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 Carnivore or Omnivore ???

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aljones
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PostSubject: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:50 pm

MiyasMomma and I had a bit of a disagreement in one topic recently so I went looking to see whether our canine friends are true carnivores or omnivores.
One of the first statements I ran into is "they are of the order Carnivora" so of course they're carnivores - but so's the Panda who's diet is entirely bamboo (( how did a Panda get into the carnivore family?? Smile )) But then how much faith are we going to put into a dog food company?

But then our handy reference DogFoofAdvisor has a difference of opinion. Stating that dogs are absolute carnivores (coulda fooled me, mine will dig carrots out of the ground for their "meat")

Then on one of my favourite sites, Vetstreet, it seems as if the experts can't really make up their minds.  There are arguments for both sides of the topic.

So finally I just went scanning on the returns ( Google "dogs carnivore omnivore" ) looking for just one piece of information from a school or science center ... and found NONE

I find it interesting that most people who feed "BARF" or raw diets also include some vegetable protein (rice seems to be high on the list).  Now if we're talking about people who know their dogs are carnivores and are trying to provide them with as natural a diet as possible, why do they include rice, etc?

We assume that dog food companies are producing a product that meets our dogs needs and some companies who didn't, didn't make the grade.  That leaves a major portion of the dog food business who include grains in their mix - ranging from some to a major portion of the mix.  If so many companies are producing similar mixes, then one assumes that there's a certain amount of scientific research that went into determining what the optimal mix should be for the dog.  But they all (seemingly) include grains that would not be acceptable or digestible in a true carnivore.

One of the interesting article I happened across while reading for this was a discussion of dog origins (North America, traveled west across the Bering Strait about 40M years ago).  Also the relationship between jackals, coyote, wolves, foxes and dogs.  It appears (from mitochondrial DNA) that our furry friends are indeed descended from wolves (as opposed to jackals, et al) but that there are significant differences between the dog and the wolf.

End result of all this, while it's true that dogs are carnivores - they've been placed into a class called "opportunistic feeders" meaning that they'll eat just about anything at just about any time but that their preference is MEAT (well, for that matter, so's mine but I'm an omnivore!).  Just to toss the equation a bit more, our friendly feline is a strict carnivore and gains no nutrition from the grains our dogs can digest.

You takes your pick and call the shots as you see them, while I'll agree that dogs are indeed carnivores (both by classification and eating preference) I'll still consider them a more omnivorous member of the family.

There, MiyasMomma, satisfied??  << tease >>
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 3:28 pm

I'm not sure what the point of this post is since there where no questions raised or opinions solicited. So I'm going to go off the thread title for the objective of the thread.

Dog are not obligate carnivores like their feline counterparts. However, they are specifically designed to eat a carnivorous diet gaining little to no benefit from non-meat substances. Look at their biological make up and you will find that dogs cannot break down plant cell walls. Thus they cannot digest plant matter unless the plant cell walls are broken down for them via cooking or pureeing of the plant matter. This evidence further suggests plant matter is not meant to be a part of their natual diet. Can their body utilize plant matter? Yes, but only with outside assistance which is unnatural. If we humans must cook or puree a plant in order for a dog to be able to derive any nutritional value from it, it begs the question 'why bother?' since it biologically was not meant for them to eat. If a dog were to eat a carrot right out of the ground it would do absolutely nothing for it since the dog cannot digest it. Basically, it will just pass right through the dog coming out the same way it went in. So while I respect that the dog is officially classed as an omnivore, I consider them carnivores for all intents and purposes. Because really, how can you be an omnivore if you require external assistance to digest plant matter?

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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 5:24 pm

Oh my Valerie ... I was simply trying to satisfy my own curiosity about the subject and thought others might also be interested. The point, indeed, was raised in the title, the rest was just an expansion of what I found and found to be interesting in that even among those who should know there seems to be some very divergent opinions based on their own facts.

