THE PET FOOD MEAT FACTS

The Carnivore, Herbivore, Omnivore Quiz

If you’re unsure what to feed your dog or cat, take a look at these pet food meat facts.

What’s The Difference

But, before I really get into this, it’s helpful to understand what comes naturally. And, what our pets need to eat to be strong and healthy and stay that way throughout their lifetime. So here’s a quick quiz.

What’s the difference between a carnivore, a herbivore, and an omnivore?

Carnivores, such as wolves, dogs and cats, eat meat.

Bobcats are carnivores, shown here hunting for prey. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service South East Region
Bobcats are carnivores, shown here hunting for prey. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service South East Region

Herbivores, such as deer, cows and sheep, eat plants.

Deer are herbivores, seen here eating a plant. Photo by lwctoys
Deer are herbivores, seen here eating a plant. Photo by lwctoys

Omnivores, such as whales, squirrels and humans, eat meat and plants.

Whales are omnivores, here a humpback feeding. Photo by Murray Foubister
Whales are omnivores, here a humpback feeding. Photo by Murray Foubister

Why is this so important? Because once you understand the basics, you may realize that what dogs and cats need to eat may not, in fact, be what you are giving them to eat. And the purpose of today’s blog is to help pet parents choose the most appropriate diet for their companion animals.

What Comes Naturally To Dogs And Cats

Dogs and cats are not vegetarians. They are carnivores. Consequently, I am laying out here why pet carnivores must eat meat. This is a characteristic that has been handed down from their wildlife ancestors. Their anatomy, including their digestive system, was created for that purpose. The fact is, they are ill-equipped to break down plant fiber. Simply said, they were not created to be either herbivores or omnivores.

So, when our dogs and cats eat high quality meat that comes from a reputable source it will contain the proteins, amino-acids and trace minerals that their bodies require. 

A Balanced Diet For Canines

The wolf is the ancestor of our domesticated canine
The wolf is the ancestor of our domesticated canine

The fundamental component of a well-balanced diet for our domesticated canines is meat, organ and muscle. And the source may be beef, bison, venison, elk, lamb, goat, duck, chicken, and turkey. These are, indeed, the facts about meat for all dog pet food.

No kibble for this stray because dogs are carnivores and must eat meat. Photo by Tiia Monto
No kibble for this stray because dogs are carnivores and must eat meat. Photo by Tiia Monto

Nutritionists also recommend including small amounts of antioxidant-rich, dark green vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli. In addition, small portions of fruits like apple, pear and blueberry will enrich the nutritional value of the diet as well.

A Balanced Diet For Felines

This big cat keeps its prey, a gazelle, away from rival predators. Photo by Leyo
This big cat keeps its prey, a gazelle, away from rival predators. Photo by Leyo

It’s no secret. Cats are obligate carnivores, just like their canine counterparts. Their very existence depends on meat and animal organs. Have you ever watched an outdoor cat in the evening hours? Sooner or later, it will catch a mouse. Why? Because it can only get the fatty acids, minerals and vitamins it needs to thrive from animal tissue. Especially important are calcium, vitamin A and niacin, which plant tissue simply doesn’t have, either in the amount, form or ratio that cats need. So, it couldn’t be clearer. Our domesticated kitty carnivores must eat their meat.

The pet food meat facts show that outdoor cats hunt prey, focus on nutrient-rich organs. Photo by Fabian Köster
The pet food meat facts show that outdoor cats hunt prey, focus on nutrient-rich organs. Photo by Fabian Köster

Another point worth mentioning is that although cats lack the enzymes required to digest plant-based foods, small amounts can provide important benefits. Green, leafy vegetables help them detoxify the colon. In addition, they may also enable hairballs to get pushed through the digestive tract or provoke vomiting to expel them.

A Couple Of Great Supplements

Although I will be writing about food supplements at another time, here are some very brief comments about two of them.

Sardines are loaded with nutrients and both dogs and cats love them.
Sardines are loaded with nutrients and both dogs and cats love them.

Sardines. Fortunately, most dogs and cats love sardines. They are loaded with a whole range of highly concentrated nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins D and B12. This small, cold-water fish provides wide-ranging health benefits from bone support to cardiovascular performance to preventing certain allergies and slowing down memory loss.

