10 Reasons to Consider an Ancestral Diet for Your Dog

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Today’s guest post is from Amy of Primal Pooch, an excellent blog about raw feeding and overall dog health. Follow Primal Pooch on Twitter and Facebook for more great information.

Here's the secret to keeping your dog healthy and happy. Hint: It includes real food, wink wink!"

Here’s the secret to keeping your dog healthy and happy. Hint: It includes real food, wink wink!

As a follower of the Paleo or Primal Diet, you’re most likely well versed in ancestral nutrition and are aware of the curing power of consuming real, biologically appropriate foods.

Not only are you knowledgeable, you believe in this methodology and way of life because, well, duh, you wouldn’t be reading a primal living blog if you weren’t quite fond of it.

Though you’re already well versed, let’s recap the theory behind the Paleo or Primal diet, or any ancestral diet for that matter.

Basic Premise of Ancestral Nutrition

There’s been heaps of research validating the point that primitive peoples and early civilizations were healthier than we are today. Though they had shorter lifespans due to dangerous lifestyles (western medicine didn’t exist to heal injury or infection), nutritionally speaking, they were superior to us.

The illnesses and diseases of today were non-existent because those peoples ate real, natural, and unaltered foods. This was before the agricultural revolution and far before the times of processed convenience food. Their health was superior from eating natural, unaltered foods, but that wasn’t the only piece to their nutritional fountain of youth. The foods they consumed were biologically appropriate for them.

What does this mean?

They consumed foods that supported their anatomy and physiology, more importantly, foods that their digestive tracts were equipped to handle.

Ancestral Nutrition for Animals

You may know the secret to optimal health, but have you given much thought to how these principles can apply to our beloved pets?

People aren’t the only ones that benefit from eating natural, organic, unprocessed, and biologically appropriate foods. Animals do as well. The laws of nature and the power of nutrition are universal for all living beings.

Even if you haven’t given this much thought, you’ve most likely considered this when deciding what types of meat are optimal for you and your family to consume. Why do you think grass-fed beef is healthier?

If we take a look at cows for example, their health has also deteriorated since the agricultural revolution. They used to be healthy and robust, grazing on their natural diet of grass.

Today, they consume feed full of grains, starches, and even meat products. These cause nutritional deficiencies, which weaken the immune system leading to infection and disease over time. This is the reason antibiotics must be administered on a regular and preemptive basis; otherwise the cows would be even sicker.

Now, take a look at the modern dog. They’re also chronically sick, whether they suffer from allergies, hot spots, reoccurring eye, ear, skin, yeast, or urinary tract infections. They too are afflicted with the same diseases of civilization. Enter diabetes, liver disease, cancers, and a host of other conditions. But that’s not all. They’re steadily becoming overweight and obese. Do you see the correlation here?

I’d like you to take an honest look at the health of your pets. Have you given much thought to what you feed them? If you follow an ancestral diet, shouldn’t they?
Reasons Why Your Dog Should be eating an Ancestral Diet

1. Pet food is processed

Pet food is extremely processed. It’s the equivalent of you eating fast food. Everyday.

Take a look at the deceptive images of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables displayed prominently on your chosen bag of kibble. Look at the end product.

Those smelly pellets aren’t anywhere close to real food, they’re also pumped full of preservatives. The last time I checked, dog food lasted far longer than your average box of crackers. Real food is perishable.

2. Pet food contains harmful chemicals

There are a ton of chemical ingredients in pet food that can cause liver disease, cancers and a range of other problems.

Some chemicals commonly found in pet food are additives, emulsifiers, anti caking and gelling agents, artificial coloring and flavors, drying and curing agents, humectants, grinding agents, leavening agents, palatants, lubricants, pelleting agents, petroleum by products, stabilizers, pH control, thickeners and texturizers.

3. Pet food is not biologically appropriate

Dogs are nearly identical to the wolf, genetically. If you take a look at the anatomy and physiology of the modern dog, it hasn’t changed much.

Many mistakenly assume dogs are omnivores since they currently consume an omnivorous diet. However, everything about them suggests they are still true carnivores.

This means that pet food is not a biologically appropriate food for them to consume. Pet food contains grains and starches and other carbohydrates in considerably higher quantities than meat.

This leads to nutritional deficiencies and a breakdown of the immune system over time because dogs cannot digest and assimilate the nutrition from these foods as efficiently as they can from raw meats, organs, and bones.

4. Pet food is in the wrong form

Pet food is also cooked. A dog’s natural diet consists of raw food. Raw food has high moisture content and contain valuable vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Cooking destroys some vitamins, minerals and enzymes, and drastically decreases the water or moisture content.