Just to confound the issue it's often stated that dogs don't produce amylase which would be need to digest plant material when in fact they do. We humans secrete it in our saliva but dogs secrete it in their small intestine, so there is some ability to truly digest vegetable material, though not so well as a true omnivore (us, bears and pigs among others) or herbivores.

I've said it before, I think, I'm a pedant and will often worry a question to death until I've satisfied my curiosity.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:50 pm

@Huskyluv wrote:
If a dog were to eat a carrot right out of the ground it would do absolutely nothing for it since the dog cannot digest it. Basically, it will just pass right through the dog coming out the same way it went in.

Yup - I seen it myself lol!
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:17 pm

I've seen some odd things in dog poo but never a carrot ... when they were ripe in the garden she'd get a carrot or three and chew them to death, right down to the feathery tops, even ate the stem part of the greenery.  But she'll turn her nose up at the "baby carrots" I occasionally buy at the store.  Avalanche, being typically contrary would have died for a baby carrot but didn't like the fresh one ... go figger...

Sasha likes - and will beg for - most of the greens I grew, managed to kill my squash patch (and admittedly I did see some seeds from that). She got all the squash, I got one!!

I think what we're seeing is what the "scientists" have seen.  Dogs appear to have adapted somewhat, possibly because of nothing more than "training" (well, if dad's eating it, I want some!)  but since there are some genetic markers that differ in dogs and wolves (0.2%) it's possible that we're seeing a genetic divergence from the "wolf" and, how did Valerie phrase it "obligate carnivores" that wolves tend to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:13 pm

I like that this conversation begs the question of "what is a dog?"

It's one thing to say " a dog naturally would/wouldn't......." and another to say " a dog in fact now would/wouldn't......."

We have modified them so much through our intensely close domestication it almost isn't even fair to say that a dog naturally would/wouldn't anything because they are pretty far removed from any natural existence.  

Diet and health issues concerning medicines and vaccines would of course be the prime examples of how we have significantly changed their physiology, whether any of those changes were intentional or not is not really the point.   Things like leashes and socializing would be more minor examples with some relevance, albeit perhaps not to physiology, per se.

It even further complicates things because for any definitive statements about a dog's nature we might come up with, there'd be hundreds of people with counterpoints who could legitimately say "well my dog doesn't do/eat/need/......that so that's not true."

Obviously though, Valerie's points about their biological make up are true regardless of anything else, it's just that like humans, dogs too can and will constantly eat things that have absolutely no benefit or value other than convenience and immediate satisfaction.

Anyway, my point is just that this conversation is a good specific example of a much larger issue with dogs and our lives with them.

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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:02 pm

My two cents:

Canis lupus familiaris (dogs) are scientifically classified as Carnivores (Order Carnivora). One could argue that they can consume plants and gain energy from it, or that their modern diets commonly includes plants. However at the end of the day it would merely mean that they're just facultative carnivores. The line between facultative carnivores and omnivores are very blurred to be sure. But until Biologists work out a more solid difference between the two dogs are carnivores by definition; and that's all that really matters.

In my opinion when you're trying to give an animal a title like Carnivore or Herbivore, general personal experiences or opinions are superseded by any previously given scientific classification. In this case arguments would only be relevant if you're trying to change the classification of canis lupus familiaris; or if you're trying to create a more visible line between Omnivore and facultative carnivore.

This is all just my opinion of course. One of the most interesting things about Biology is that it's subject to change unlike more math based sciences such as Chemistry or Physics. So twenty years from now dogs could very well be reclassified as Omnivores. Pretty interesting stuff if you ask me.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:37 pm

Opportunistic carnivores. My dogs thrive on raw meat, survive on other things. Just looking at BM's proves that to me. I fed them Grandma Lucy's this week and there was SO MUCH POOP. Gave them their normal raw after and suddenly no more giant poops...when they eat raw they use everything's heir breath smells better, teeth are whiter, more energetic, coats are in great condition.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:50 am

Lol, Al I like conversations, thank you. This sparked some rather interesting ideas from a varied group of husky lovers. The reason so many view dogs as omnivores, is because retailers tell the masses it's so. It's cheap and supposedly filling to feed your dog grain based kibble, that's why there are a plethora to choose from.

