Primal Pooch

The Great Debate: Do Dogs Need Fruits and Vegetables?

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This article was updated on November, 3rd 2013 to include additional information and studies

Nothing is more perplexing to pet parents researching raw diets or new raw feeders than the great debate over fruits and veggies in a dog’s diet. Once the decision to feed a raw diet has been made, most people are completely overwhelmed by all the conflicting viewpoints on carbohydrates.

The general public is quickly realizing that grains are not a healthful addition to a dog’s diet. This is something that most, if not all, knowledgeable raw feeders have known for some time and it’s great to see the pet food companies adapting to this. However, there’s more to the carbohydrate puzzle besides grains.

fruits and vegetables in bowl

Photo credit: wikimedia.org

Fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates and this is where some raw feeding ideologies take different paths. Some commercial raw pet food companies and BARF feeders believe that fruits and vegetables belong in a dog’s diet. On the other paw, Prey Model feeders advocate that as true carnivores, dogs have no need for plant matter and it isn’t a biologically appropriate food.

How do we get to the bottom of this ongoing argument? They may never be a clear victor in this great debate but we can analyze a carnivore’s natural diet in addition to their anatomy and physiology to made some educated inferences. Some of this information can be found in the Canine Evolution and Anatomy page. But, let’s recap some of the reasons that support the idea that dog’s don’t require carbohydrates (i.e. grains, fruits and vegetables).

What’s the Natural Diet for a Carnivore?

Most people are aware of a typical carnivore’s diet. Carnivores survive on other animals – more specifically, the muscle meat, bone, organs, connective tissue, fat, skin, and hide of its prey.

However, when it comes to domesticated carnivores, the vast majority of people have a different set of beliefs. Because cats and dogs have been surviving on grains, fruits, and vegetables in addition to meat, many people claim that their natural diet also included this type of food and they’re equipped to handle it.

In fact, many argue that a change in diet fueled the domestication from wolf to dog. They believed this occurred when wolves had a reduced need to hunt and began hanging around the permanent settlements of man, scavenging for food.

For example, wolves eat the muscle meat, fat, skin, hide, fur, and organs of their prey. They also eat some bone, depending on the size of the animal. Smaller, more pliable bones are crushed and swallowed. However, wolves don’t generally eat weight-bearing bones of large prey (i.e. leg bones on deer and other large mammals) because their too dense to crush through. This is why when you see pictures of wolves or other carnivores feeding, most of the inner body cavity is eaten with large bones and other parts remaining.

wolves eating prey

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

What About the Stomach Contents of a Wolf’s Prey?

To support the theory that wolves and domesticated dogs require plant matter, many people claim that wolves eat the partially digested stomach contents of their herbivorous prey, and therefore, do need plant matter for optimal health. In my opinion, it’s just a claim to help support the current industry’s practices of feeding carbohydrates.

When it comes to the stomach contents, the answer is – well, it depends. If a wolf was to catch something small, similar to the size of a squirrel, they’ll most likely eat it whole. So, yes, in this circumstance the stomach and it’s contents would be consumed.

What about the rest of the time, when a wolf catches much larger prey? According to leading wolf researcher David L. Mech who is a senior scientist with the Biological Resource Division and U.S. Geological Survey, wolves do not eat stomach contents. Mech has been studying wolves and their prey since 1958, and is quoted saying, “the vegetation in the intestinal tract is of no interest to the wolves” in his book Wolves:Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. He also goes on to say, “The wolf’s diet consists mostly of muscle meat and fatty tissue from various animals. Heart, lung, liver and other internal organs are eaten. Bones are crushed to get at the marrow, and bone fragments are eaten as well. Even the hair and skin are sometimes consumed. The only part consistently ignored is the stomach and it’s contents.” You can find more quotes on the diet of wolves and the role stomach contents play by reading Dr. Mech’s books. You can also find more quotes from David L Mech here.

Other wolf researchers have confirmed the same finding, that wolves generally avoid the stomach contents and intestines of their prey animals.

Anatomical and Physiological Traits of Carnivores

We can garner that dogs were designed to eat meat by comparing their anatomy and physiology to their carnivorous relatives.

If you were to study other carnivores in the wild (lions, tigers, wolves, etc.). You’ll notice they too only eat meat. No other carnivore in a natural setting has a need for plant matter. If no other carnivore in the animal kingdom needs grains, fruits, or vegetables to be in optimal condition, then why do our dogs? Dogs come equipped with essentially the same anatomy and physiology as their wolf counterparts (remember they differ genetically by 0.2%) which should prove that just as their carnivorous relatives, our dog’s were NOT meant to eat grains, fruits or vegetables.