 5. Pet food ingredients are poor quality

Proponents for the pet food industry will refute this with advertising messages claiming nothing but the finest ingredients for pets. If this is true, why is pet food not fit for human consumption? We may not enjoy the taste, but if it’s made from the same quality ingredients we should be able to consume it without harm.

It’s because pet food is made from the food industry’s garbage, from food that cannot be passed as safe for human consumption. The protein found in pet food is rendered protein.

Rendered protein is essentially recycled animal meat. What’s in rendered meat? Dead and diseased farm animals are sent to rendering facilities. Euthanized animals are picked up by rendering services from your local veterinary office. These animals often still contain powerful drugs in their systems and are wearing flea and tick collars or other forms of identification. Restaurants even recycle rendered animal fat or vegetable fat and oils from grease traps. Even expired grocery store meat can be donated to rendering facilities.

6. Dogs are genetically closer to their ancestors than we are

It’s been cited that human DNA can range from 0.3 % – 2.0% in its similarity to primates and other early ancestors like Neanderthals.

The dog differs from the Gray Wolf at most by 0.2%. The modern dog is closer to the wolf than other wild animals in the dog family. In comparison, the coyote differs from the wolf by as much as 4.0%

Dogs may be even closer genetically to their ancestors than we are to our ancestors. Maybe this is an indication that they should also be following an ancestral diet.

7. Dogs have a predator’s build.

Our bodies hold clues into what we were designed to eat. Dogs have muscular and powerful bodies, compared to their body weight. They have predatory claws instead of hooves.

A dog’s shoulder blades are actually detached from it’s skeleton to allow for great flexibility and speeds while running after prey.

Their eyes are also located at the front of their skull, this is called forward facing binocular vision and it’s essential for predatory animals that rely on sight to catch prey. This is opposed to eyes that are positioned on the opposite sides of the head like many herbivores.

One last thing that goes without saying, dogs have a fantastic sense of smell and keen hearing, both important for hunting.

8. Dogs have a carnivore’s skull structure and teeth

Our skulls even contain interesting clues about our natural diets. The dog’s temporal bone does not permit lateral movement in the jaw. This means no chewing or side-to-side movement.

Despite what we like to think, our dogs do not chew. Kibble is never chewed but taken up whole and swallowed. Dogs instinctually rip, shred, tear, and swallow. Their jaws are able to open wide to gulp down larger chunks of food.

Have you ever noticed that dogs lack flat, square shaped molars? Their molars are jagged and pointed. The canine teeth are very well developed and are long, sharp, and curved. Incisors are also short, jagged, and pointed.

9. Dogs have a predatory mindset

We can easily see that dogs have a predatory nature. Dogs are more aggressive by nature than large herbivorous animals (think how low key a cow is). They require this predatory mindset because it’s geared for hunting, stalking, and killing prey. This prey drive is why dogs instinctively chase things, even if they’re just playing.

10. Dogs have a carnivore’s digestive tract

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to feed an ancestral diet is that dogs have the digestive tract of a carnivore.

At the very beginning of the digestive process, dogs lack salivary amylase, an enzyme found in omnivorous and herbivorous animals, that would normally begin the breakdown of food once it enters the mouth.

Dogs have larger, more elastic stomachs because they were designed to accommodate large meals (carnivores eat bigger meals less often where herbivores graze on smaller quantities of food more often).  In fact, their stomachs can hold 60-70% of the total volume of the digestive tract. Their stomach acid is very powerful; this higher concentration of hydrochloric acid kills bacteria and pathogens in raw meat.

Their intestines are short compared to the intestine length of plant eating animals. Herbivores and omnivores have smaller stomachs and long, complicated intestines. A dog’s short intestines and colon digest matter and pass food quickly because raw meat takes less time to digest than vegetables and must be passed at a faster speed to avoid putrefaction in the gut.

Where Can You Learn More About a Canine Ancestral Diet?

The ancestral diet for people is quite different than the ancestral diet for a dog. It wouldn’t make sense for us to throw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds our dog’s way because we’re omnivores.

A dog by default is a carnivore and should follow the ancestral diet of their carnivorous relatives for optimal health and well-being. This includes muscle meat, skin, bones, organs and other raw offal.

If you want to begin feeding your dog an ancestral diet, dive into learning all that you can about a raw feeding and raw diets for dogs. A great source is Primal Pooch, a primal living blog for dogs dedicated towards raw feeding, holistic health, exercise, activity, and dog sports. It’s time to take the principles of the Primal diet to get your dog on the health track too!

Categories: Guest Posts, Pets