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EVOLUTIONARY NUTRITION

EVOLUTIONARY NUTRITION FOR THE DOG

Written by Sarah Griffiths

Edited by Dr. David Ruish DVM and Dr. Michael Goldberg DVM

(Canis lupus)

HISTORY OF THE DOG

The dog/human relationship began approximately 14, 000 years ago. Man gave canines food from the hunt in return for

protection at their camp sites through the night. 
Man chose favorable characteristics in these wild canines such as

submissive behavior, 
keen senses to accompany man on the hunt and protective instincts so as to alert the camp of

danger.

Here began the first breeding programs and domestication of the dog. From the 
beginning, man has valued the dog

because of his carnivorous and opportunistic nature. 
Its ability to form strong family bonds with those around him and

form packs with a strict 
hierarchy has also played a major role in the domestication of the species. Fourteen thousand

years of selective breeding may have changed the outer appearance and some of 
the behaviors of our canine

companions, but on the inside they have remained virtually 
unchanged. On the evolutionary scale, this amount of time

does not allow 
for any drastic changes in the physiology and anatomy of a species. Therefore, feeding a dog on a kibble-

based diet can be compromising in 
many ways.

TAXONOMY

Order: Carnivora Family: Canidae Genus: Canis Species: Canis lupus Subspecies: Canis lupus familiaris

In 1993, after the DNA testing of Canis lupus (the wolf) and Canis familiarus (the

dog), scientists renamed Canis familiarus as a subspecies of the wolf: Canis lupus

familiarus. This was because findings concluded that the wolf and the dog were so

genetically similar that they must be named as the same species (for more information

visit The Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family by Robert Wayne:

http://www.idir.net/~wolf2dog/wayne2.htm).

©All Rights Reserved to the Author

ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY

The dog’s anatomy and physiology shows the clear picture of a predator. Looking first at the head, the eyes are located at
the front of the head to enable forward vision of 
prey as they hunt. Large nasal passageways with many capillaries enable
the dog to pick 
up chemical scents undetectable to humans. This allows them to track prey over long distances.
The mouth includes large canines and a strong muscular jaw that enable the 
wolf/dog to crush prey items in a matter of seconds, as well as tear large pieces of meat from a carcass. The strong jaws also allow for the crushing of bones, which are rich in calcium and fat. The carnivore jaw does not allow for the sideways movement that herbivore jaws possess, but only an up and down action, perfect for crushing and tearing meat and bone. Being carnivores, dogs possess this trait.

Inside the digestive system, the stomach is large and muscular, making it possible to eat large amounts of food in
a small time span. Timber wolves have been documented 
eating up to 20 pounds of meat in on sitting! This ensures that the animal is able to eat enough to sustain itself for as long as possible. The rest of the pack of up to 20 members

must also eat from the same carcass. The stomach is highly acidic, allowing for ingestion of whole bone pieces that can be broken down into a powder-like substance. This extraordinary acidity also allows a canine to ingest large amounts of harmful bacteria without being affected. This provides dogs with the ability to eat rotting carcasses in times of need, a good survival mechanism.
The pancreas of the dog is much smaller than 
a human’s and only contains a fraction of the enzymes that we are able to produce. This means that the food items that a dog eats must come complete with the active enzymes needed to
bind with stomach acid and break down food for absorption. In dogs, meat 
enables this process to occur naturally. Cooked food items and grain items are highly indigestible for any canine species, since cooked food contains only dead enzymes and dogs do not possess the enzymes needed to break down grain. For example, Amalayze is found in the saliva of humans and is used to break down starch in the mouth. Canine saliva does not contain enzymes and is only used as a lubricant for swallowing largepieces of food. The intestine and the bowel of a carnivore are much shorter than a human’s, allowing for quick absorption and elimination of food and waste products.

Carnivores have also evolved to absorb almost all of the water content from prey items. This allows a carnivore to be hydrated for long periods without needing a water source. The impressive muscular structure of the canine family allows for quick movement when chasing prey and the ability to tackle and subdue animals many times larger than themselves.

Canines also have the unique ability to go for days without eating and can loose up to 40% of their body weight without dying. This is an impressive survival feature.

All of these traits have allowed the order Carnivora to survive and thrive on carnivorous diets for 60 million years. Domestic dogs’ ancestors roamed the earth millions of years before the appearance of the first human. This makes the evolutionary features of the modern canine family a truly winning design.

THE DIET OF THE DOG

Because of the various canine features discussed above, it is logical to conclude that the diet of the dog should be closely linked to the diet of wild canines like the wolf.

