carnivores have sharper molars (great for shearing meat off bone).
The molars in the Purina picture do actually look kind of flat and omnivorous.
Have a look in your own dog’s mouth – do their molars look more like the Purina picture, or the skeleton picture?
“And a digestive system built to break down his daily diet of plant food”
So a longer intestine (usually described as the ratio of intestinal length to overall body length) is required to properly digest plant matter. Carnivores have a short one. Herbivores have a long one.
Comparative biology data from the book 'Amazing Numbers in Biology' lists the following ratios:
Cat = 3-4
Dog = 5-6
Tiger = 5
Wolf = 4.7
Pig = 14-15
So yes – dogs do have a slightly ‘longer intestine’ if you compare them to cats. But how about we compare them to omnivorous pigs instead? Not looking quite so long now.
“Through careful research we know that properly feeding a balanced diet makes a big difference. In our 14 year lifespan study we proved that dogs can expand the happy and healthy portion of their lives by 1.8 years.”
Firstly - this study has absolutely nothing to do with carnivore versus omnivore diets.
Secondly – it is a pretty pointless study overall.
Here is what the authors did:
- They took a group of 48 Labrador Retriever puppies.
- They weaned them all onto the same processed diet, and then monitored for up to 14 years.
- They divided the dogs into two groups – ‘controlled’ feeding and ‘restricted’ feeding.
- The controlled group was fed enough to make sure that their average body condition was overweight.
- The restricted group was fed less – just enough to maintain an average lean bodyweight.
- The restricted group largely outlived the controlled group. Surprise, surprise.
So I am struggling to see the relevance to the ‘omnivore’ argument.
“Just like you we want what’s best for your dog. And that requires understanding their needs. Inside and out.”
Finally – let’s consider why it might be in the best interests of a pet-food company to promote the idea that dogs are omnivores. Might it be because plant-based ingredients (such as corn, rice and wheat) are an extremely cheap way to boost the protein and energy content of the food? What are your thoughts?