CANINE NUTRITION & HEALTH
Feeding for Optimum Health and Longevity
Canine digestive system anatomy and physiology is, mainly, that of a carnivore, the most distinct characteristic being the voluminous stomach and shorter intestinal length indicative of a carnivore to aid in rapid digestion of raw meat. The entire anatomy of the dog is adapted for a raw meat diet. A natural diet (raw meat and predigested plant material) are the foods best suited to the dog. Although domestication has changed their external appearance, their nutritional needs have not changed from those of their wild ancestors.
This brings us to the undisputable conclusion that there are many undesirable aspects of the commercial pet food industry. Among the many reasons to avoid feeding commercial pet food, two predominate: ALL commercial foods are heat processed, thereby effectively destroying the natural enzymes present in the ingredients and the fact that the vast majority of pet foods are made with animal parts that have been determined unfit for human consumption and have been treated with chemicals to ensure they do not get back into the human food chain. Enzymes are an essential aid in proper digestion of foods and supply the body with the energy needed for such activities as the formation and elimination of urea and carbon dioxide and other toxins from the kidneys, lungs, colon, liver, spleen, and skin created during the process of metabolism. Ingesting quantities of contaminated and indigestible animal parts and plant material (and usually combined with chemical preservatives and other additives) on a daily basis cannot be considered conducive to good health. Studying carnivore anatomy, physiology, and eating habits shows us that we are doing our domestic friends a great disservice by not feeding them the way nature intended.Carnivore Anatomy & Physiology
Carnivores have a simple hinge jaw that works in a scissoring/slicing fashion rather than the rotational fashion of the herbivore and therefore do not chew and cannot grind grains, vegetables and fruit. Their saliva is acidic, of which they produce large amounts to lubricate the food bolus and the esophagus for transport to the stomach, but do not produce the carbohydrate digesting salivary enzymes herbivores do – it is not necessary for the food to remain in the mouth and be well-mixed with saliva as it is with the herbivore.
The carnivore stomach has a voluminous capacity and plays the largest role in the digestive process (it makes up 60-70 percent of the total volume of the digestive tract, the herbivore less than 30 percent) and is where the majority of protein, i.e., meat, digestion takes place. Food stays in the stomach for up to eight hours, as opposed to the herbivore’s 2-3 hours. This ensures the meat is well broken down before entering the intestinal tract where toxins released by putrefying meat could be absorbed; it secretes large amounts of hydrochloric acid (ten times more than the herbivore) creating the highly acidic stomach environment necessary for digesting meat protein and killing any dangerous bacteria that may have been ingested. The carnivore small intestine is short (3-6 times body length) compared to the herbivore at 10-12 times the body length.
Carnivores have a poorly developed sense of taste – smell is much more important to them (the dog has 1,700 taste buds to people’s 9,000)
The carnivore liver is large (the dog has the largest liver of all animals) and produces uricase, an enzyme that breaks down uric acid. The carnivore liver is capable of eliminating 10-15 times more uric acid than the liver of the herbivore (meat digestion releases large amounts of uric acid).
The carnivore, in nature, sleeps an average of 18-21 out of 24 hours in a day. The herbivore sleeps from 1-3 hours a day, eating (grazing) on a continuous basis for the other 21-23 hours.Carnivore Eating Habits
Carnivores, including dogs, gorge themselves on their prey, swallowing large chunks of food that we, as humans, would choke on; usually the organs are eaten first, followed by the stomach and intestines. This is nature’s way of ensuring a balanced diet by supplying a source of semi-digested carbohydrates and plant material for intestinal flora and important nutrients and unsaturated fats needed by the carnivore, as well as the nutrients stored in the organs that are not found in the bones and muscle tissue. They will eat the whole carcass – skin, hair and bones included – the extremely acidic stomach environment can digest bones and skin, the hair acts as a natural fiber, bulks up the stool and protects the intestinal walls from sharp objects such as fragments of bone. (Note: commercial foods do NOT promote an acidic stomach environment). After gorging they will then sleep off and on for an extended period of time while digesting their meal. Gorging ensures that the stomach gets fully exercised, strengthened and toned the way it is meant for proper functioning.
Fasting is an important part of carnivore behavior, allowing for complete digestion of the raw meat protein while allowing the stomach to be cleaned and completely emptied regularly.The Importance of a Raw Meat Diet
Raw meat helps to maintain the acidic environment necessary for its digestion and absorption of calcium from bones; the acidic environment simulates the pancreas to produce its digestive enzymes – this maintains pancreatic health and prevents atrophy of this important organ; the strong digestive secretions allow very few parasites to get past the stomach. It is important to note that cereals, i.e., grains, are alkaline forming – this means that commercial pet foods, which are cereal based, do not nurture an acidic stomach environment.
Cooking meat artificially semi-digests it instead of allowing the stomach, intestines, and digestive enzymes being allowed to do so. This leaves these organs improperly exercised and over a period of time their ability to function naturally and to cope with the work they were meant to do is compromised, opening the door for the development of chronic health concerns.
Cooking destroys many important nutrients and also the enzymes necessary for all of the body’s physiological functions. The body does manufacture enzymes, but in the absence of the enzymes obtained from raw food, the body overworks its natural supply. This creates a strain on its enzyme reserve which can impair and stress the functioning of all the major organ systems of the body – leading to a state if disharmony and disease. Cooking causes the amino acid chain found in meat protein to coagulate and become useless and/or toxic to the body, increasing its burden to detoxify.
Cooking also depletes the vital high water content of natural dog foods. Heating extracts the natural water and dries and concentrates the food; water is critical for all functions, as well as storing the water-soluble vitamins required by the body.
Cooked food passes through the digestive trace more slowly than raw food, tending to putrefy and throw toxins back into the bloodstream; prolonged intestinal toxemia may manifest itself in a myriad of disease symptoms, including allergies and arthritis.
A raw meat diet prevents the formation of plaque on the teeth and the high acidity of the oral cavity destroys any harmful bacteria before they have a chance to contribute to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has become almost epidemic in our dogs today and plays a major role in the creation of ill health in our pets. Note: carnivores need predominantly a raw meat diet, but also require some raw plant material in a predigested form (as found in the stomach and intestines of their herbivore prey).Conclusion
The complex metabolic processes of the body must be fueled in a supporting and vitalizing fashion, the way nature intended, in order for good health and a disease-free state to be maintained. A natural, chemical-free diet nurtures optimum health, and as concerned and loving pet guardians we owe it to them to take a serious look at what and how we are currently feeding them.