Teeth

Teeth are specialized tools that we’re all equipped with. More importantly, they’re structured for the natural diet of the animal. Dogs lack flat molars, which are used for grinding, plant matter. Many herbivores (cows, deer) and omnivores (bears, humans) have these flat back molars.  Instead, carnivores have sharp, pointy carnassial teeth in place of traditional molars. All the teeth in a carnivore’s mouth are set in a scissors bite. This is why carnivores are capable of crushing bones, ripping, shredding, and tearing through muscle meat.

Powerful Bodies

Dogs, in addition to other carnivorous mammals also have powerful jaw and neck muscles compared to other animals. These assist in catching and eating prey. Once they grab hold of their prety, their strong muscles allow them to stay latched on while pulling down a prey animal and making the kill. Their muscles allow them to crush through bone and tear meat.

In fact, their strong jaws hinge open, allowing them to swallow big pieces of meat and bone. Their jaws cannot move side to side, only up and down. Because of these characteristics, carnivores have heavy skulls. They also possess sharp claws and powerful, muscular bodies that allow them to chase and effectively take down prey.

Digestion

Dogs have elastic stomachs designed to stretch and accommodate large amounts of meat, bones, organs and hide – which is much more dense and heavy than plant matter. With short intestines and a short colon, food is able to pass through a carnivore’s digestive system quickly.

In contrast, the intestines of an omnivore or herbivore are longer to accommodate the fermentation times required when digesting carbohydrates. In a carnivore, plant matter is expelled quickly, before it can be fully digested and the vitamins and minerals can be absorbed because of their short digestive tract. This is EXACTLY why many BARF feeders puree their fruits and veggies before serving them to their dogs.

Carnivores also lack salivary amylase, the enzyme necessary for beginning the break down of carbs and starches before they enter the stomach. It’s responsible for the majority of starch digestion. Herbivorous and omnivorous animals produce amylase in their salivary glands, carnivores do not.  Carnivores also lack the specific bacteria that aids in the break down of cellulose and starch. Because of the difference in their digestive systems, dogs cannot properly break down and assimilate the nutrients from plant matter before they’re digested and expelled from the body. This is why commercial pet food manufacturers often add vitamins and mineral back to the food (that and because cooking destroys valuable enzymes and reducing vitamins and minerals).

What About All The Studies?

What about all the scientific studies suggesting that dogs are capable of handling starchy carbohydrates? There are many studies out there that attempt to prove dogs can digest grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, their findings are just one small piece to the puzzle, not concrete evidence that dogs can handle this type of diet without negative health effects down the line.

A summary of one in particular concludes that a dog’s digestive system is “geared up for rice and potatoes.” The study compared dog and wolf DNA with the hopes of finding clues about which genes drove dog domestication. About half of them had to do with the brain which isn’t surprising since dogs became more comfortable, social and submissive around man.

The other half had to do with digestion. It found that dogs had significantly more copies of the gene for amylase compared to their wolf counterparts, therefore meaning dogs are better at handling starch. They found this to be true in varying populations of humans as well.  Those from Japanese and European cultures had more copies for the gene than did people with low starch diets such as those in Mbuti, Africa. It also found that dogs carry extra copies and longer versions of another gene that codes for maltase, another enzyme helpful in starch break down.

What Does This Tell Us?

It merely states a fact: dogs have more copies of these particular genes. Yet, the issue is more complex and not quite so cut and dry. If there was a comparative study showing the health differences between naturally reared, raw fed dogs compared to dogs fed grains fruits or vegetables, the results would be eye opening.

Dogs needed to evolve with the extra copies of these genes to survive. As dogs lingered in the more permanent settlements of early man and scavenged for food, natural selection occurred. Remember, dogs are opportunistic carnivores and scavenging was easier and safer than competing with other carnivores for food. The early wolves or wild dogs that tolerated starches and carbohydrates the best survived, and over time evolved to have extra copies of the genes, passing those on to subsequent generations. The dogs that were able to handle this type of food survived and went on to reproduce, whole those that couldn’t, did not survive.

We’re aware that dogs and wolves, though still sharing an almost identical genetic blueprint, do in fact, have differences. But what we need to remember, is just because dogs are surviving on a new food – a food that was not biologically appropriate or natural to them – doesn’t mean they are thriving on this new type of food. Too much emphasis is put on whether or not an animal can survive on something, not if it’s optimal for good health.