20 years ago, when I decided to feed my cat half kibble and half meat, my vet just about lost his mind. We debated and we both agreed to disagree, but I will maintain cats and dogs of all shapes and sizes are naturally carnivores, and us humans have insisted and tweaked their diet for convenience and cost effectiveness.

This is an article I read recently, yes it's found at an online store, however, it gives useful info on why there's a cat and dog food problem and explains how the controversy started. - The Importance of Taurine for Dogs and Cats By Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian

My mother was dissatisfied with cat and dog foods, and only relied on them as supplements, we're talking before I was born right on through until she passed in 2010. She fed some kibble, but also meats, and eggs. I have followed suit, she always insisted that cats and dogs were carnivores. She also was unhappy at the amount of grain in pet food and thought it was crazy feeding grains, as she said "how on earth would a cat or dog find corn meal in the wild?"

Yes some pets like peas and corn and carrots, but that's where the opportunistic pet comes into play, if we eat it, they want to eat it. there's been some research on why dogs eat grass, and researcher's believe certain types of grass smell like protein to dogs, food for thought, lol.

I'm not trying to sway anyone, and fyi, Al I don't like the barf feeding method, I'm more in tune with the Prey Model Raw diet. I feel that we all can feed our pets the way we see fit, that makes them happy and healthy.

I really enjoyed this conversation and thread. I find it fascinating and informative, whether we all agree or not. Would love to see more healthy discussions here. I think there's a wealth of intelligent people here, and healthy conversations helps expand our minds and the way we view things.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:00 am

So what are everyone's thoughts on how what is best for dogs plays into the classification of what dogs are? So if a (carnivorous) raw diet is indeed healthier and more natural for dogs, does that trump the fact that most dogs in fact eat and survive on (omnivorous) kibble?

I think this is very relevant to your point, Aidan, about how biological classificatio does in fact change over time as either the animals themselves change or what we know and learn about them change.




















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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:17 am

I think that Aidan may very well be right, down the road, at a disservice to dogs. I think it will be in the lines of sub-species, as in mals and huskies will line closer to the wolf and others a second tier. Biology is not a strong suit with me. However, when we talk of attitude and the difficulty that many of us have with feeding grains to huskies with bad results, i.e. loose stools, where as other breeds do just fine on grain based kibble, and they are more responsive at being a dog, there may be a division of breeds. So a tier system is how I perceive that change. If you list wolf, then secondary breeds i.e. mals/huskies, then another tier below beagles/chis/dachshunds, just as examples of course. To me there are so many breeds and there are many classifications, that I think it's unfair to loop them all together, that's the disservice I'm talking about.

So some could very well be omnivores while others remain carnivores. Honestly I have only been around medium to large size dogs. As in day to day basis, but from what I see and read, small dogs are different in many ways, compared to mid to large.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:19 am

Do you honestly think a Husky's needs and biology are closer to a wolf than that of a Labrador Retriever (for example) ?
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 3:38 am

No, I don't, I do believe labs would fall under larger dogs, they are considered a sport dog and many owners feed high protein diets for their working labs. I did say biology is not my strong suit, however I didn't break it down into a bunch of separate sub categories. I just think the great minds that be will. If I had a small dog, I would certainly feed the same way I do my husky, high protein. My training, however, would be different. Working breeds are different than pet breeds.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:48 am

Ok. I'm just curious about what makes a Husky and a Malamute so similar to a wolf that they'd be ranked closer to wolves. Is there something beyond the outfits they are wearing?

Yes, working dogs have specialized needs to be fulfilled, for sure. But just further shows that dogs are more like tools for humans to utilize rather than natural animals like wolves. The intentionality behind creatingthe breeds alone shows how malleable, versatile, and non-natural dogs as a whole are.

