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They're Not Wolves


When we discuss animals "branching off" like wolves and dogs, we're referring to the process of domestication or speciation, where one species gives rise to another due to changes in the environment, human intervention, or other factors.

Wolves (Canis lupus) are the wild ancestors of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), with the domestication process beginning around 30-40,000 years ago.

We understand without much education on the topic what wolves would eat in the wild...mostly animals i.e. large hoofed mammals such as deer, elk, bison, and moose, they also hunt/ed smaller mammals such as beavers, rodents, and hares + they don't mind grazing on plants too.

Because dogs branched off from wolves, their digestive systems are quite similar with some recent adaptations.

Short digestive systems mean wolves and dogs don't get food poisoning at the rate humans do. Humans have longer digestive systems where food sits around for longer because humans digestive systems are geared towards cooked/fermented/salt preserved foods and these need more time in the digestive system. So, when you hear that you shouldn't feed raw food to a dog because it could get food poisoning, it is a little eyebrow-raising - that certainly isn't the rationale you want to lead with when trying to tell someone feeding real food to their dog in unhealthy. Whilst it's not impossible for dogs to get food poisoning, their digestive systems are literally made by Mother Nature to consume such a diet.

Dogs also have specific types of bacteria in their digestive system that makes consuming their natural mostly animal-based diet easier.

Back in 2017, an independent New Zealand study[1] found that a high-meat diet is easier for dogs to digest, meaning more nutrients are able to be absorbed which resulted in higher levels of bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion.

As confronting as it may be for some people within the companion dog industry, this study showed that these higher levels of bacteria demonstrated 𝗮 𝗱𝗼𝗴’𝘀 𝗴𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗶𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗶𝗴𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗮 𝗱𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝗵𝗶𝗴𝗵 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝘁.

The study which was led by AgResearch and Massey University also shows there may have been too much reliance on research into the diets of humans or other animals in the past when it comes to the best diet for dogs.

“𝐖𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐲 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨𝐠𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐧𝐨 𝐧𝐮𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐛𝐨𝐡𝐲𝐝𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐭, 𝐬𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲 𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐝𝐨𝐠’𝐬 𝐝𝐢𝐠𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐦 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐮𝐬 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐚 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐫 𝐩𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐮𝐦 𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐝𝐨𝐠𝐬 𝐢𝐬,” 𝐬𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲 𝐜𝐨-𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐃𝐫 𝐄𝐦𝐦𝐚 𝐁𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐡𝐚𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐀𝐠𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡. 

Dr Bermingham hits it home when she states "The study supports our long-held view that dogs need to be fed a high meat, low carbohydrate diet best suited to their biological makeup.”

Some people will cite that because dogs have evolved to be able to digest starch better than wolves that this means they should be eating a starch-rich diet aka kibble (dry food), as we go on to discuss below, it is more likely a result from an adaptation to the shift of human food habits some 12,000 years ago, it does not mean that they do not thrive on a mostly meat-based diet.

Starches comprise between 30% and 60% of extruded dog foods aka kibble and sources include the likes of cereals, tubers, legumes, and by-products from the human food chain. Starches provide a cheaper energy source rather than using more expensive fats to fuel the food, starch also helps bind the kibble together.[2]

To be able to break down starch, you need pancreatic amylase (AMY2B) which serves as the first step in the digestion of starch to glucose in the small intestine - dogs have more copies of AMY2B than Wolves BUT some breeds have more than others.[3]

Currently, only a few dog lineages, such as the dingo and the Siberian husky, show an unusual lack of AMY2B copies. These dogs come from regions with no, or recent, agricultural practices.

This finding supports the hypothesis that the development of a dog's capability to digest starch efficiently does not result from a relaxation of the natural selection pressures related to domestication. It is more likely to result from an adaptation to the shift of human food habits during the Neolithic.[4]

The Neolithic Revolution also referred to as the Agricultural Revolution is thought to have begun about 12,000 years ago. It coincided with the end of the last ice age and the beginning of the current geological epoch, the Holocene.[5]

The gut microbiome of the modern wolf and the dog do differ and we would expect this because they have different diets and the environments they live in are different.

Even wolves who live in sanctuaries where their diets are managed by humans are still fed a species-appropriate diet, whereas, a dog's diet is largely made up of highly processed dry pellets balanced with synthetic nutrients, they are also exposed to sanitation, hygiene & pollution more-so than their ancestors. For both Wolves and dogs, geography, and climate impact the microbiome just as it does in humans.

The modern dog does have a more diverse gut microbiome than wolves and this is thought to be because they have access to a larger variety of food[6], even so, kibble-fed dogs have less diversity than dogs fed real food.[7]

Now, let's head back to the initial comments about "dogs branching off from wolves" and that dogs are not wolves therefore we shouldn't feed them a species-appropriate diet....This would be like saying that the other animals that branched off shouldn't receive a species-appropriate diet either such as:


  • Wild Aurochs and Modern Cattle

  • Wild Sheep and Domestic Sheep

  • Bactrian Camel and Dromedary Came

But no one is telling them the only thing they should be eating is kibble/highly processed diets unless they've found themselves in factory farming where non-species appropriate foods are used to finish animals before slaughter etc.

In closing, we're not trying to feed dogs as wolves, we're just trying to feed them a healthy species-appropriate diet that doesn't include highly processed brown pellets with synthetic nutrients.

𝗜𝗳 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘀-𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗲𝗿 𝗱𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗱𝗼𝗴, 𝗮 𝗵𝘆𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁, 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲:


References:  See our original post on this subject

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