Is Your Dog A Carnivore?

Is Your Dog an Omnivore or a Carnivore?

It’s always difficult to choose dog food. There’s endless variety in commercial dog foods, no doubt, but when each one asserts that it is “the best,” how do you pick the right one out? Add to that the number of books on preparing dog food at home, and the dog food recipes and videos available online. There’s a deluge of information to overwhelm you, but that doesn’t help you choose the best for your dog.

Not all dog foods are the same. Then, not all dogs are the same either. So, it’s clear that there cannot be “a one size fits all” when it comes to dog food. They talk about special diets and customized dog food. The nutritional requirements of dogs vary and, as a dog owner, it is up to you know what dogs need in general and your dog in particular. Here’s one question that often haunts you:

Are dogs carnivores or not?

This is an important question, and its answer determines what kind of diet works best for dogs. If they are carnivores, their diet should obviously be meat-based. To look at it from an evolutionary point of view, dogs are descendants of wolves. These wild animals are still around, and they hunt in packs and live on meat. But does that alone establish dogs’ status as carnivores?

Their dentition is another evidence to support this view. They have long, sharp canines designed for tearing meat. The 15,000 years of association with humans have not modified the dentition of these domesticated animals, and they remain essentially carnivores.

Carnivore or Omnivore?

How do dogs fare with omnivore diet?

While dogs are genetically, and structurally, carnivores, the millennia spent in human company should have made them adaptable to an omnivorous diet. For one thing, domestic dogs would have evolved from those wolves that could survive on the food scraps left by humans. That would have contained vegetables and grains besides meat. The ancestors of dogs had to do with a mixed diet, and they did reasonably well considering the dog population of today.

So we can come to the conclusion that dogs are carnivores by nature and omnivores by adaptation. Unlike cats, they are not obligate carnivores, but at the same time, they cannot be counted as true omnivores either.  In other words, they can survive on a mixed diet, but would thrive on a meat-based one.

Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?

Choosing a dog food is difficult, because there are so many options available.  Pet stores teem with commercial dog diets, each claiming to be “the best dog food.”  If that is not enough, the internet and bookstores are full of information on various home prepared diets, each of which also claims to be “the best.”  With so many conflicting opinions and claims, it can be hard for concerned owners to know which food to choose.  The truth is that there is no one holy grail of dog foods.  Some foods, of course, are better than others.  However, the perfect food for one dog might not work at all for another.  For this reason dog owners need to educate themselves about the nutritional needs of dogs, and use this information to select the food that best suits each individual dog.

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores?  The answer to this question is, of course, important when considering various dog diets.  If dogs are carnivores, they need meat based diets.  If they are true omnivores, however, they can thrive on more varied diets.   The best contemporary evidence suggests that domestic dogs evolved from wolves about 15,000 years ago.  Wolves are obviously carnivores.  They are pack hunters, thriving on meat based diets.  Modern dogs, however, are not wolves.  Over the course of their evolution from wolf ancestors, dogs coexisted with humans, eating scraps.  The dogs best able to survive on human scraps were those that could tolerate diets that included meat, grains and vegetables.  These more omnivorous dogs were the ancestors of modern domestic dogs.  So, while dogs are not pure, obligate carnivores like cats, they are also not true omnivores like humans.  Instead, dogs are carnivores by preference and omnivores by necessity.

dog eating meat

It is important to keep in mind that just because dogs can survive on an omnivorous diet does not mean that they will thrive on it.  Consider the teeth of a domestic dog.  With prominent canines and surfaces adapted for tearing, these are clearly the teeth of a meat eater.  In truth, domestic dogs are genetically very similar to wolves.  This means that most dogs will thrive on a diet that is closer to that of a carnivore than that of a true omnivore.