Monday, 28 January 2013

the evolution of dog's dogs' diets

I've seen mention on Slavenka's blog about a recent study looking at the genetics of dogs and grey wolves.

Basically, what I gather from the reports, especially one in The Los Angeles Times, is that there are certain genes in dogs that enable them to digest starch. This would suggest that, like humans, they changed in their eating habits when agriculture developed. Here's a short quote from the article:
Taken together, the data fit with the fact that dogs eat more starch than wolves, Axelsson said. He added that this adaptation would have allowed the first dogs to get more goodness out of the waste food they were drawn to at early farming settlements."It makes perfect sense that the most efficient scavengers were the wolves that could cope with this starch-rich diet," he said.
Still, dog domestication may have happened long before humans adopted an agrarian life about 10,000 years ago, said Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at UCLA who wasn't involved in the Nature study.
Perhaps dogs evolved through hanging around hunter-gatherers so they could feed on leftover carcasses of the mammoths and mastodons our ancestors killed, Wayne said. In that scenario, the starch-tolerant changes would have cropped up only after dogs were domesticated, just as genetic changes that help break down starch evolved in human beings after we adopted a farming life.

And here's a little of what Patricia McConnell on The Other End of the Leash (one of the most informative and useful blogs on the internet, in my opinion) has to say about it:

 This is obviously of great interest to geneticists and evolutionary biologists, but also to those of us who are feeding domestic dogs on a daily basis. As you all are well aware, some argue that wolves primarily eat meat, raw meat at that, and we should use the diet of wild wolves to direct the menus of our companion dogs. At the risk of stirring the pot (so to speak!), about ideal diets for dogs, we would be wise to use the study above to remind ourselves that dogs evolved as omnivores who ate a little bit of just about everything 10 to 12,000 years ago. That does NOT mean that individual dogs do not do better on a particular diet. There is no question that some dogs do better eating “A,” and other dogs can’t handle “A” and do better eating “B.” I’d say the take away messages are to 1) know your dog and 2) don’t be seduced into claims that a new dog food is best for your dog because “it replicates the diet of a wolf.”

The research casts a new light on the daily question we face, as to what is best to feed our dogs. I'll look forward to seeing how the mega-corporations try to jump on the bandwagon on this one! They'll all be saying we should feed their products.

I'm still of the opinion that a raw diet is the best for Penny, together with some commercial foods to make sure we give her the needed  supplements, and then also a dash of home cooking  - and even more home cooking.


Margarita said...

I also read this article on BBC website, and yes, I think one should go for what is best for his dog... It's all about trial and error.

Lilli said...

You are right :) A little bit of everything and within reason. That's right even in human's dinners. I'm going to feed my dog when I have it with raw meat and bones but I will add there some vegetables and some leftovers. And occasionally commercial foods, especially when in hurry or on vacation somewhere :) And try different things and see if there's something my dog can't handle.

Thank you for the interesting post!


parlance said...

Margarita, the problem for me is that it's years before we realise the food we give isn't a proper diet. For instance, so many dogs these days have cancers, and I sometimes wonder if it's related to commercial foods.

parlance said...

Lilli, I agree with what you say, that for us humans it's the same issue. We just have to be sensible about what we eat.

parlance said...

Aagh! I just noticed I made a mistake with the comma in my heading for this post. And I'm an English teacher!

Margarita said...

parlance, I agree, but you never know what may cause cancer.
I'm a fan of Orijen dog food (I don't mean I eat it!), I think it's well balanced, and many dogs that I know love it. Would never feed my dog cheap commercial foods for a long period.

parlance said...

Margarita, you're right. I thought even as I wrote that reply that I was being a bit judgmental about commercial diets. I agree that we get what we pay for. I wouldn't feed a cheap food, but I often include good commercial products.