This gives us a strong foundation for how to feed our own dogs. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Timber Wolf (the dog’s closest living relative) diet is comprised of 55% white-tailed deer, 16% beavers, 10% snowshoe hares, 19% rodents and other small mammals. The wolf and the wild dog ingest almost the entire carcass of the prey they catch. This means that there is a small amount of pre-

digested vegetation eaten when the stomach (tripe) of an herbivore is eaten. According to 
 the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, feral domestic dogs eat small animals as their main source of food. During tough seasons when meat is harder to come by, wolfs and wild dogs become more opportunistic, eating eggs, fish, fermenting fruit, seeds, nuts and grasses to supplement the meat that they are able to catch. This adaptability is another beneficial survival tactic although dogs cannot sustain themselves forever on these limited food sources.

Your dog can be fed in the exact same way. There are several meats you can choose from and many different prey items including: beef/buffalo meat and bones, chicken necks/carcasses, turkey necks, turkey meat, lamb meat, lamb necks, venisonoffal and tripe. According to a wild canine diet, dogs should eat anywhere from 75-85% meat, bone, offal and tripe. 15-25% of the diet should be composed of pureed green matter such as parsley, kale, dandelion, chard and a small portion (25% of the total vegetables) of pureed root vegetation and fruit including parsnips, yams, squash, apples, pears, and berries. Always keep in mind that you should keep the diet accurately proportioned, using a prey animal as your model of proportions to feed.

KIBBLE VS. RAW

There are several major ways that kibble and raw diets differ:

1. Kibble usually contains grain content (wheat, corn, barley, oats) that is more plentiful than the meat content. This is a problem for 2 reasons:

a. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrate.

b. Dogs do not produce enzymes to digest grain or obtain nutrients from it.

2. Kibble diets contain cooked meat and meat by-products which are also hard to digest and absorb nutrients from. Enzymes are destroyed in the cooking

process.

3. The nutritional analysis information listed on every bag of kibble is based on laboratory test results. The food sources present in the kibble may contain the appropriate nutrients but the bioavailability (digestion and absorption) may be poor.  There has never been a bioavailability test done on any brand of kibble.

This means that no one knows if our dogs are actually absorbing adequate

nutrients from the food they are eating. There are also no long term studies

conducted for how dry foods affect dogs over their entire lifetime. Usually test

trials are short, under 1 year and are conducted on younger animals.

4. Because the pancreas of the dog is so small, it must work hard to break down

commercial dog food. This means that pancreatic enzymes are depleted

quickly and used to break down food with inadequate nutritional content. In

turn, the body uses an unfortunate survival tactic: it begins to absorb enzymes

and other essential nutrients from its own tissues to maintain the equilibrium

of the body. This can only remain and equilibrium for so long and may prove

to shorten the life spans of our dear canine friends.

5. Kibble is systemically dehydrating to dogs, as their bodies are designed to

absorb water from their prey. To compensate, they must drink large amounts

of water to stay hydrated. This puts extra strain on the kidneys.

©All Rights Reserved to the Author

5

6. Kibble and canned dog foods often contain toxic fillers like preservatives and

dyes. Sugar and other taste enhancers are also found in some commercial

foods to entice animals to eat it. Eating these substances daily can pose health

risks.

7. Often, synthetic vitamins are added to commercial canine diets. These

vitamins are not molecularly/nutritionally equal to the natural source vitamins

found in raw food sources.

8. Kibble has only been formulated in the last 100 years. It is absurd to assume

that dogs have evolved to eat kibble-based diets in this short amount of time.

Evolution of physiological and anatomical proportions takes hundreds of

thousands, if not, millions of years.

In comparison, the raw diet is rich in fresh meat sources. Meat, tripe, bone, organ

and a portion of pureed vegetation are filled with the enzymes needed to properly digest

and assimilate nutrients. Nutritional analyses have been done on several types of raw prey

items and they do contain all the essential nutrients required by the dog. Bioavailability

of prey items has not been studied in a laboratory but it has definitely proven to make for

resilient animals in the wild. Wild canines are capable of surviving in harsh conditions

with few or no chronic health problems. Kibble has only been fed to dogs for

approximately 100 years, whereas raw meat diets have fed the order Carnivora for 60

million years.

 

 

MAKING THE SWITCH TO RAW

A dogs most natural food is a RAW diet, dogs bodies were made to digest RAW meats, organs, fruits and vegetation, dogs naturally have an acidic environment in their stomachs which allows for easy digestion of raw foods. 

