Can Dogs Live on Meat Alone?

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Introduction

Dogs are carnivores - it's a basic fact of life and one you are probably familiar with. 

Dogs come from wolf ancestry, and wolves are meat-eating predators. As a responsible dog owner, you have to make sure you're feeding your animals the best and most nutritious diet - meat nutrients included. But can your dog live on meat alone? Can you bypass regulated, commercial dog foods and just feed your pup a meat-based diet? A lot of people think that because dogs are carnivores and need a lot of protein, they can get by just fine on a diet of meat! 

Unfortunately, your dog can't live on only meat. As a complicated, living organism, they need tons of different vitamins and nutrients that meat alone cannot provide. Want to know what you can and can't feed your dog? Need some advice on what to feed your dog? Do you feed your dog just meat? If so, read up, so you can tell what signs you need to look out for to see if your dog is suffering from a lack of key nutrients!

Signs That a Meat-Only Diet Isn't Working For Your Dog

Your dog is a complicated organism that needs specific vitamins and nutrients so they can function properly. While it's true that dogs need a protein-heavy diet and that they are carnivores by nature, living on a meat-only diet can really damage your dog's health. With just meat, your dog could be missing out on lots of vitamins and supplemental nutrients.

If your dog's diet isn't right for him, look out for bowel issues. If your pup is dealing with constipation, loose stool, or diarrhea and vomiting, it's possible that he's not getting the right nutrients he needs. Further, if your dog is really gassy (gassier than normal), that's probably a sign the meat-only diet isn't working well with his system. 

He might even face other symptoms like itchiness, signifying that he's having an allergic reaction. Your dog's weight will also be affected by his diet. If his meat-only diet isn't sufficient, you'll probably see him getting sick often, resulting in a loss of weight and not getting the extra nutrients he needs. 

Another tell-tale sign of diet issues is one a lot of people don't know about - ear problems. If your dog has repeated ear issues, it might be time to take a look at his food! Allergies can manifest themselves in infections and other ear problems, so make sure that your dog's food isn't the culprit.

Body Language

Here are a few body language signs your dog might be giving you to let you know that his all meat diet isn't healthy:
  • Cowering
  • Scratching
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Lack of focus
  • Sweaty paws
  • Ears back

Other Signs

There are, of course, other signs that your dog might be giving you to show you that his all-meat diet isn't the best for him. These include things like:
  • Lethargy
  • Weight Gain or Loss
  • Stomach Problems
  • Itchy Ears
  • Lack of Motivation to Play
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The History of Dogs Living Off Meat

Dogs are domesticated animals, but historically, they come from the wolf family. Technically, they are considered omnivores, though they come from carnivorous roots. Initially, before commercial dog food was around and before researchers knew about dog nutrients, pups were fed only meat and bones, the diet that was thought to benefit them the most.

However, when the Industrial Revolution came around and animals were starting to be thought of as companions more than just workers, a man named James Spratt came up with a prepared pet food and started the commericial pet food industry. 

Before this time, dogs were thought to live on meat and scraps alone, but once the revolution started, a different thought process began. Then, in the mid 1980s, the US National Academy of Sciences National Research Council published nutritional requirements for dogs and cats, and many of those requirements weren't just based on meat.

The Science Behind a Meat-Only Diet

Your dog should probably be eating a diet that consists of about 25-50 percent meat because of the amount of protein his body needs to function. This, however, doesn't make up his entire diet. Your dog has a digestive tract designed for meat scavenging, but they may not thrive on meat alone. 

Your dog's system needs meat, fruit, and vegetables in their diet. Wild dogs will eat all kinds of things containing seeds or partially digested vegetation to get the natural vitamins their bodies crave. Your dog also needs nutrients, like Vitamin E and fatty acids, that are not contained in meat. If you feed your dog a meat-only diet, you could be depriving him of the essential vitamins and nutrients he needs. 

Training a Dog to Accept His Food

If your dog is used to a primarily-meat diet, changing up his routine is going to be a touch difficult at first. This will not only affect his taste buds but his belly, too. Odds are, your dog is used to a meat diet, so he's used to the delicious taste. Training your dog to eat other foods, that might not taste as good, will take a bit of adjusting. 

Make sure you're giving your dog his set amount of food at specific times so that he knows that this is his only meal option. We don't mean you should starve your dog, but if he doesn't eat his new food the first few times, he certainly will when he's hungry. Training your dog to rid himself of the pickiness shouldn't take too long. 

Additionally, you'll want to transition your dog's food gradually, though you might still run into bowel issues. Make sure your dog is really, really housebroken before you change his food. His new transition might upset his tummy and give him a mild form of incontinence, so ensuring that he's giving you all the signs he needs to go out is very important! 

You may also want to get him used to eating a wet-mixed food. This might help with his food transition and make everything go down (and come out) a lot more smoothly.

How to React If You Need to Change Your Dog's Diet

  • Mix your dog's commercial food in with warm water to make it easier to eat and digest.
  • Talk to your dog-tor and plan a diet for your dog.
  • Find a dog food formula that is meat-heavy at first to wean him off a meat-only diet.
  • Pick a food that is easily digestible.
  • Change your dog's food gradually to deter any kind of stomach issues.