Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
If Wolves Eat Meat, Why is My Dog Eating Cereal?
Carnivorans, the ancestors of the wolf in Yellowstone (Canis lupus) and your dog (Canis familiaris), evolved more than 55 Million years ago, and always have been meat eaters. Carnivorans all share particular traits that are found in no other mammals, like unique features bones in the limbs, but – most importantly – Carnivorans share special, bladelike teeth called carnassials.
When carnivorans bite, these elongated blades shear past each other, slicing like scissors. This ability to shred meat allows them to swallow and digest their food more easily. Look at your teeth in the mirror: straight, even teeth up front, and in the back you have flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Look in your dog’s mouth and you immediately see up front fangs on top and bottom. In the back you won’t see flat molars like we have, but carnassial teeth for tearing raw meat into pieces small enough to swallow.
When you see a pack of wolves take down an elk in Yellowstone, it isn’t to munch on the grass underneath it! So what happened in the last 150 years to change millions of years of evolution of eating raw meat, to eating cereal?
In 1860, James Spratt became the first person to manufacture dog food. Spratt was an electrician and lighting rod salesman from Cincinnati, Ohio, who sailed to England in the 1850s to sell his wares. Upon arriving at the docks in London, he watched as the crew threw the leftover sea biscuits, or hard tack, over the side of the ship and onto the dock, where local dogs were just waiting for them. (A little history lesson here: Before refrigeration, sea biscuits or hard tack, had been the basic food stuffs of sailors since the time of the Pharaohs. Made from a simple mixture of flour, water and salt, baked and then left to dry-out and harden, these sea biscuits were cheap, easily stored, and had an extremely long shelf life.) Watching the dogs Spratt thought, ‘why not make a cheap, easy to store and serve dog food to sell to city dwellers with dogs?’ In 1860, Spratt’s “Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes’ came on the market, and the pet food industry was born. Spratt first started producing his dog food in London. It contained a proprietary blend of vegetables, beetroot, wheat meals, and meat. (Spratt advertised with pictures of American Bison, but would never disclose what meat he actually used). The raw materials were brought to his London factory by boat, where they were blended and poured in thousand pound batches into a dough drum for mechanically kneading. When ready it was then poured into a machine that rolled it out to the required thickness and sent it on to cutting machine, which produced biscuits at a rate of 400,000 a day. The newly cut and soft doughy biscuits went into an oven and emerged as browned hard tack. They were sent to drying bins for 48 hours before being packaged for sale. The combination of Spratt’s tremendous advertising acumen and the convenience of his product quickly made it the norm for people. By the 1870s, Spratt had opened operations in the United States, and in 1881 Spratt received an American patent for his Meat Fibrine Dog Cake. It was soon selling like hot cakes (pun intended) from coast to coast. It became so ubiquitous that Spratt's supplied army dogs with 1,256,976,708 dog biscuits during World War I.
So thanks to James Spratt, only for the last 150 years have dogs eaten cereal as their primary diet.
Dogs and their closest ancestors, wolves, evolved eating the flesh of prey animals – not grains and corn turned into “kibble”. As a result not just their teeth but their whole digestive systems were built for meat, and their digestive systems cannot properly digest grains. Corn (which gives us both high fructose corn syrup and corn oil) is also very fattening. Is it any wonder so many dogs are obese and suffer from diabetes?
In addition, grains and corn frequently contain toxins called aflatoxin or mycotoxins, which are produced by molds growing in stored grains. Exposure to even minute amounts of these toxins can accumulate in a dog’s liver, where the poison can cause cancer, or even kill. In 1974, over 300 stray dogs died in India from eating aflatoxin contaminated corn. In the U.S., 55 dogs died in 1998 of contaminated corn, and in December 2005 more than 100 dogs died from eating brand-name, store bought dog food contaminated with these toxins. MARS (candy bars) recently recalled one of their NUTRO Chewy Treats of potential mold contamination. In May, Blue Buffalo recalled its Life Protection Formula Dog Food for excessive mold. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Of course the FDA won’t allow contaminated stores to be used for human consumption, so they allow for it to be blended with ‘good’ corn to lower the concentration, and then permit it in animal feed. Will that bag of dog food kibble in the pantry kill your dog? Probably not, but over 10 years it probably will. Just like eating a fast food meal won’t kill you, but a lifetime of eating it for every meal has driven national obesity and diabetes through the roof.
Grains and corn are generally fertilized with products containing pesticides or larvicides, so your dog’s kibble may also contain pesticides and larvacides, either through the fertilizer or sprayed by growers or storehouses.
Grains, and particularly corn, have been genetically modified (“GMO”) to grow more quickly and resist insects and diseases. People are no thrilled about eating GMO foods, and should be any more excited about their dog eating it either.
No wonder kibble is so hard on your dog!
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The Biggest Feeding Mistakes Pet Owners Make
 American Museum of Natural History, Educator’s Guide, Hall of North American Mammals, 2010.
 Michael Schaffer, One Nation Under Dog, 2009. McMillan, pg. 205, Katherine C. Grier, Pets in America, 2004. UNC Press, pg. 281f.
 Juliette Cunliffe, The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds, UK, 2004. Parragon Publishing. p. 90–91, 158.