Hey, fellow pet lovers!
Today’s post is going to answer the question of can dogs eat raw meat? Believe it or not, this question has been Googled a hell of a lot and I want to provide an answer for all you worried pet owners out there.
The answer to this question is YES!!
Our dogs can eat raw meat and there are so many reasons why they should and are able to eat a species appropriate diet that consists of:
- Raw muscle meat
- Raw edible meaty bones
- And raw organ meat
In this post, we are going to talk all about the different reasons why it is safe for our dogs to eat a raw diet and how it is the best option for ensuring they live a happy and healthy life. I hope to show you that your domesticated furry friend is a lot wilder than you think.
Without a doubt, the foundation of good health lies within a healthy diet. Faced with shelf upon shelf stocked with countless options, big name brands selling you hypoallergenic, grain-free, this and that it can all become a little bit daunting when trying to find the right choice for your pet.
To make any kind of a sensible choice for our beloved pets we must look at what dogs are, how they are built, and what we can learn from their biology? As well as their ancestry, as all this will help us to understand what the best food options for canine companions are?
Let’s jump straight into today’s post and understand why our dogs can not only survive, but truly thrive eating a species appropriate diet.
Your Dog is a Domesticated Wolf!
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We know that at some point in the distant past, the dogs in our homes and the Grey Wolves of today share a common ancestor. At some point in history, the lives and the future of these two species became intertwined and the product of that almost symbiotic relationship is the dogs that we keep in our homes today.
You may be surprised to learn, however, that these often adorable animals that we make a part of our family and share our lives with also share a whopping 98.8% of their genes with modern-day Wolves. This is the first of many facts as to why your dog is more than capable of consuming and not just surviving but thriving on a raw meat-based diet.
Their species are still so close, that if a dog (Canis Lupus Familiaris) and a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus) were to breed with one another, they would produce offspring that they themselves could go on to reproduce.
This is known as being ‘interfertile’.
So, although our often cute and docile dogs may look a lot different from their wild counterparts, under the skin, they are very much the same. Through our countless generations of selective breeding, we have chosen to modify the temperament firstly, favouring the more friendly and obedient, and secondly the size and shape to create a vast amount of variation in the appearance of one breed to the next. With this, we can truly see how much potential is locked away in these genes.
One aspect that we have not greatly influenced by all of this selective breeding is the digestive system, obviously, over the time we have spent together some aspects have changed. For instance, our dogs have a higher tolerance for starches than that of the Grey Wolf; this is likely due to generations of poor diets provided by people with not a lot to offer and constant availability of table scraps. Despite this, the similarities between our furry friends and the Grey Wolf are uncanny, and, there is no other place we should look to see what our dogs should be eating, to be in optimum health.
What do Grey Wolves eat then, and what can we take from this in order to try to feed our dogs the right thing?
You might be under the impression that wolves and dogs fall into the same group as we do and as omnivores, we are able to eat a wide range of meat and vegetable matter.
However, our dogs and their wild counterparts fall between what it is to be a carnivore and an omnivore, this group is referred to as ‘non-obligate carnivores’ or ‘facultative carnivores’. This can be confusing as there are no distinct lines drawn between the amounts of vegetable matter a non-obligate carnivore could eat before it would be classed as an omnivore.
This is why our dogs can survive on a diet rich in carbohydrates such as low-quality kibble or canned/pouched wet food that is limited in protein and fat. They are still able to get nutrients from it but that doesn’t mean it is benefiting them or helping them to be in an optimum state. This is not the case for our feline friends though as they are strict carnivores. To learn more about raw feeding for cats check out our post on Raw Feeding for cats: the basics!.
If we take what we know so far into account, where else can we look that will tell us what we should be feeding our canine companions?
Why your dog can eat raw meat?
There are plenty of reasons s to why our canine friends are able to safely eat raw meat and thrive on a raw food diet, such as:
Your dog’s mouth is made for eating raw meat and crunching bones
Nia, eating a whole Partridge.
Let’s begin at the start of the digestive system, at the mouth.
Wolves and dogs both share a mouth full of sharp-pointed teeth that meet together in a scissor-like fashion, your dog, in fact, should have 42 of these teeth which are for the purpose of slicing through meat, cutting through sinuses and muscles and lastly, crunching bones. There is not a tooth in your dog’s mouth that is there for the purpose of grinding vegetation to make it more digestible.
Here is a list of your pet’s teeth and what purpose they serve when catching, killing and eating its prey.
- They have Canines (Fang teeth) which help your dog catch and kill their prey
- Premolars (Front teeth) which help your pet scrap meat off the bone
- Small Incisors to grab and hold the meat
- Large Incisors to cut sinuses and muscles
- Lastly Molars to crush up bones
All these teeth point to one undeniable observation, and that is that our dogs are built to eat a diet of raw muscle meat, organ meat, and edible bone. Another interesting fact that backs up this point is that our dogs are not capable of grinding up their food. They are unable to move their jaw from side to side to chew, as they can only move their jaw up and down to crunch their food. Again demonstrating that our pets are made to eat a raw diet of meat, bone, and offal, as they are unable to chew up vegetable or fruit matter.
Your dog’s teeth and ability to only move their jaw up and down are the second reasons as to why our pets can and should eat raw meat alongside edible raw meaty bones and raw organ meat, to be in optimum health. Next to talk about is how our dogs lack the enzyme Amylase in their saliva to help aid in the digestion of starches.
