Thousands of years ago, dogs joined men as domestic companions. Theories abound as to how this came about, but the end result can be seen today with the various breeds of dogs that share our lives. While today most dogs fulfill a roll mostly of companion and are considered a member of the family, the majority of their history with humans has been as a working animal with a specific job to perform to assist their human and earn their keep. Until very recently in human culture, people hunted, raised or grew their own food or lived very closely to the people who did. This meant that food was usually fresh and wholesome. Our canine companions were either responsible for feeding themselves by hunting, received scraps leftover from the slaughter of the animals we ate or from our home prepared meals. This is how it went for thousands of years up until about a couple of hundred years ago and the Industrial Revolution. As human culture changed, so did the eating habits of people and their canine companions. With the passing years, the focus has become less on fresh food that is prepared in the home towards a more processed food that is prized for its convenience over nutrition and is sourced from a few large corporations. A corporation’s primary goal is to earn a profit for its shareholders, so it was only a “natural” progression that someone would eventually come up with the idea that there could be a use for all of the refuse from human food production. Dog food was invented!
So, let’s go back to the fact that our domesticated dogs are essentially a wolf in dog’s clothing. This means that their body is designed and functions the same as the wolf from nose to tail. If you look in their mouths, you will discover a bunch of sharp pointed teeth – not a flat molar designed for grinding in sight. These are teeth that are meant to be used to rip, tear and shred meat before chunks are swallowed whole aided by the saliva that lubricates the food. Unlike herbivores and omnivores, there is no amylase present in the saliva to begin the digestion process. Digestion begins when the food enters the stomach which contains hydrochloric acid ten times stronger than that found in the stomach of an omnivore such as a human. This is one reason why bacteria that would make a human very sick if ingested is no problem for a carnivore to handle. Another reason is that any bacteria that survive the stomach will be pushed quickly through the small intestine which is proportionately much shorter than that of a human’s, so the food is not sitting around in the gut giving the surviving bacteria a chance to multiply. The carnivore’s organs function differently, too, to process a diet of raw animal flesh. The pancreas secretes enzymes which break down the large amounts of protein and fat in the diet. It is not designed to create the amount of amylase necessary to break down carbs, so diets filled with grains and vegetables will be very taxing to a dog’s system. Even the end result is different as feces of a carnivore fed grains and veggies will be larger and smellier as much of what went in was not digested by a system designed for raw meat and bones. When was the last time you saw a wolf eating their meal out of a can or bag? There is no dispute that a wolf is a carnivore, so why the disconnect when it comes to our pets?
This brings us back to the invention of processed food for our dogs. As stated, commercial dog food as we know it was designed primarily as a way to make use of the waste by-products of human food production. As with most products that aren’t good for us, a large marketing strategy was put into place to make us believe that our dogs needed this processed food. That it is nutritionally balanced and complete, in fact, far better for them than the whole, raw foods eaten by the wolves in the wild. Maybe because we no longer view our dogs as wild predators that kill living creatures to survive, it was easier to swallow the lie. What started off as a convenient way for people to feed their dogs when they traveled to places like dog shows with them, quickly spread to the general populace as an easy way of feeding the four-legged member of their family. The convenience of opening a bag or can supplanted the idea of nourishing our pets with whole, real food. Our meals now came out of a box or can, so why shouldn’t our dog’s, too?
The degradation of the human food system is a whole other issue; however, what is happening with humans is mirrored in the care of our pets. Food is becoming increasingly processed and contains ingredients that sound like something out of a chemistry lab rather than a farm. Price has become more important than quality and the corporations answer this demand by using lower quality sources to manufacture their products (the fact that we refer to food as “manufactured” is incredibly disturbing in itself). As we and our carnivore friends eat more and more food that our bodies are not designed to eat, we see the inevitable increase in chronic disease and health problems as our bodies cannot keep up with the toxins we are placing in them. A carnivore is biologically designed to eat raw protein that comes from the flesh of another animal – instead we feed them processed foods comprised primarily of grain and vegetable scraps. Even when there is meat included in the food, it is all cooked for an extended period of time at high temperatures. This destroys all the enzymes and amino acids that the dog’s body needs to gain proper nutrition and thrive. Since they are not getting the nutrition they need from the food they are eating, it is common for them to overeat in an attempt to gain the nutrition their body needs and thus can create the additional problem of obesity – just like in people.
As a general rule, people follow the status quo and the lies fed to them by the corporations to keep using their products and then when the inevitable illness results, the drug companies have the pill to “cure” the problem. This leads to a vicious cycle of the body being kept out of balance and unable to heal itself as it was designed to do. Some people are beginning to see the light, however, and realize that things aren’t working the way they are when it comes to what we are eating and how we are caring for our health and that of our animals. All of the companies and individuals who stand to lose money when a client takes the road less traveled for their pet are fighting with lies upon lies to ensure that this doesn’t happen: the pet food industries, the pharmaceutical companies and the veterinarians. It’s not even that any of these individuals actually want your pet to be ill, but they have been so deeply indoctrinated into the machine that they believe the lies themselves. They can’t afford not to. So, it is up to the individual to step up and take responsibility for their pet’s health and to learn what is necessary for their carnivore companion to truly be healthy and thrive. The first step towards this is to start feeding a species appropriate raw diet of raw meaty bones. They need to realize that not only are the processed diets, no matter their ingredients, not healthy for our pets, but that they will not thrive on whole foods that we perceive as healthy for ourselves like fruits and vegetables. Pet owners need to get past the “ick” factor that they may feel when feeding raw meat – you are asking a carnivore to eat what is natural for them, not eating it yourself after all. As a small animal health coach, it is my responsibility to help others see this truth and begin to apply it to their own pets’ lives.