Because dogs lack salivary amylase, their bodies produce it later in digestion. Herbivores and omnivores produce it in their saliva and it gets to work breaking down the starch and carbs before it enters the stomach. Then it goes through the much longer and more complicated digestive tract of these animals where there’s time for the food to be fully digested and the nutrients absorbed.

In a carnivore’s digestive system, breakdown of these foods doesn’t start until the food reaches the pancreas and intestines. And because we know how short a carnivore’s intestine are, the food will be eliminated before it’s fully digested, meaning the animal isn’t able to absorb the nutrients and benefit from the food completely. It keeps them alive but dogs on diets high in carbs have compromised immune systems and suffer over time leaving room for illness and disease. This is evident by all the chronically sick pets today.

What Else Can We Conclude From These Studies?

I approach studies with caution. It’s not that the facts are wrong by any means but the big picture still needs to be analyzed. For example, is there evidence that dogs cannot handle grains? I’d say so from the vast amount of pet food that is grain free and the testimonials from pet owners and veterinarians on the healthful changes in their dogs once grain free. In my opinion, this indicates there’s a lot more to this puzzle. The study didn’t crack the case.

Also, it’s always worth looking into who funded the study. Studies today are not void of bias and those conducting the research often have a vested stake in the outcome. For more reasons why I’m cautious of such findings, read my “5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Reading Anti Raw Articles” post. If it’s a company, do you know what they do, do you know who owns them – all questions to consider at least.

If you’ve examined and made assumptions about who funded it, it’s also important to look at the statements made and ask yourself if the individual is an expert on the subject or is qualified to make such statements with sheer certainty. This particular study was trying to discover more information on DNA changes in the hopes of uncovering the mysteries about the evolution of dogs. One evolutionary biologist, who was not involved with the work, said “he gets contacted often by pet owners wondering if dogs like wolves, should eat primarily meat.” He was quoted saying, “This study suggests no, dogs are different from wolves and don’t need a wolflike diet. They have coevovled with humans and their diet.”

Though this man is an authority in evolutionary science, he’s merely stating an opinion that’s based on the research – nothing wrong with that. Again, I’d take all the accounts of sick pets, food allergies, and an entire industry shifting away from dog food with certain ingredients as a testament that his statement may not be entirely accurate (or there’s more to the story at least). Everything about a dog’s anatomy, physiology, and genetic code are striking similar to wolves – and far more different from humans. So in my opinion, comparing them to us nutritionally, is not the best course.

The bottom line is a lot of these studies exist – whether sponsored by companies and businesses in the pet food industry or organizations with no ties to the pet food industry whatsoever. Always look at the big picture. I form my own opinions by judging the sentiment and emotion around such studies and use that as an indicator.

Check out some of these articles, like this one for example, and view the comments. It’s hard for me to reasonably believe that this isn’t an article using recent scientific research as an aim to improve the reputation of the pet food industry and the health of their products.

The aforementioned article’s purpose was uncovering clues about evolution. It’s interesting to me that there are so many heated people, clearly bothered and ready to discredit valid points, theories or ideas from raw feeders. I think evolutionary scientists have way more important things to worry about than what raw feeders think of their studies (but that’s just my opinion).

I think these articles are more often than not used to support the views of opponents to raw feeding practices. Somehow simple facts from these studies get turned into concrete answers in canine nutritional debates where the topic is so much more complex. They become the proof or ammunition needed for the people who refuse to accept, believe, or even consider the fact that grains, fruits or vegetables may not be ideal for their beloved companions.

So, are Fruits and Vegetables Bad?

This is a tough question to answer, which is why it’s so hard for people to come to an accurate conclusion. Fruits and vegetables are not inherently bad and don’t cause your dog great harm. Fruits and veggies are not poisons. If your dog consumes them, you won’t see any immediate, negative reaction. The problem lies in that it is the wrong kind of food for them to eat. Why bother feeding fruits and vegetables if your dog cannot properly assimilate the nutrients from them? Since dogs weren’t designed to survive on carbohydrates, it’s really a moot point in my opinion.

It’s also worth mentioning because dogs lack the salivary enzymes to digest plant matter, consuming fruits and veggies places an additional burden on the pancreas tasking it with producing extra enzymes to deal with the starch, cellulose and carbohydrates. Feeding these foods strain the pancreas, making it work harder to produce more enzymes than normally needed to digest proteins and fats.

