By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT
The term carnivore refers to the two-hundred-sixty different species of meat eaters. Carnivore literally means flesh devourer. The animals from this order are classified based on teeth, claws, and binocular vision adapted for catching and eating other animals. The order includes Canidae (canines), Felidae (felines), and Ursidae (Ursus AKA bears). The carnivore order includes carnivores, omnivores and primary herbivores like the Giant Panda.
Carnivores have incisors, canines, and carnassial (premolar and molar) teeth (see canine skull to the left). Canines are designed to grab, kill, and dismember, incisors dissect, and carnassials cut the bigger meat pieces into easy to swallow sizes. Carnassial teeth are basically scissor-like teeth designed to cut meat and swallow without chewing. The acid in the animal’s stomach will digest and extract the necessary nutrients. Dogs have an extra molar behind the carnassial tooth designed to crush bones.
Omnivores, such as bears, have flattened molar like carnassials designed to chew vegetation in order to extract complex sugars, vitamins, and minerals (see Ursus skull to the right). Unlike cats and dogs, bears can thrive on either a meat or vegetarian diet for a certain amount of time. Canines can eat vegetation; unfortunately, not only do they lack the ability to chew, the acid in their stomach is not the ideal environment to break down the fibre. Felines are obligate carnivores which means they need to eat meat in order to thrive and live long healthy lives. Cats cannot live on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet.
Raw Food Diets
Because they lack the flattened carnassial molar, dogs cannot be considered vegetarians nor can they be classified as omnivores. Canis familiaris is a scavenger which means your canine companion could survive on a vegetarian diet. Unfortunately, they will never reach optimal health. Feral dogs eat what they find; unfortunately, the scavenger's diet comes with dire consequences. Their lifespan is short, approximately four years, and is diseases-ridden.
Not surprisingly, dogs who eat a vegetarian diet will often display an unhealthy coat, have dandruff, flatulence, enormous stools, drink excessively, and be bloated. Conversely, raw food diets are by far the best possible options for our furry friends. Dogs and cats who eat raw foods have healthy coats, lack dandruff, do not have flatulence, have reduced and odourless stools, drink less, and do not suffer from obesity.
For carnivores, a balanced raw food diet consists of meat, bone, and organs. The cat’s raw food diet should contain small grounded bones and be devoid of grains, fruits, or vegetables. Dogs can tolerate vegetables a little better; if added to the diet, they should be grounded, pureed, but never cooked. Same goes for bones! Grains and cereals do not need to be added to the diet. Manufacturers add grains and cereals to pet foods to bring costs down. Which inadvertently brings the veterinarian bill up.
I will end with these words. To decide one’s diet should consist exclusively of meat, vegetation, or a combination of both is a personal choice and should never be imposed on an animal whose dietary needs have not evolved and caught up with the rest of its genus.