What happens when you feed your dog only meat

Dogs love meat (obviously 🙂 ), but is it ok for them to eat only meat?

There is a popular belief that dogs should eat meat-only diets, but is that actually true? I know how hard it is to distinguish between marketing, belief, and actual medical facts. So what really happens when you feed your dog only (raw) meat?

Do dogs only eat meat?

Popular belief is that dogs are “carnivora” or meat-eaters. However, their digestive system and dietary needs have developed so much that they are actually omnivores and have digestive tracts close to human’s digestive systems – they eat meat, fruit, and vegetables. You can see this when you look closely at dog’s teeth – front teeth are sharp and good for tearing and cutting through meat, where molars are flat like ours, designed for grinding and chewing plants.

Dogs are masters in adaptation and can be considered “opportunistic eaters” – they will eat most of the plants and foods available to them. That’s why your darling likes carrots, grass, apples, melons… 🙂

dog eating fruit and vegetable

Do wolves eat plants and vegetables?

“Dogs are wolves and wolves eat only meat, it’s only natural” – oh, how often have I heard this argument…

First of all, dogs are not wolves. Just try to imagine a french bulldog trying to catch his dinner in the forest… 🙂

bulldog by fireplace
wolf in the forest

But seriously, there are many differences between dogs and wolves – in the dentition, in the GI tract, in the production of digestive-specific enzymes…
For example, we know that domestication and selective breeding resulted in genetic changes in the production of amylase – an enzyme for digesting starch.

Secondly, the truth is, studies have shown that wolves eat vegetables and plants too.

People also often don’t realize that animals in the wild don’t eat an optimal diet, they eat whatever they can catch or scavenge. They suffer from malnutrition, parasites, broken teeth, and have a much shorter life span as a result of a “natural” diet. Natural is sadly not a synonym for beneficial.

So what happens if you feed your dog only meat?

There are a few amino acids the body cannot synthesize and therefore need to be part of a steady diet. One of them is taurine – an essential amino acid cats and dogs cannot synthesize. It’s contained in grains and is the reason why dogs actually need grains. If you feed your dog a grain-free diet, your dog will develop a taurine deficiency, which leads to thinning of the heart walls and a heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Dogs that are on all meat diet usually develop other micronutrient deficits as well – vitamin A, vitamin D, selen…

Meat doesn’t have the structure needed to “brush” canine teeth, which may result in serious dental problems. If you feed meat only, you have to take care of your pet’s dental hygiene.

BARF is a popular feeding method. But if you want to do it properly, you have to do your research. Contrary to the name “Bone and Raw Food” (sometimes called also “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”), it doesn’t contain only meat and bones, but also added vitamins, minerals…

raw feeding dog

Is it ok to feed your dog raw meat?

Raw meat, especially raw meat that is considered not suitable for human consumption, can be dangerous not just for your animal, but also for you and the whole household. Raw meat can be (and often is) contaminated with bacteria like E. coli, Campylobacter or Salmonella. You can get infected when preparing the food for your dog, cleaning the bowl, or even when your dog licks you.

I would definitely not recommend buying meat not suitable for human consumption if you have children. These bacteria can easily put adult humans in hospital, for children they are life-threatening.

Dog’s nutritional needs are very complex and it takes a veterinary nutritionist to formulate the best diet. I know there are a lot of popular misconceptions about what to feed your dog. It can be hard to distinguish between marketing, belief and actual facts. That’s why I wanted to give you a bit of a veterinary background to rely on. Now you know that it’s really not so easy.

If you don’t want to feed your dog an already formulated “commercial” dog diet, the best thing to do is to contact a veterinary nutrition specialist. This way you know that the recipe takes into account all your dog’s needs and you don’t have to worry about malnutrition or deficiencies.

We love our dogs and want the best for them. Of course, our dogs need meat, it’s just not the only thing they need. So no stress, feed your pup meat if you want to, he will love it. Just keep in mind it’s not the only thing he needs 🙂

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