A great way to make sense of the exclusion of fruits and vegetables is to examine the following example. If you’re feeding your dog 50% meat and 50% carbohydrates (and we know he or she can realistically only digest and make full use of the nutrients from the meat, meaning 50% of the food fed) then you’re dog is only receiving 50% of the nutrients he or she needs. So although, fruits and veggies aren’t bad and are fine as a snack here and there, they really shouldn’t make up a regular portion of your dog’s diet.

Keep in mind, fruits and veggies don’t need to be shunned or feared. Pet owners just need to realize that although they’re a super food for us, they’re not nearly as beneficial for our dogs.

Makes Sense and Seems Simple Enough – So What’s the problem?

None of this information is new or extremely groundbreaking. The problem is that people have a hard time accepting this for several reasons.

Despite the fact that dogs are carnivores naturally, the majority of the population has been feeding dogs as omnivores for quite some time. Dogs have been fed grains, fruits and vegetables commercially for over 100 years- as long as pet food has been on the market. The pet food industry and veterinarians still recommend carbs and include carbs in pet food. Most people have a hard time believing that these authority figures are incorrect or worse – misleading them.

In addition, the belief that fruits and vegetables are a necessity is so deeply rooted within us all that many people refuse to accept that these foods don’t belong in their dog’s diet. Since we were children, we’ve been bombarded by messages telling us to eat our fruits and veggies for optimal health. Every single one of us is aware of the food pyramid and it’s recommendations on fruits and vegetables. The government, the education system, the media, and our families have been telling us we need to eat these nutrient dense foods for our whole lives! It’s safe to say it’s pretty engrained in our minds.

And because our society has the bad habit of treating our dogs like humans, we fail to realize that our dogs are vastly different from us not just in behavior but also in nutritional needs. Yes, fruits and vegetables are vital – but they’re vital for us! We are not true carnivores. Problems arise when we force our own beliefs and ideologies on our pets.

A perfect case study for this can be made in the recent headlines of a kitten that almost diet after it’s owners fed it a strict vegan diet. The interesting part of the story is that the kitten, which was extremely close to death, was revived not by antibiotics or western medicine. It was revived when veterinarians fed it nothing but meat! Let this be a valuable lesson – If a cat can be on the brink of death from eating ONLY fruits and vegetables, maybe this should demonstrate just how much our dogs and cats need carbs. Remember, it’s the meat in our pets diets that are providing valuable nutrients and keeping them alive.

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Amy is the founding editor and owner of Primal Pooch - a primal living blog for man's best friend. She's a crossfitter, yoga enthusiast, and lover of all things health, fitness and nutrition related. She's on a mission to bring optimal health back to the dogs we share our lives with.

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24 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Do Dogs Need Fruits and Vegetables?

  1. The vast majority of people are not going to feed their dogs whole prey. How do you account for the nutrients that the would be missing by not eating eyes, spleens, brains, etc.?

    • Hi Michelle – Thanks for commenting, and you’re correct. Those nutrients are extremely important and need to be provided in raw diets.

      Most raw feeders include organs and other forms of raw offal in their pet’s diet to ensure they’re getting the full spectrum of nutrients they would get as if they were eating animals in the wild.

      Not only is the addition of these nutrients important, but the correct amounts are as well. Since feeding whole prey (isn’t practical or preferred by everyone), there are guidelines for how much to feed. These are based off of the ratios found in wild animals – which are approximately 5-10% organs, 10-15% edible bone, and 80-85% muscle meat and other remains like skin and hide.

      To get these nutrients, raw feeders typically feed organs such as liver, heart, kidney, lung, brains, pancreas, spleen, green tripe, eggs, etc. for one or two meals a week or about 10% of the diet.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to email me at amy@primalpooch.com if you have any more questions :)

    • Another great alternative for getting the nutrients found in eyes, spleens, brains, etc is to feed heads :) You get the eyes, the tongue, the brain, and the cartilage found in the animals head and the dogs love them. As for rarer items such as spleens and thymus and adrenal, etc – you can always try ordering those organs from raw feeding suppliers such as ourselves!

