Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore? What do you think?

It’s a debate which has become very muddy over the years, unfortunately in part from corporate-led marketing (aka “science”) with a conflict of interest (or in layman’s terms – driven by profit, not your dog). Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore?

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

In this article we’ll look at some fairly simple and logical facts which tell us what the biological make-up of our dogs really is.  Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore?

As a fun exercise – write down on a piece of paper (or back of your mind) whether you think a dog is a carnivore or omnivore, and let’s see if you’re right. Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore?

Carnivore vs omnivore – what is the real question?

I was prompted to write this article having read a message from a person dictating I had no credibility to review pet foods because I refer to dogs as carnivores (or “essentially carnivorous”)

The person, who happened to be a professional in the veterinary industry, stated with utter certainty that a dog was an omnivore in the same manner a flat-earther would say “The Earth is flat”.

So, are dogs carnivores or omnivores?

Let’s discuss…

There’s some very straightforward reasoning to help you decide for yourself whether your pet dog is an omnivore (like us) or a carnivore (like a cat, fox, or wolf). I’ll add some facts in the FAQ at the end, but will skirt over them where necessary as we go along.

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

Firstly, and most importantly, “omnivore” and “carnivore” aren’t buckets, more a sliding scale of what our anatomy dictates. If you consider us as omnivores, and cats as obligate carnivores (a cat depends entirely on meat for food, nutrition, and survival), where on the scale would you put a dog?

You see, the question isn’t “is a dog a carnivore or omnivore?”. The real question is “where on the omnivore to carnivore scale is a dog?”

I knocked up an illustration in Paint for us to ponder:

Pic #1: Where on the omnivore to carnivore scale is a dog?

It seems clear to me dogs have more similarities with cats than us humans. You only need to look as far as their teeth and shape of their jaws to understand this. Knowledge of their digestive system and ability to absorb nutrients from meat far more efficiently than those from grains simply solidifies this (see the FAQ section on coefficient of fermentation).

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

Personally, based on my knowledge and reasoning, I consider a dog fundamentally a carnivore. The term “scavenging carnivore” often used with dogs is apt, and they will scavenge and eat foods which aren’t meat. Some of these foods are even beneficial to their health and well-being (so they’re omnivores, right..? ).

Are dogs carnivores or omnivores

But, facts are facts, they’re still much closer to cats on the omnivore to carnivore scale than they are to us humans.

So why is it many people so religiously believe dogs are omnivores rather than carnivores? There are many reasons for this, and sadly the pet food industry, pet food marketing, and “scientific research” (yes, those quotes are using irony) has convinced us something which is very dubious if we take the time to consider it for only 5 seconds. These are the same reasons we feed cats (obligate carnivores) corn and wheat, and pay for it in vet bills and heartbreak later.

Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore

Using my knowledge of dogs in comparison to humans, cats, wolves, and goats (), this is my representation of where I believe dogs lie on the omnivore to carnivore scale, creatively engineered with Paint, Comic Sans, and Emojis:

Pic #2: A dog in relation to a human and cat on the omnivore to carnivore scale.

Were you thinking the same..?

You may have noted the farmyard photo at the top of the page. If you didn’t, scroll up and take a look before coming back down here. Does it strike you as odd why the dogs are ripping apart that meat instead of eating the grass? Nope, probably not – dogs instinctively eat meat and we know it.

So what do you think? There’s still a fair bit more to this article, but if you’re about to head off for a surf then before you go let us know your thoughts in the comments below – Is a dog a carnivore or an omnivore?

Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore

Did you know a major factor in the “is a dog a carnivore or omnivore” debate is Mars, Nestle, and Colgate-Palmolive (yep, chocolate bar and shampoo companies)?

Sit tight, things will get a little bit more controversial from now on…


The influence of pet food marketing on the carnivore vs omnivore debate

Do you have a tin foil hat? Put it on…

It can never be underestimated how much influence pet food manufacturers have on a fundamental question such as whether a dog is a carnivore or omnivore. A dog food can be made from meat (expensive) or grains (very cheap), and the profit margin of the latter is the #1 reason almost every pet food on the market is made mostly from grains. If they’re not from grains they’re made from potatoes, tapioca, peas, or some other non-meat ingredient

Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore

Most leading brands of pet foods are made by the same three incredibly powerful conglomerates – MarsNestle, and Colgate-Palmolive. Pedigree, Optimum, Royal Canin, Hill’s, Purina, My Dog, and so many others are brand names from these three conglomerates. I can stand in a pet food aisle in the supermarket and name every manufacturer, and it reads like “Mars, Nestle, Mars, Mars, Nestle”, and in your local veterinary practice it would be “Mars, Colgate-Palmolive”.