Kibble can cause upset in dogs guts do to the length of time is takes to digest, kibble can spend over 12 hours in the gut system and can lead to indigestion in some dogs, causing excess gas and large copious sized poops. 

If you decide to feed kibble with RAW never mix the two together they digest differently the combination could cause an upset digestive tract. If you feed kibble or to make the transition feed the last meal of kibble at night to ensure a full 12 hours for the dogs guts to empty, a RAW diet should be fed twice per day for adult dogs and up to 4 times per day if possible for puppies, a raw diet will digest in approx 2 to 4 hours and that would leave a dogs stomach empty for over 20 hours if only fed once a day, this can also cause stomach upsets. 

During the transition to a raw meat diet, you should begin to notice positive changes in your dogs’ health, including a shinier coat, decreased body odor, cleaner smelling breath, cleaner teeth that can be maintained with bone chewing instead of dental work, and better overall organ health e.g. an appropriate decreased water consumption = healthier kidneys. Problems that have improved on raw meat diets include but are not limited to impacted anal glands, skin problems, allergies, kidney and liver problems, pancreatic problems, digestive problems and poor dental health.

 

BOOKS

The Ultimate Diet: Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy Shultz

The Barf Diet by Dr. Ian Billinghurst DVM

WEBSITES

Guide to writings on Predation, Food and Feeding Habits, Nutrition Studies of the Wolf:

http://www.albany.edu/~knee/pred.html

Order this very insightful e-book “The Wolf’s Natural Diet: A Feeding Guide For Your Dog?” online at:

http://k9joy.com/TheWolfsNaturalDiet/index.php?camp=1212_wolf

Dr. Ian Billinghurt’s site: http://www.barfworld.com/html/learn_more/evolutionary.shtml

Robert Wayne’s wolf/dog study: http://www.idir.net/~wolf2dog/wayne2.htm

Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital: www.vancouveranimalwellness.com

Timber Wolf Nutrition from the Wisconson Department of Natural Resources– percentages of food items

within the diet: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/factsheets/mammals/wolf.htm#Food

The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology – Canis lupus familiarus (the domestic dog) behaviour,

reproduction, taxonomy and nutrition including information on feral domestic dog diets:

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Canis_lupus_familiaris.html

The Chronology of Wolf Evolution - http://www.searchingwolf.com/wevolve.htm

Club Canine Raw Food for Dogs and Cats – www.clubcanine.net

DISCLAIMER

The above information is not meant to be used to treat animals for medical

problems nor should it take the place of proper veterinary medicine. For more

information on raw canine diets, please contact a veterinarian who has experience

with the diet and uses it to supplement their practice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Griffiths is the nutritional consultant at Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital. She started working in a

pet store at the age of 17 and worked as the reptile/amphibian keeper, learning basic herpetology for over 30 species of

snakes, lizards and frogs designing natural terrain environments for different species of reptiles and amphibians. She

moved into species appropriate nutrition when she managed a raw food dog and cat store for 2.5 years and her first dog

and cat became patients Adored Beast Veterinary Clinic, now Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital. She worked for 1

year as a domestic/wild animal trainer and keeper at Creative Animal Talent Inc. in Aldergrove, BC and had the unique

pleasure of helping raise a pack of Timber Wolf cubs and working with another pack of adult Arctic Wolves. Forming

a bond through food was a very important part of raising the cubs and she saw first hand that the diet her dogs were

thriving on was the same diet the wolves ate. Sarah has also had the honor of working with several species of large cats

including Cougars, African Servals, Caracals, Fishing Cats, Cheetahs, Geoffry’s Cats, Asian Leopard Cats, Asian

Golden Cats, Rusty Spotted Cats, a Clouded Leopard and an Ocelot. She currently works as a volunteer at

Mountainview Conservation and Breeding Centre in Langley, B.C. which includes over 100 endangered species

including 14 species of wild cats, two packs of African Wild Dogs and brown hyenas that are fed raw carcass diets. She

is currently in her third year of four at the Vancouver Homeopathic Academy to receive a diploma in homeopathic

medicine for humans. Other education she has received and is enrolled in include: Veterinary Nutrition: An Integrative

Approach from Standard Process Nutrition, Exotic Cats: Husbandry and Basic Medicine from The Veterinary

Information Network. Sarah’s goals include practicing homeopathy for animals, obtaining a degree in Zoology

specializing in Carnivores, working towards the conservation of wild habitats across the world and starting a rescue

centre for exotic cats, canines and primates that need homes. Sarah currently has 2 Bullmastiffs, a Great Dane, 4 cats

and a Percheron Draft Horse, all of which are fed on biologically appropriate diets.

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