  2. Interesting article. I am curious tho, why none of the recent genetic research on dog digestion was not included. For example, you state that ” Carnivores also lack amylase (found in all omnivores and herbivores), the enzyme necessary for breaking down carbs and starches”, yet the Scientist (Dogs adapted to Agriculture, Jan 2013) says “Specifically, dogs carry extra copies of the gene for amylase—an intestinal enzyme that cuts starch into maltose—and now produce 28 times more of the protein than their wolf counterparts. Dogs also produce 12 times more maltase-glucoamylase, which converts maltose into sugar, thanks to several mutations in the gene for this enzyme. Mutations in a third gene—SGLT1—improved the function of a protein that absorbs the sugar through the gut.”
    Science Mag, goes on to say “Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of another gene, MGAM, which codes for maltase, another enzyme important in starch digestion. But there are four key differences between the sequence in dogs and wolves. One difference causes dogs to produce longer versions of maltase. That longer protein is also seen in herbivores, such as cows and rabbits, and omnivores, such as mouse lemurs and rats, but not in other mammals, suggesting length is important to plant-eaters. These differences make the dog maltase more efficient, the researchers report. “(Diet Shaped Dog Domestication, Jan 23 2013). These articles all point to dogs beginning to eat grains and fruits (the scavenger hypothesis) when domestication began 10K years ago, not 100 as you suggest. There are many more articles like this in several science publications concerning the comparison of the dog and wolf genome. Comparative anatomy alone is an insufficient methodology in determining diet.

    • Hi Richard, I appreciate your feedback. I’m glad you pointed this out – as I had a miswording in the post.

      Dogs do not produce the enzyme amylase in their saliva. Salivary amylase starts the process of breaking down starchy carbohydrates before they enter the stomach and is responsible for the majority of starch digestion. Omnivorous and herbivorous animals produce amylase in their salivary glands, but not carnivores.

      Because of this, carnivores need to make amylase later in the digestion process (I see where that wasn’t clear enough from the article). This burden is placed on the pancreas. It must produce a larger amount of amylase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbs from plant matter. Because of the lack of salivary amylase, a dog’s carbohydrate digestion is much more difficult. It taxes the pancreas and puts an extra strain on the organ since it needs to work harder to digest the starchy carbohydrates and plant matter.

      Amylase and maltase are needed to break down carbs, my point is that dogs don’t naturally come equipped with it in the right places like herbivorous and omnivorous animals. Herbivores may have as many as four stomachs and both omnivores and herbivores have a considerably longer digestive tract than carnivores. The point being that grains, fruits and vegetables aren’t natural foods for dogs and are foods they can’t digest as effectively and efficiently as their omnivore and herbivore counterparts. It’s like putting 87 octane gasoline in a sports car. It might still run, but it will be running far less efficiently. Since a carnivore’s digestive tract and digestion time is considerably faster, these foods will be eliminated before sufficient digestion and vitamin and mineral absorption can occur.

      I was also talking about dogs eating grains, fruits, and vegetables for 100 years in relation to how long commercial pet food has been on the market, not domestication. To answer your original question further, I usually avoid studies that don’t show who funded the research because most scientific studies are not completed merely for the knowledge gained; they are usually funded by governments or corporations. Since our government has more to worry about than what dogs should be eating, dog food companies end up funding most of the studies surrounding canine diet and nutrition, as they are the ones who benefit the most.

      But, again, thanks for pointing out any confusion or areas in the post that wasn’t clear. I’ll be happy to go back and include the research and clarify any points!

  3. Totally agree with you, Amy. There are two thoughts I wish to add for those who like the idea that wolves do eat stomach content and therefore include veg in the diet:

    Even if it’s true (to some extent), one should ask themselves WHAT is the stomach content of wolves’ natural prey. Broccoli, leak, cabbage, carrots, beet….? Doesn’t sound right, does it? It’d be more like hay, grass, herbs, tree bark, moss, etc.

    What wolves do eat (seasonally) are ripe fruits and berries. So what I do, I buy a bag of frozen mixed berries and use them as ocassional treat. 1lb bag will last 3 months easy, that’s how much I use them in the diet.

    Just my 2c worth, hope you agree :)

  4. I used to believe that raw meat feeding was the best for dogs, and then I ran across a raw-feeder who behaved as if not feeding raw meat was tantamount to poisoning dogs. I started to do research, avoiding biased sites and came to the conclusion that however much a dog may have begun as a strict carnivore, he is now an omnivore in the practical sense of the word. Meat may be easier to digest, but it seems evident to me that dogs can also digest many other foods. I can’t imagine that 10,000 years of evolution from wolf to today’s dog changed a dog’s physical body, their mental processes and their behavior, but did not change their digestive system. To me, that’s just not logical.

