Have you noticed all those dog food brands out there that now have pictures of wolves on their bags of food? It’s a great “appeal to nature” marketing technique because there are so many who believe that dogs evolved from wolves and should therefore eat the same diet.
But should dogs eat the same diet as wolves? Research and common sense suggests that they shouldn’t. Here’s why.
Scientific research suggests that dogs did not evolve from wolves:
Evidence gathered by an international team of scientists suggests that dogs did not evolve from wolves. (Findings can be found in PLoS Genetics.) These researchers looked at genome sequences from gray wolves in the three countries where dogs are believed to have originated: China, Croatia, and Israel. They did not find any clear evidence that linked dogs to any of the living wolves that were sampled, and their research showed that dogs are more closely related to each other than they are to wolves.
Based on their findings, they now believe that dogs and gray wolves share a common ancestor in an extinct wolf lineage that lived thousands of years ago. There does exist some genetic overlap between wolves and modern dogs, but scientists believe this is due to interbreeding after dogs were domesticated and not due to a direct line of descent from one group of wolves. Furthermore, the lead author of the study suggests that the earliest dogs might have started out among hunter-gatherers before adjusting to an agricultural life later.
Dogs have different digestive systems than wolves:
Dogs are a separate species, and their digestive systems are different from wolves. When you compare the digestive enzymes in a wolf’s mouth and a dog’s mouth, a dog has much more
salivary amylases. (Amylases begins the digestive process by breaking down starch when they chew food, and they convert it into maltose, a smaller carbohydrate.) Research has also
found that dogs produce a type of maltase that differs from that produced by wolves. By having maltase, dogs share similarities with omnivores and herbivores.
What does this mean? Dogs’ saliva is intended to digest starches in a way that wolves’ saliva is not. So, dogs CAN digest starches and grains. And this elevated ability to digest starches and grains means that domestic dogs are quite different in the type of diet they can eat and thrive from.
Just how nutritionally sound is a wolf’s diet?
Another point to consider is that the diet of a wild wolf (or canine if you choose to feed the same diet as that of a wolf) is not very nutritionally sound. Wolves eat what they can find,
and that might not be the healthiest diet. They may starve for several days or even weeks and then eat anything they can find, even if it’s infected with parasites, rancid, and rotting. Plus, they may suffer from injuries when devouring their meals such as cracked teeth, which can become seriously infected. It’s not surprising that wolves die young, with an average 6 to 8 year old lifespan.
When searching to find the best possible diet for your dog, keep in mind that basing your decisions on what a wolf would eat in the wild, or what is more “natural”, is not the best choice. I bet a wolf’s diet would be different from what it eats in the wild if it were given a choice to eat high-quality, fresh and nutritious food!
Also realize that there is not one certain diet that every dog can thrive on. Dogs have different
nutritional requirements based on factors such as, energy level, metabolism, health, and genetics. Limiting your dog’s diet by feeding a “wolves” diet isn’t necessary and can even be
So should dogs eat like wolves?
Based on the fact that research suggests dogs did not evolve from wolves, that dogs cans digest starches and grains, and that a typical wolf’s diet is not very nutritionally sound, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to feed dogs the same diet as wolves.
A nutritionally sound diet that supplies dogs with a wholesome, healthy and satisfying diet makes much more sense.