These conglomerates have created a very well oiled and extremely lucrative marketing machine, and they feed consumers whatever information they desire, for profit, and not necessarily your pet. It is, after all, just business

If you don’t believe pet food manufacturers feed us whatever spin they want us to believe, then here’s a snippet from Google when you search for “Are dogs a carnivore or omnivore?”:

Is a dog a carnivore or omnivore

Even the statement “A Balanced Diet For Dogs Includes Grains” in the above image is dubious marketing.

It’s not just Nestle Purina, it’s Colgate-Palmolive Hill’s, Mars Advance, Optimum, My Dog… they’re all well and truly in the “dog is an omnivore” camp, irrespective of their teeth, digestive system, ancestry, or clear-as-day behavioural traits.

How odd is that?

Well, odd, but perhaps not surprising from companies who sell “corn for cats”

Not only do these conglomerates have a crazy amount of money to influence us as consumers, they likely own your local veterinary practice too.

It’s also likely your vet studied coursework provided to the university by those conglomerates, and learned in their final year of vet studies that Condition X requires a specific diet of Y, and Scientific Brand Z is formulated for this condition. They were possibly even taught by a lecturer on the payroll of one of those conglomerates.

Conflict of interest?

In the case of Mars, there’s even Mars Pet Care University which vets can study from. Universities need money, right, and pet food manufacturers are ready and willing to offer large sums of money in sponsorship. As I mentioned earlier, it’s just business.


An infographic for you to share – how to decide if your dog is a carnivore or omnivore?

Right, I have a favour to ask. Putting together the reviews on this website takes me forever and a day. I rely on you guys as readers to get the word out, either by sharing or verbally telling people. In this instance I made something arty for you to share, use on your website (with a reference), or stick on the wall of your pet shop or veterinary practice.


A carnivore vs omnivore FAQ

Obviously the carnivore vs omnivore debate is far from simple, and evidence suggests many non-meat ingredients can be of benefit to a dog (we discuss these in all our reviews), but here’s a few frequently asked questions with a no-nonsense answer:

How are dogs classified biologically?

Dogs are classified as order Carnivora, derived from Latin as carō (meaning “flesh”) and vorāre (meaning “to devour”). Placental mammals belonging to the order Carnivora are defined by their diet primarily of flesh.

What carnivorous characteristics does a dog have?

The dental structure, digest system, and behaviour of a dog are inline with a carnivore. The intestine of a dog is slightly longer than a cat as an obligate carnivore, but with a smaller girth than a cat the volume of the intestine is more similar to a cat than a human. The dental structure of a dog facilitates ripping and chewing of prey, and gnawing of bone.

What omnivorous characteristics does a dog have?

This is a well written, logical and easily understood article. My own observation is that dogs are very much carnivores but will opportunistically eat non-meat food from time to time. The degree to which they do this seems to depend very much on the breed (or perhaps the individual). Our previous Labrador retrievers would gleefully gobble up a discarded apple core whilst our current kelpie x border collie has no interest in apples at all and seems to do very well on a “prey style” diet. We currently feed her ziwi peak but are looking for alternatives to “mix it up” a bit.

We are looking at trying a patty style frozen food called Proudi which appears to tick most of the boxes. Its similar to “Big Dog” but without the veggies.

Has Pet Food Reviews looked at Proudi before? Whilst not air or freeze dried, I guess it could be included in your “Alternative dog foods” section

Can dogs survive without meat?

The answer to this is yes. There are numerous dogs across the world on a vegan diet, and some within that population have lived to a reasonable age. This is possibly due to a diet which correctly caters for all required nutrition otherwise provided by a meat-based diet. It is alleged a Border Collie by the name of Brumble lived to over 25 (or 189 in dog years).

Do dogs have a similar coefficient of fermentation to a cat?

This suggests a dog is closer to it’s domestic carnivore counterpart than that of an omnivore.

Are dogs carnivore or omnivore?

Being of the order Carnivora, dogs are considered primarily flesh-eating placental mammals. They differ from their Timber Wolf ancestors by having three genes which aid digestion of grains and vegetable matter, and due to their ability to scavenge and eat non-meat foodstuffs are often considered omnivore. Their anatomy however is not dissimilar to cats as obligate carnivores, and facultative carnivore is more apt (a carnivore which will also eat non-meat ingredients in addition to animal food).

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