    In my research, I’ve discovered that dogs can be allergic to many foods, including grains but that the single most likely cause of a dog’s allergies are meat proteins. This is something that raw-meat feeders simply deny, rather than address. So, ultimately I have come to regard most raw-meat feeders as being blinded by fanaticism; instead of thinking about what dogs actually *do*, they make decisions based on what the dog’s relative, the wolf, does.

    I’m not against raw-food diets; I think if the dog does well on it (and he probably will), so much the better. But I also believe that most dogs can thrive on practically any diet, and that there will always be some dogs who will have issues with certain foods – whether it’s processed corn in kibble, or chicken freshly killed from the henhouse. The trick is in knowing your own dog, and not assuming that any one diet is, by default, better than any other diet.

    • Hi Jean, thanks for sharing your opinions. I agree that eccentric raw feeders can certainly spoil raw feeding for others and that there’s no sense in making this issue life or death. It’s the same with people, if we eat foods that aren’t healthful such as processed food or diets high in refined flours and sugars, our health can decline as well. It’s a matter or choice/preference.

      The article is not to say carbs are poisons – just that they are not ideal based on the canine digestive tract (not solely the wolf’s). It illustrates how certain foods are not as beneficial because they don’t biologically support the digestive tract of that particular animal. Most people think that just because a carnivore can eat and survive on carbohydrates, that makes them an omnivore.

      If that’s how people think, then there can be no herbivore, omnivore, carnivore classification because all animals are capable of handling foods that are not biologically appropriate for them. For example, it’s common practice to feed cows grains and even meat proteins. The natural diet for a cow is grasses and plant matter. Cows can certainly survive on this diet but b/c it’s not the biologically appropriate diet for their genetic makeup, they often get sick (the reason cows today receive antibiotics). Foods that are not natural to them can cause the immune system to weaken over time and infection and disease to become more common. In fact, feeding cows meat was one of the factors that caused mad cow disease. This issue isn’t just for dogs, it can be seen in many instances. Dogs may also seem healthy for quite awhile, nutritional deficiencies and the ailments they cause don’t show up over night.

      While I agree that dogs can be allergic to a range of things, the most common allergy is in fact grains and starches. Most people think grains are the only cause of allergies, then become confused when they don’t see a change after switching to grain free foods. What they’re forgetting is that starches are a major culprit. Starches are in every single bag of kibble because without them, dog food would be a bag of dust. So most people do not see a change in allergy related issues until they ditch the kibble completely and switch to a raw diet free of starches and grains. Regarding your meat comment, it’s very common for dogs to be allergic to cooked proteins and but not proteins in the raw form – though I’m not discounting that meat allergies can occur. But I agree that all dogs are different. Just how people are different, some dogs are hardier than others and can do much better on foods that are not biologically appropriate.

      Readers must remember this blog is NOT trying to prove in a black and white way that dogs can or cannot eat something. That’s not the intention. Dogs can survive on a ton of junk, so can we (do you know someone who makes poor food choices and is still kicking)? This blog is for people interested in providing an ancestral and biologically appropriate diet. Many people believe in eating how we were designed to eat – not eating a diet that changed over time. If this line of thought doesn’t interest you, keep up with what’s working for you and your dogs. I wish you the best of luck!

  5. How do I increase fiber in my diabetic dogs high protein very low carb diet? I thought about adding steamed green beans but now I don’t think so. A little flax seed perhaps with the omega 3′s or just leave her diet as is. Fiber but not carbs is supposed to aid in the control of diabetes in dogs

    • You state that you feed your dog a high protein/very low carb diet. In my opinion, that is a good place to begin and improve upon. Dogs are considered opportunistic scavenger carnivores. As carnivores, they need raw meat, raw organs, and raw bones to thrive. Canines do not need fiber from fruit and vegetable sources. I see a common error of people not realizing that our carnivore pets are not extensions of our human omnivore selves. The proper ratio found in raw foods provides enough fiber for a carnivore digestive system.

      Canines do not possess the salivary amylase needed to begin the breakdown of carbohydrates in the mouth. Fruits and vegetables are very difficult for a dog’s digestive system to break down. The pancreas has to work hard to produce amylase to aid in the digestion of those foods. Over time, the pancreas can become overworked, inflamed, and/or worn out, and illnesses such as diabetes and pancreatitis can be the result. If it were me, I would feed a raw prey model diet which would supply sufficient protein, nutrients and fiber. Feel free to shoot me an email – amy@primalpooch.com

  6. Love your post and replies! Great info.

    I have some confusion in regards to fiber and digestion.

