Each dog owner is presented with a myriad of options when trying to choose food and treats for their beloved canine companion. Many owners buy certain brands based on familiar names delivered through million-dollar marketing and heavily-ran, humor-dependent advertising campaigns. Others may choose based on friends and family who swear by certain store brands, which they’ve used for years. Although a steadily growing trend, thanks to all the pet food scares and recalls, it is the rare pet owner who actually takes the time to study ingredients on labels when purchasing a particular brand of kibble or even know how to dissect the “code” manufacturers use in their labeling (hint: anything followed by ‘by-product’ is not a good thing).
This column aims to arm fellow pet parents with valuable and helpful information in order to make more informed decisions when choosing your fur-baby’s food, whether it be researching particular dry food brands, raw or homecooked foods or meal plans specifically designed to incorporate lifestyle or breed-specific diets.
With regard to diet, it is important to consider what dogs ate prior to domestication. This can be difficult with dogs, however, as they have been domesticated for so long and, due to human influences, represent a vast variety of breeds and genetics.
Depending on where they were in the world, our dogs’ wild ancestors hunted in packs and sought a variety of grasses and grains for any number of digestive issues and out of sheer hunger. Simply put, they survived on what was readily available and plentiful within their environments. Dogs who originated in the arctic (Husky and other sled dogs, Labs, Newfoundlands, etc.) likely had a diet largely consisting of fish, sea vegetables, and hearty meats such as venison, as well as the ground-up, enzyme-rich stomach contents of their prey. In scarce conditions, they likely adapted to scavenging on carcasses left behind and foraging for available vegetation.
Differently, dogs originating in the southern regions (deserts or tropics) would likely have a diet more rich in fruits and berries, and simple proteins like snakes or bugs. Regardless of their origins, and thanks in part to domestication by humans, dogs have adapted and evolved to become omnivores, as well.
Something to keep in mind, however, is just because dogs are omnivores, they do not have the same digestive systems as humans, nor can they consume the full spectrum of foods. This is very important should you choose to either supplement their kibble with, or rely solely on, homemade diets.
Author Note: In the coming issues of Pup Culture Magazine, this column will explore a variety of opinions, myths and facts and will include interviews of experienced standard practice DVMs and Holistic or Naturopathic Animal Doctors. We aim to answer the questions pet owners may have when contemplating feeding habits and touch on a number of dog-related health and well-being topics.
By: Despina Karintis