Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You Eat What You Are

The subject of canine nutrition can be a contentious one. Though I would agree that commercial dog foods are not perfect, the quasi-religious fervor of some of the raw feeders frankly scares the bejesus out of me. And claims made on pretty much all sides reach quite a bit beyond the scientific. But what I find interesting is if you truly start to look at dogs at what they have eaten/been fed down through the years.

We can probably all agree that dogs did descend from wolves, but to take that heritage and make it the basis for how to feed a dog is beyond bizarre. I mean, we descended from proto-humans, who ate their meat raw and just harvested whatever nuts and berries were available. Would you like to base your own diet on that?

It is more instructive to look at dogs after they became dogs. For example, some rustic farm breeds in Europe were regularly fed on stale bread, milk, and eggs, because that's what was readily available on the farm. Even some of the current breeders of these breeds say that that makes an ideal meal for their dogs, as they have developed to use it to maximal advantage and may not cope as well with a more meat-based diet.

Feral dogs (or village dogs or dump dogs, as you prefer) have been studied quite a bit by Ray Coppinger, and he has found that they regularly dine on discarded spaghetti in dumps or human waste in villages. They do not attack and eat the village chickens, though they exist right alongside them.

Before the advent of commercial dog foods, the family dog was regularly fed solely on scraps from the human meals. Of course, that was also before the popularization of fast food, so scraps were a lot more nutritious.

The whole area of nutrition is extremely convoluted. I mean, the number of times we have been advised to eat/not eat eggs is enough to make your head spin. And researchers pay more attention to the human diet than the canine one, and we still don't really seem to know what we're talking about.

So it comes down to this - if your dog is in good health, maintains a trim weight, has good energy and a gleaming coat, you're probably doing something right, whether you're feeding a bag of kibble, raw, or a home-cooked meal. And don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

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