- Our dogs lack the enzyme Amylase in their saliva to aid in the digestion of starches.
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As an omnivore, we humans are quite capable of digesting the starches we often shovel into our body, this process starts in the mouth. As well as chewing, our saliva contains a key enzyme called ‘Amylase’ which starts the starchy digestion process as soon as food enters our mouth.
Dogs do not possess this adaption, dogs truly have the mouths of carnivores, their pancreas is, however, capable of producing this enzyme, so we can assume that they are capable of and benefit from a small amount of starchy vegetable matter in their diets.
Our dog’s digestion really takes place when their food hits their stomach bar the cephalic phase which is when gastric secretion occurs even before any food has entered the body, the sight, smell, thought or taste of food can start this process. I always call my girl Nia, greedy guts because of how fast she eats her food. However, that’s not the case she is just getting it to the place where it can start to be broken down and digested as fast as possible.
- Your dog has a short digestive tract and a seriously acidic stomach!!
Other things we can note about our dog’s digestive system is how short it is, how quickly they can process the food they eat and how acidic and inhospitable their stomachs truly are. Being short allows the digestion process to happen quickly when dogs where wolves this would have been an advantage when a large kill was made and multiple feedings could be had in a small space of time.
This adaption also most likely means that any pathogenic and harmful bacteria would not get the chance to multiply before being evacuated, a handy attribute when you sometimes are having to scavenge from questionably old animal carcasses.
A very acid stomach will also play a role in this ability to process meat that can be old or fresh. As you could imagine having to break down chunks of raw meat and bone would require strong stomach acid, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The lower the Ph the more acidic and a dog that eats raw meat will have a stomach Ph of 2 or lower, let’s bear in mind that the Ph of sulphuric acid is higher at around 2.75 and our own can be as high as 3.5.
Now we know that wolves and retrospectively dogs are built to eat other animals and a small amount of plant matter. We can now look at what we know about the things a wolf will eat in the wild.
What do Wolves eat?
Photo by Amar Saleem on Pexels.com
Wolves being social animals will often hunt in packs, when they do this they will usually target weak or elderly animals in the ungulate group, a group of animals that consists mostly of large mammals. Beyond this their diets are made up of a large variety of small mammals, birds, and their eggs, even reptiles and fish make up a portion of the diet depending on which part of the world the wolves reside in.
As well as all of this nutrition rich animal matter wolves are known to supplement their diet with fruits, often which are berries which you would expect to find in the cooler climates of the northern hemisphere. Grasses and other small amounts of vegetation have also been seen to be on the menu.
A Quick Summary
Here is a quick reminder as to why our dogs are more than capable of eating a diet of raw meat, edible bones, and offal.
- Wolves and dogs share an impressive 98.8% of their genome.
- They both possess a mouth full of 42 bone-crunching and meat cutting teeth, with no teeth for grinding up vegetation or fruit matter.
- They lack the starch-digesting enzyme Amylase in their saliva.
- They have a short digestive system with a very acidic stomach which hinders the growth of pathogenic bacteria and potentially kills parasites. This allows them to be able to digest raw bones and meat.
- Wolves subsist mostly on meat with the supplementation of berries, grasses and other vegetation.
- Our dogs cannot move their mouth from side to side to chew up vegetation or fruit matter, they can solely just gulp/crunch their food by moving their mouth up and down.
Knowing what we now know about the closeness in the biology of wolves and dogs and what wolves eat, it is surely reasonable to assume that what we should be feeding our dogs to keep them in the best health would be an ‘ancestral diet’, based on what we know about how their modern-day, wild counterparts eat.
A diet of good quality raw meat, edible bone, and organs, with a small amount of vegetation which should likely include a small number of berries and other nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, is the best approach for ensuring our dogs live the happiest and healthiest life possible.
Humans and dogs have come so far together and I am so glad we have created, through selective breeding such a vast range of amazing breeds. However, it is so easy to think that our dogs are just like us, that they can do fine on eating a diet of cooked convenience foods but the truth is they cannot!! They are just domesticated wolves and that 1.2% difference is not enough to justify giving our pets a diet that is not suited to their genetic makeup.
Books to help you learn more about your dog and raw feeding
Here are two books which I think you will enjoy reading as they will help you to learn more about raw feeding and also give you a deeper understanding of how to optimize your dog’s life through feeding functional foods and promoting positive gene expression.
Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs by Jonathan Self.
Personally, I love this book!
To learn more about it check out my short book review, Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs, Book Review.
To purchase this book follow the link below, Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs
To purchase this book follow the link below, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health.
*By purchasing through this link you are supporting epoch.pet as we get a small amount of commission, with no extra cost to you. This money helps keep the blog up and running and allows us to purchase pet products to review on our site.
Thanks for reading this post and you finally know the answer to that not so scary question of Can Dogs eat raw meat? If you enjoyed today’s post then let me know by hitting that like button or giving it a share so other pet owners can learn all about our canine friend’s capability to consume a raw meat diet.
If your interested in starting your pet on a Species Appropriate Diet then check out our post on Raw Feeding for dogs: the basics!, Raw Feeding for cats: the basics! and also our post on the Benefits of Feeding a BARF or PMR diet.