I think the prefix omni- does a lot of justice for dogs across the board. Human beings have to be considered the filter through which we describe and classify any dog. We have given them survival strategies that are not natural and go far beyond their inherent biology.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:59 am

One thing to consider in the discussion is the difference in the diets of the animals used in dog food vs. the diets of a "wild" animal. A rabbit, unobscured by human influence (aka garbage, gardens using fertilizer etc.), is going to have a much different diet than a farm raised chicken or cow (corn, corn, more corn, and a nice big dose of antibiotics). Also, a dog in an environment devoid of human influence (this raises the question if dogs would even exist without human influence) is going to have a much wider range of prey and animals to scavenge, or we could say, a more paleo type of human lifestyle. So, the biodiversity the prey eats, as well as the biodiversity of the types of prey, or leftovers from paleo man, can't really be replicated in a kibble. Whether intentional, or not, I think the added fruits and veggies are an attempt to rectify this issue.

Truthfully though, it's all just marketing...

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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:11 am

Right, so if we are classifying dogs as carnivores or omnivores, what's more important: a hypothetical dog's existence that is possible or an actual dog's existence that is possible?

Or to put it more on the ground, if a minority of dogs survive on raw food that is better for them and a majority of dogs survive on kibble that is worse for them and let's not forget scavenger dogs who eat literally anything available, which should we say dogs are?
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:24 am

Dogs are domesticated carnivores, but socially omnivorous.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:29 am

Also, I think answering what dogs are depends on the context of the question. Are we talking biologically, or socially. Just because a dog chews up and 'eats' a carrot, doesn't mean the purpose of eating said item is for nutrition. I think we've all experienced our dogs chewing up and swallowing things that aren't food.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:29 am

Ooh, the plot thickens, nice move.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:32 am

You pretty much just slam dunked my exact point.

We've altered them in numerous ways so much that they have to be considered omni-anything.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:37 am

This is one of those things in biology where we say "well they're X except for all those times when they're Y."

Another dietary example escapes me, I can only think of "monogamous" animals in fsct not being so disciplined.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:41 am

As I said, I like to worry a topic until I've gotten the answer for which I'm looking; rephrase that - not necessarily the answer for which I'm looking but the information on which to base an intelligent (I hope) opinion.
Aidan has sent me to the web a few times and most recently with his comment about "facultative carnivore", never having heard the term I had to go looking and found quite a bit of information.This link which interestingly enough has the same topic as this thread, expands on the "carnivore -vs- omnivore" discussion. In the end, as with many things, the "black and white" of it seems to come out in shades of grey.

Jeff raises the question "What is a dog?" and makes the point that saying that "naturally a dog would ..." is virtually meaningless. While *my* dog might "naturally" do one thing, yours might "naturally" do something entirely different, so which *is* the natural response and which the learned (and from whom / what)? Dog genetics, which have been investigated heavily over the past few years lead us to believe that 14 breeds are most closely related to the wolf. If memory serves, dogs as a whole are considered to be the descendants of the dire wolf found only in North America which supports the thought that the dog ancestor originated in North America before the west to east migrations of humans. It is also suggested that there is not one ancestor to our dogs but several in significantly different parts of the world, all however significantly recent ( 7 - 14,000 years ago ) and allow them to interbreed which would not be the case if the divergence were much earlier. This, at least, would explain the appearance of canids on the various continents prior to human appearance. (( This, in my view, really stresses the time line history of dogs, is someone really suggesting that wolf ancestry appeared before pangaea and was stable enough over several million years to allow the descendants to interbreed? ))

I think that what surprises me is that geneticists can trace human development as a species to "Lucy" in Africa and can't seem to do the same thing for the canid family.

Renee, WoldCountry enhances on the North American origin of the wolf and an article in USA Today raises some interesting points on the origin of "modern breeds" of dogs.

I find I'm writing a book here and much that's not relevant to the point of of the initial question. While I'll willingly concede that dogs are carnivores due to physiology it still causes me to wonder why they seem to enjoy some vegetables and greens. I've never introduced my dogs to carrots but both seem to like their own particular flavour. Is it just because of the satisfaction of the "chew" or ....

BTW there is one gross error (there may be more, educate me) in the above which I didn't correct, cookies to anyone finding it!


