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It is a well-known fact that dogs are primarily carnivores and have evolved as meat-eaters. Although we have managed to domesticate our pets, they have not managed to evolve a rumen in their digestive tract to ferment cellulose and plant based material. Neither does their pancreas secrete cellulose to digest and convert the cellulose into glucose molecules. Dogs and cats have not become very efficient at digesting and using plant-based material as a source of protein.
However, certain plant materials like soybean meal, corn and rice have some usefulness in the diet of a meat-eater. Wheat, corn, rice, barley and soy are not harmful or bad for cats and dogs. But they are not good choices for the optimal nourishment of animals that have been meat-eaters for ages. What are the major differences between meat based and grain based foods for pets?
To start with, there are twenty two major alpha amino acids which are needed by mammals for metabolic activities. Cats and dogs can synthesize twelve of them internally, but need a diet that has ample quantities of the other ten. Since these ten are acquired only through the food they eat, they are referred to as essential amino acids.
Herbivores have billions of microorganisms in their lengthy G.I. tract that produce the amino acids we need. Dogs however, have shorter and simpler tracts. They have no way of capitalizing on amino acid synthesis by microbes and require the essential acids to be present in their ingested food.
What makes a balanced diet?
Fats are easily acquired from animal and plant origin. Minerals and vitamins are inexpensive, and are very well documented as to amounts and types, and they can be conveniently added to any diet in the form of supplements. Carbohydrates are also useful to cats and dogs as they provide burnable fuel for metabolic and muscular activities. Cheap sources of carbohydrates include corn, rice, barley, soy and wheat. The biggest advantage of carbohydrates is that animals use it to spare the protein in their body – that is, if carbohydrates are available in their system, they will use it for their energy needs before dipping into their protein supply.
This brings us to proteins. They are the most essential cornerstone of any balanced pet diet. Substances that provide protein include chicken, beef, fish, lamb, eggs and meat by-products (these do not include hide, hair, feathers or hooves, but refer to organ meats like kidney, liver, heart, stomach, spleen, blood and more). Meat by-products are a great protein source for meat-eaters.
For the diet to have all the necessary amino acids, you need to choose the best protein source – egg whites. It has one of the widest amino acid profiles and is readily digestible. AS a matter of fact, egg whites are used as a standard to measure other protein sources against. Other good choices would be poultry, meat or fish. Make sure you feed your dog high-quality dog food. Stay away from meat and bone meals as they are made from slaughterhouse offal and are harmful to your dog’s health and well-being.