Looking at a cute, fluffy white Maltese, it is hard to imagine that this little dog is essentially the same as a Wolf! While they may look different on the outside, on the inside, they are identical and have similar nutritional requirements. To truly understand how little difference there is between the wolf and the domestic dog, we have to look at their history of evolution.
No one knows for sure how the human/canine bond began but we do know that it started about 15,000 years ago. There are two theories. One is that the humans of the day took in, tamed and bred wolf cubs. The other is that wild canines learned that humans meant food, and being a skilled opportunist, they befriended humans. Humans bred those that were less aggressive, were better at begging for food, helped in the hunt and raised an alert to a potential threat, especially at night. In the short term, this was a mutually beneficial relationship and in the very, very long term, it led to the special connection we have with the domesticated dog today.
Domestication does not however mean a change in evolution (that would take millions of years) and it has been proven that the domestic dogs’ closest relative is in fact the wolf. In 1993, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the American Society of Mammalogists analyzed DNA tests on wolves and dogs. The results showed that the domestic dog is 20 times more closely related to the gray wolf, than the gray wolf is to the coyote. Therefore it is believed the dog is a direct descendant and it was renamed “canis lupus familiaris”, a subspecies of wolf. Their DNA is virtually identical.
Even if they don’t look like their wild cousins, there is no denying that a dog’s physiology proves it to be a carnivore and as such, it is designed, from nose to tail, to eat and process raw meat! The dog has sharp teeth that tear and swallow food (neither flattened molars nor sideways jaw movement for grinding) and a strong jaw for crushing bones. The stomach is large and muscular, allowing for the ingestion of large meals (relative to its size) and a dogs stomach should be acidic (as it is when on a raw diet) enabling it to digest whole raw bone pieces through absorption of calcium (we caution that a dog should not be fed raw bones until they have been on a completely raw diet for a month). It also makes for an extremely hostile environment for parasites and bacteria. This comes in very handy should it need to ingest a rotting carcass when food is scarce, protecting the animal from bacteria, salmonella, e-coli, giardia etc. On to the intestines, only 6 feet long, the function of which is to absorb nutrients and eliminate digested raw meat quickly, before it putrefies. Compare that to human intestines at an average 26 feet in length and a cow’s intestines which can measure more than 120 feet….more appropriate for a true omnivore or herbivore.
Does a carnivore also eat vegetable matter? Indeed it does. Its’ main source of carbohydrates is through the stomach contents of its prey. When meat is scarce it will also supplement its diet with fermenting fruit, seeds, nuts and grasses, eggs and fish. It seems that we can categorize the dog, wild or domesticated, as an omnivore with a highly carnivorous diet.
Over the next several articles, we’ll be looking at how a carnivore digests and absorbs both food and water, how to feed a raw diet properly, why it is so beneficial, and the reasons why we don’t recommend kibble.