Pumpkin is a natural stool-consistency regulator, ideal for our pet dogs and cats
Pumpkin is a natural stool-consistency regulator, ideal for our pet dogs and cats

Pumpkin. I always have a can of organic pumpkin handy in case a client of mine is out of town and their pet is in need of a stool-consistency regulator. Usually, dogs as well as cats like the taste and a small amount added to the food works in one of two ways. It either adds bulk to a loose stool, or it will soften a hard stool. 

To Sum Up

If you didn’t know this before, you now have the pet food meat facts at your fingertips. As a result, the domesticated cats and dogs that are part of your family will have a species appropriate diet. Truly nourishing food that will foster longevity by keeping them healthier, longer.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  


4 thoughts on “THE PET FOOD MEAT FACTS

  1. Regina, I found this via your linkedin post and guessed I write this better here:

    By the history of dogs, dogs are NOT carnivores.
    In fact dogs only exist as species BECAUSE they are omnivores. Historically this is what turned wolves into dogs. Dogs are scavengers of human food leftovers. Wolves are hunters (to make it short here).

    Likewise, dogs are MORE carnivores than people: they have more GI-active copies of genes for amylase production to metabolize carbohydrates.

    You may know, meat has no carbohydrates.
    Now guess, why do dogs so exceptionally well metabolize carbohydrates?

    Hint: Wolves don’t.

    In fact, in the by fossil founds documented 33,000 years(!) of the history of dogs, dogs got very little if any MEAT to eat.
    BECAUSE throughout history, and to this very day, MEAT has been the most expensive part of the human diet. And so our ancestors did not leave meat out for DOGS to scavenge on.

    For the as exciting as educational history of dogs of course see The Cynology Hub MyGermanShepherd.Org.
    For once, not another “blog” but a science driven rescue organization run by a scientist.

    PS: No interest to look yet wondering what dogs evolved on instead?

    Again, see MyGermanShepherd.Org, under > Care > Food of course.
    Or just ask your grandma or possibly your mother. 😉

    Best regards
    Tim Carter
    MyGermanShepherd.Org

    1. Funny, I only realize that after sleeping: First I explain why dogs are omnivores, then for lack of concentration I write “Likewise, dogs are MORE carnivores than people:”

      Obviously I meant to write: “Likewise, dogs are MORE omnivores than people:”
      Because people are omnivores too, and most people believe that THEY (the people) are more omnivore than dogs, but no, like I pointed already out: it is the dogs that have more indicative DNA copies.

      To make this second comment a bit more useful for anyone interested: It is the GI tract that reveals how much or little the metabolism of a species has changed historically, ie how similar or different two species are. And the GI tract of dogs and wolves is significantly different even for dog breeds that – to the human eye – LOOK like wolves (almost): eg the German Shepherd.

      The funny thing is: Despite these similar looks, other dog breeds are way closer to wolves genetically than are GSDs. I can’t remember all at my age but I believe I wrote about that here: https://mygermanshepherd.org/periodical/the-german-shepherd-dog-and-its-relatives/ (maybe, lol)

      Oh and another very interesting aspect that documents that dogs *aren’t* carnivores:
      – dogs *don’t* need to eat meat to survive, cats do (they are carnivores)
      – and indeed (primarily in India) I know of quite a number of dogs (well, sorry, GSDs) who don’t get meat to eat at all: they are being raised vegetarian.

      To avoid any doubt: Yes, those dogs are perfectly healthy, with longer lives than the average GSD (which sadly these days is just 10.2 ys as per Compass’ vet practice analysis in UK).

      I personally however strongly recommend to feed REAL meat during puppy development (as a minimum). REAL means: NO industrial “pet food” at all.

      My German Shepherd Miguel now gets butcher offcuts: REAL meat at 1$/kilo. Together with the usual selection of veggies, fruit, rice, fish, etc. And boy is he BIG and healthy! 🙂 And heavy 🙁

      As biologist I am huge into healthy dog foods, to nurture all body cells and keep dogs healthy with a longer than average life. And zero vet bills, yes.


      Should you ever seek any cooperation, let me know, I am easy.

      1. Very interesting. I am guessing that the GSD pet guardians in India who feed them a vegetarian diet are themselves vegetarians. And there are large numbers in certain states but by no means all over the country. It also depends a lot on religious beliefs.

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