Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?


Kendra Hayes / Flickr

Have you ever wondered what the ingredients that make up dog food are? You know that your dog has a favorite brand, but you don’t understand why. It looks like your dog can eat just about anything edible, so you wonder if he is an omnivore, just like human beings are. Traditional teaching may show that dogs are omnivores, but some research might suggest that they are carnivorous animals. We’ll find out how in this article.

Dogs as Omnivores

Biologically, the size of a dog’s intestine falls between the length of a carnivore and an herbivore’s. Since meat is quite easy to digest, the intestinal length of carnivores is quite short. Plant materials are more difficult to break down compared to meat, so herbivores have longer intestines. However, the intestinal length of omnivores like dogs falls somewhere in between. Scientists believe that dogs are omnivores because their intestine size is slightly larger than a cat’s intestine.

Dog eats watermelon
Stephanie Dong / Flickr

It has also been discovered that present-day dog breeds differ from their wild ancestors. Dogs now possess three genes for starch and glucose digestion. This means that dogs can eat meat, but they also won’t have any problem with eating grains or vegetables.

Dogs as Carnivores

Dr. Wouter Hendricks, of Utrecht University’s veterinary school, suggests that in comparing animals’ gastrointestinal system, considering the length, girth, volume, capacity, or any of the intestine might not be the best to think about.

Herbivores have a high coefficient of fermentation because they have a high ability to extract nutrition from plant matter due to their ability to ferment it. Carnivores do not possess this ability, and this ability is low in dogs.

From DNA studies, dogs are known to have evolved directly from the timberwolves around 15,000 years ago, and, of course, it is known that wolves are carnivores. By their genetic pedigree, dogs have been found to demonstrate similar carnivorous traits. Like all carnivores, dogs have narrow pointy back teeth, their digestive system and behavior confirms this fact.

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Carnivores typically lack one aid to digestion that both herbivores and omnivores possess. Carnivores lack the production of amylase in their salivary glands. Most herbivores and omnivores produce amylase in their saliva. Amylase helps to catalyze the breakdown of starchy carbohydrates into simple sugars before they enter the stomach.

Although dogs also produce amylase, the enzyme is added further down in the digestive tract, i.e., pancreas and small intestine. Like wolves, dogs have teeth for chewing bones and tearing muscles, they dig and hide their meals for future consumption, and they can go for long periods without food like the mammalian carnivores.

What Should You Feed Your Pup?

Dogs have adapted to diets, including grains and plants, due to domestication over the past 15,000 years. In fact, Dr. Roger Welton, president of Maybeck Animal Hospital, says that feeding your dog only protein could be very harmful to your dog’s health.

Labrador puppy
Ben Corfield / Flickr

This is because protein metabolism produces ammonia, which is filtered out and detoxified by your pup’s liver and kidneys. Constant detoxifying of meat can overwhelm the liver and kidneys, and this can harm your dog.

Get a quality brand of dog food that doesn’t contain cancer-causing chemical preservatives, unknown meat, or high-risk coloring agents if you want to ensure that he gets all the nutrients he needs.

Also, it is always best to seek advice on the best dog food from your veterinarian. Your vet will tell you the best brands of dog food, what kind of food is best for your dog’s breed since some breeds are more sensitive to some food than others.


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