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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:08 pm

It's not that geneticists can't trace dog lineage in the same manner, it's just that until recently, dogs weren't really considered interesting, or important subjects for study.

http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1004016
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:36 pm

Thank you Al for the WoldCountry article, it says what I believe, that dogs are subspecies of the wolf and have been domesticated and refined by humans. Huskies and Mals were 2 of the first 13 original subspecies, so yes I believe Mals and Huskies are closer related than some other breeds, interestingly enough, some would say gsd's are even closer related to wolves since the first lines were bred back in with wolves. I also believe that huskies and mals have not been watered down with other breed of dogs like some breeds have over the last century. An interesting read is the book of Dog Breeds Of The World, I believe written in 1915, take a look at some of the breeds listed and think how that breed looks today. Also, there were far fewer breeds than today.

My brain did get fuzzy at 2 am. Jeff I think we're on the same path just on different sides. Jenn explained what I was trying to put out. The corporate world has aggressively tried through marketing to convince consumers the last 50 years into believing our pets are omnivores, they pay scientist and researchers to agree with them. Did anybody read the article I posted? It makes sense that large corporations want to make money so why not use scientist to substantiate their claims that grain is good for cats and dogs. The adaptability of pets makes it easier to make this claim true, dogs will eat anything, whether it's good for them or not. Jen said it best that it's clever marketing.

I treat Miya far different than most people treat their dog. This will veer from the original thread. But I train, feed, and play differently. She's a companion and a work dog. I read a few posts that Jeff and Jenn(Olivia as well) have posted here, and felt a aha moment, I have done with Miya very similar to how you worked with Link and Dizzy. I went back to nature and basic instincts when feeding and training. I really wanted a high prey dog, who knew when high prey was warranted. I have an old cat and did not want Miya to eat her for breakfast, so my training encouraged Miya to choose the appropriate time to chase, and sometimes it's me. that has left kitty intact. My feeding goes in the same direction, I feed her what I feel, not corporations and backed scientist want you to feed. I feed her meat, yes dogs will eat a carrot, I think it's from their natural tendencies to dig and see what's there, they find something they will eat it. Plain and simple.

My divisions of dogs, was purely what I think corporations will convince the scientific community in doing. I do not believe dogs should be reclassified, why would other scientific communities research the origins of dogs and come up with them being related to wolves just to turn around and say dogs are now omnivores, it's humans changing the idea, not dogs. If we let dogs be dogs, dogs will choose a hunk of raw meat over cornmeal.

Al I'll have to reread your post to find the error. I didn't get the last cookie that you offered, lol, hoping this time I succeed.
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:51 pm

@seattlesibe wrote:
So what are everyone's thoughts on how what is best for dogs plays into the classification of what dogs are?  So if a (carnivorous) raw diet is indeed healthier and more natural for dogs, does that trump the fact that most dogs in fact eat and survive on (omnivorous) kibble?

I think this is very relevant to your point, Aidan, about how biological classificatio does in fact change over time as either the animals themselves change or what we know and learn about them change.  






















The thing about dogs is that like you said we've played a direct role in their micro-evolution throughout the years. However even with all the plant matter dogs consume today many members would agree that most of them are just filler ingredients at best. Modern day dogs simply couldn't be "true omnivores" in a sense because they can't utilize plant matter the same way most omnivores can, and can't tolerate it in the same quantities. This (as stated earlier) would make them facultative carnivores at best; meaning that they can consume plant matter, but don't need it to optimize their diet.

Dogs will continue to micro-evolve (just like we micro-evolved to tolerate dairy products better) and who knows maybe one day we will have to reclassify them as omnivores. But until that day comes they are Carnivores. Remember you can feed a cow some beef but that doesn't make it a omnivore, it's just forced cannibalism. Razz

Also I really wanted to watch that video you posted, but it wont load on my stupid computer. Maybe I'll try rebooting or using a different browser so I can view it... D:

(1,000 posts yay!)
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PostSubject: Re: Carnivore or Omnivore ???   

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Carnivore or Omnivore ???

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