WHAT MY DOG IS MADE TO EAT?
In May 2017, I adopted my first own dog, Altaï, a 2 months Australian Shepherd puppy, full of life. As a lot of dog owner, I am crazy about my dog, he is the cutest, the nicest, just the best and I want the best for him. When I adopted Altaï he was eating supermarket kibble as a lot of dogs. I never really asked myself questions about it, it is so common that when we ask children “What a dog should eat?“, they answer kibbles. But Altaï was never a big fan of his kibbles. My first reaction was to change of brand, but which one? When you make research on kibble you are easily lost, so many references, some for special deceases, age, breed, type of coat… But what really changed from this brand to this one? I met with friends who also had dogs and there was one thing that was coming back all the time. “You should buy grain free kibbles.“ Wait. Let’s just start again. What ingredients there is in kibbles?
For most of the brands kibbles contain from 20% to 80% of grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc) or starch (potatoes, lentils, peas,…), 5% to 20% of bone meal (wheat created from unconsumed part of farm animal, which means, bones, head, hoof, and certain offal), added nutrients and preservatives. Sometimes for the “best“ brands, we can find a bit of dehydrated meat from slaughterhouse garbage. Say like that it makes dream no-one and certainly not our dogs.
So why grain free? Is it better? First, we need to define what’s the natural diet of dogs. If tomorrow our dogs were going back to the wild, what will they eat? If they stay around humans probably our garbage but if they were really in the wild without human influence?
We need to interest dog physiology. How their body works and how they digest. These last years dogs have been reconsidered into the classification of species. For a long time, dogs have been considered firstly as a unique species, then as a wolf cousin with an ancestor in common and now it’s has been proved dogs are a subspecies of wolf. Canis Familiaris became Canis Lupus Familiaris. This is an important fact, if we’ve seen many differences is social behavior, as we can see between zoo wolves and wild wolves, we can’t say that biology system has many differences.
From inside your chihuahua have everything of a wolf, everything of a carnivore. They have a vertical chewing common to every carnivores from cats to lion passing by wolf and dog. At the opposite, us as omnivore has a vertical and horizontal chewing process. Omnivores as Human have amylase in their saliva, this enzyme is used to help digestion of grains. Dogs, cats and all carnivore do not have this enzyme. So why there are grains in kibble?
Let’s continue a bit, dog stomach is acid, this was made for digestion of raw meat, to kill any bacterium. Finally the stomach and intestine are really short to make digestion the shorter possible to still avoid bacterium infection. Again, it’s physiological facts common to every carnivore. This is here general facts but the University of Toulouse went deeper and compared
tooth between wolves and dogs and found many similarities. However, the University of Toulouse also highlighted the fact that Canis gender have also many differences in the same species depending from regions of the world they come from. All these species and subspecies completely adapt to different ways of living contrary for example to horses who all around the world share more similarities. The fact that wolves and dogs can have a fertile posterity also proof that these two animal have really close genetics. For Jane Unter in 1787 the wolves, dogs, and jackal are the same species and for Darwin dogs were born from half a dozen different wild species but admit that we could never really know dogs origins with certitudes. It’s why we now need to understand the domestication process.
Domestication process has been studied during the XXth century. The Russian geneticist Dimitri K. Belyae passed 50 years studying the domestication process.
First, we need to define domestication and taming. Taming is at the scale of the life of the animal and on one animal, domestication is at the scale of a species on several generations.
Belyae took silver foxes in natures for his experience, hundred of them. He used to touch them every day with gloves and only reproduce the “nicest“ ones, so the one who was not scared or trying to bite him. He continues his experience on the next generations, always allowing to reproduce the nicest ones.
After a few generations, silver foxes were physically changing. However it was always pure silver foxes, he never crossed them with dogs. He see appear more colors, the hears and queue became a bit smaller and foxes started to act like dogs. They were answering to their name, move the queue when they were happy, liked playing etc. From the first generation to the last one in less than 20 generations foxes changed radically, only by selecting them on their personality. Belyae analyzed their genetics and found first that color appears because foxes were less scared, felt security and so they do not need to hide in nature with a specific color.