    Since a raw diet would not supply the fur (fiber?), is your opinion that this should be supplemented?

    I have read that “Kibbles” type dog food is digested much slower and should not be fed while feeding raw do to bacteria concerns due to the raw meat remaining in the system longer than it normally would. You stated that fruits and vegetables do not stay in the system long enough for the dog to receive the nutrients. I am unclear if fruits and veggies with meat stay longer in the system than just meat. So, I am a bit confused. What is the difference between digestion times? Can feeding vegetables or fruits as treats or otherwise cause harm due to digestion time?

    I have a pup that I have been giving a teaspoon of raw pumpkin to aid with bowel movements. I have a vet that is against raw feeding and upset that I wouldn’t let my pup have a “cookie/dog biscuit” after her shot. Yes, I am looking for a new vet. But, until then, I would love your opinion, since the vet is useless, or at the very least unwilling in this area.

    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Kandee! A species appropriate diet should supply all the necessary nutrients and fiber that a canine needs; it is my view that there is no need for supplementing fiber if the diet is species specific. Regarding digestion, raw food is digested and absorbed quickly in comparison to the time it takes for kibble to be digested. Kibble takes a longer time to digest, and puts a load on the digestive system and associated organs. Fruits and vegetables are also hard to digest, as carnivore digestive systems are not designed to handle sugars and starches. Wild canines are known to eat some wild berries when they are in season, if you are trying to mimic what a wolf eats in the wild. Digestion times may vary between individuals, but in general it takes twice as long for kibble to be digested as raw food. If a dog gets an appropriate raw food diet, there should be no need to help the digestive system with substances such as pumpkin since it’s not a food they digest well. Feel free to email me for more information – amy@primalpoohc.com!

      • Thanks for your response. My pup had a few days of constipation when we first began the raw diet and I used the pumpkin. Since then her stools have been fine. With the exception of a few loose ones when introducing the organ meats. We have been able to balance this with portion control. We are loving the raw diet, however, when something is a bit off with our pup, I get paranoid about feeding raw. It is too bad I can’t find a supportive vet. She is getting a bit of discharge from her eyes, which the vet will blame on her diet and she has been itchy (no flees) more than seems normal to me. I am not sure if growing pups itch or not. I can’t seem to relate the symptoms to the introduction of any proteins.

        What is the time span for any allergies to appear and disappear when introducing new foods?

      • Hi Amy,

        Hope you are well and I have been feeding my 4 dogs raw for over one year now and they are well developed and with less smell and shiny coat. I came across this feeding idea when I first got my border collies pups.

        I belong to a group called “Raw diet for dogs and cat” on facebook. and it seems like many of these “Prey model” feeders and so called experienced “Teachers” like to shut down other peoples ideas when it comes to feeding vegetables (green leaves) and very little fruits (as treats). I have been feeding my fur kids probably 95% of meat / bones / bone meals / various organs / livers / kidneys / fish etc and changing from chicken to beef, turkey, pork, lamb whatever I can get my hands on fresh quality (I share the same food with them except some odd offal).

        You may call me BRAF feeder though I also don’t follow their methods to the T. I understand all the carbs such as carrots, potatoes, rice, pasta etc are not good for the dogs. But I do believe the green leavey vegetables are limited on carbs but more fibre and etc. I am very much of nutritional value / label person when it comes to my dogs feeding. My dogs do graze on grass whether you believe or not and they poop them out. and I understand dogs can not really digest the vegetable whole due to lack of chewing mechanism and certain enzymes and they usually come out indigested.

        I just have one question and until now not one single prey model feeders or any well experienced raw feeders can answer me. I do believe certain plant matter (to human) are good for dogs as well. I usually supplement coconut oil to my dogs diet. What if I only use green vegetables (I am Chinese so we eat more leavey vegs usually) and they are chopped finely mixed with the food and also with some oil extracts (it can be coconut, fish oil etc). surely these additives can be safely absorbed quickly in their digestive system without taxing their system? And can these additions to their diet ultimately benefit and prolong their lives? I do not believe there is any study focusing on this and it seems like prey model is based on the traditional approach on how dogs / wolves used to live. Now dogs are living with us and there are things we could do and add into their food which they would not be able to do for themselves. i.e. chew the vegetable or cold extract the oils from olives / coconuts or fish for that matter. Again, my focus and question here is that will these additional items which I have mentioned add value to their health system? It is the same approach as eating whole flaxseed is not as beneficial as eating them grind or oil extract but we human are clever which managed to do that. Which we can apply the same principle to the dogs..?

        I would really appreciate your feedback on this.

        Thanks.

        Brad

  7. Green tripe is not an organ. Tripe is meat; the green is bovine digesta that does not benefit a carnivore. The “values” of green are largely the stink and the relatively low phos and calcium.

    The stink is a useful lure for picky dogs, sick dogs, or aged dogs. The meat value is the same as you will find in the USDA Nutrition Database listing for raw tripe.

    The relatively low phos and high calcium in the meat can be beneficial for dogs in latter stages of renal failure.

  8. Newb question: When feeding a diet of raw meat, does one still give treats to the dog? If so, would it be acceptable to give them veggies like sweet potato or carrot as a treat? Would you give them baked biscuit type treats?

  9. We feed a raw diet, just recently started, and my dog is much healthier, you can see it in her coat, her movement and her general behaviour. The food we give her has ground raw meat, bone and some offal. However she LOVES carrot and broccoli! I often give her the off cuts when I’m cooking. If we don’t have these for a couple of days, and therefore she doesn’t get any, she is in the garden eating grass. This is something both cats and dogs do naturally, do wild dogs and wolves also eat grass? If not, why do domesticated dogs? Wouldn’t this suggest that they need some roughage?

  10. I was wondering if you could post your sources for the information in this article? I really enjoyed reading it, and always appreciate being able to double back on the studies and sources cited. I utilized a lot of this information to help me organize my own rebuttal for a claim based on the oh-so-common “dogs are omnivores” myth in a group that I am a part of.

  11. My dogs eat soopa sweet potato and papaya dog chews and an excellent source of fibre, has helped hugely with they’re digestion and soothes tummies

  12. Hi Amy…

    I have female doberman 7 months ago, but she did not gain weight, I started to eat diet barf for 2 months, changed the food to holistic kibble, 2 months, but she not improve, today she eat morning holistic food and evening only eat raw chicken. she is in good health, she has no digestive parasites and disease. I would you recommend please ? I appreciate your comments or any diet.
    Thanks and best regards.
    Henry

  13. I have a couple of observations. I live on a large farm where we raise horses, hair sheep and crops. We have corn, soybeans, oats, and hay depending on the year. I have watched my dogs who are working Border Collies (for the last 30 years with dogs of all ages here off and on) as they go about their day as to what they will eat, want to eat and will not eat. They have the opportunity to eat a lot of things of their own choosing and in amounts of their own choosing due to their high activity level and I do like it that way. They have access to horse manure, which is a grass manure since our horses are on pasture, and of course means that their manure is not as highly digested as the cow who is a ruminant. We also have sheep that are strictly pastured as well. My dogs will graze on grass with the new rye and oat grass being their favorites though that is not in large amounts. They will also eat the “sweet feed” that is given to the foals when they’re being weaned as well as given to the lambs when they’re getting ready to be weaned. The dogs will choose to eat some horse manure every day but little to no sheep manure. They have access to free choice loose and brick minerals too. The dogs are offered baby birds, non-feathered and feathered, when we clean out the sparrow nests in the barn, they will usually not eat any. They actually prefer the eggs over the babies and rarely will eat any of the birds which surprises me. The cats we have prefer the birds and mice much more than the dogs. We also offer them the baby and adult mice when we clean out the mouse nests in the barn or the bluebird boxes that we monitor, but they really are not interested in eating them, just in killing them. They do eat a high quality meat first kibble due to me traveling a lot and others needing to care for them, but they do choose to eat all those other carbs and fibers on their own. Which sounds in contrast to what you’re saying is what they should be doing. I do give them raw meat, mostly beef I get at our local locker, several times a week but it’s not their total diet as I stated. They do all seem to thrive and most of my dogs live to 15 at a minimum with no health issues usually. Why would they choose to eat the manure and sweet feeds, grasses and such do you think?

  14. Hi

    Great article! Just got back from the gets after my dog had knee surgery. She is now taking joint supplements as arthritis is likely. I asked if I should give my younger dog joint supplements and the said he should get what he needs from puppy food, I told them I feed him raw meat, bone and offal diet but they insisted its unbalanced and needs rice or pasta and vegetables. I was recommended raw feeding by the breeders of both my dogs and their dogs live long healthy lives. Can I safely go back go them and say that not only do they not need rice and veg but that they wouldn’t do the dogs any good anyway?

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