Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?

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dog choosing between vege and meat food. Are dogs carnivores or omnivores?

Dogs like to eat meat and no one can deny that.

But are they carnivores just because of that?

Well, no.

Dogs are omnivores – they eat meat, fruits, vegetables, spicy foods, plant-based foods, and almost everything else humans eat.

Although many think that dogs, like cats, are carnivores, they are actually omnivores and partially meet their daily needs for nutrients by eating plants.

Actually, cat is not an omnivore like dog, cat is definitely a carnivore.

Your canine friend descended from wolves, and wolves are carnivores. [1]

And that’s a reason why dog lovers and dog breeders often debate whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores. 

Both sides have interesting arguments. 

So, in this article, we will give you a detailed answer to that question.

But first things first.

Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores – A Detailed Look

What are carnivores?

Carnivores are animals that eat the meats of other animals.

What are omnivores?

Omnivores eat other types of foods besides meat, like herbs, eggs, milk, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

Humans are omnivores.

What are the main facts about dog nutrition?

Animal proteins are a major part of a dog’s balanced diet.

Besides meat, dogs eat fruits, vegetables, bread, and any other food you give them.

To get animal protein they need to eat meat, and this theory claims that dogs are carnivores.

However, this is not all the evidence mentioned by those who think dogs are carnivores.

Here are some facts that support the theory that dogs are carnivores:

  • Dogs’ teeth are adapted to eat meat
  • Dogs’ behavior, such as digging, is typical of carnivores
  • Like other carnivores, dogs can last a long time without meals

Here are three main arguments that support the theory that dogs are omnivores

  • Dogs have three genes that are related to the digestion of starch and glucose, so they can digest food of plant origin.
  • Dogs have an enzyme called salivary amylase.

One thing that separates omnivores and carnivores is salivary amylase. 

Carnivores do not produce amylase in saliva. 

Amylase is a specialized enzyme produced by herbivores and omnivores to break down starchy carbohydrates into simple sugars. 

Although dogs do not produce amylase in saliva, their digestive system adds it to the pancreas and small intestine. 

The difference in the anatomy of the digestive system between carnivores and omnivores

digestive system of dogs

Carnivores have a shorter digestive tract because the meat is easier to process, but they have stronger stomach acid.

Stronger acid kills bacteria in decaying meat, making it safe for consumption.

Dogs have medium-long digestive tracts adapted to digest grains and starches.

Also, dogs can digest carbohydrates and use them in their diet, whereas carnivores do not so much.

Carbohydrates are macronutrients that can be useful for carnivores.

Wolves, for example, eat small amounts of carbohydrates that they ingest through vegetables or through the stomach contents of their prey.[2]

In addition, the long domestication of dogs has led to their adaptation.

This adaptation enabled dogs to digest starch, which is one of the sources of carbohydrates present in vegetables.

And because of this ability to adapt dogs have been able to stay with us to this day. 

Therefore, we can conclude that carbohydrates are healthy for dogs as long as they are present in small or moderate amounts, balanced together with proteins and fats.

This is another fact that goes in favor of dogs being omnivores.

Evolutionary development in dog nutrition

Dogs may have started out as carnivores, but they evolved from their original domestication.

They survived on leftovers, so their digestive system adapted and helped them survive and thrive.

Over time, dogs have adapted and can eat almost all types of food.

You are not so sure that dogs are carnivores, right?

Basically, dogs eat everything that falls on the floor.

Because of that, most serious researchers and manufacturers of dog food accept the theory that dogs are omnivores.

It’s pretty easy to check what they think based on the ingredients they use in their dog food recipes.

Dogs are optional carnivores and do not depend exclusively on the proteins found in meat to meet nutritional requirements.

There are a variety of foods on the dog’s menu, including milk, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and grains.

In the wild, dogs eat this kind of food more often, as it is much harder to get meat.

Sometimes, dogs eat grass, which neutralizes the acid in the digestive tract, and it is possible that this causes vomiting, so they get rid of unwanted food.

During the process of domesticating dogs, pressures from their environment could cause changes in the synthesis of enzymes responsible for digesting nutrients, adapting dogs to survive by taking a diet based on ‘human leftovers’.

This has made it possible for dogs today to absorb many nutrients of plant origin.

dentition in dogs

What can dogs eat as omnivores?

Well, they can eat raw meat like carnivores.

Some people are under the impression that bacteria found in raw meat can harm a dog.

Dogs are surprisingly well equipped to deal with bacteria.

That’s why raw diets for dogs are increasing in popularity.

Their saliva contains antibacterial properties; it contains lysozyme, an enzyme that destroys harmful bacteria.

Their short digestive tract is designed to quickly push food and bacteria so that bacteria do not have time to colonize.

The extremely acidic environment in the stomach also successfully prevents the colonization of bacteria.

If your dog has an immunocompromised system or a health problem caused by this condition, bacteria can be a problem, so the transition from dry food to raw food should be gradual and careful.

As omnivores, they can eat fruits and vegetables, besides meat.

Also, they can eat almost everything like humans, except chocolate and other sweets.

You can check why dogs can’t eat chocolate here.

Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores – Bottom Line

Dogs, like humans, are omnivores.

Although they originated from wolves and that may suggest that they are carnivores, evolution and living with people made them omnivores.

Want to learn more about healthy dog food? Check out our article about What Can Dogs Eat.

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Cliff is the co-founder and chief editor at He and his Yorkie Boza are always together - even at work. Cliff is a passionate dog lover and has 15+ years of experience in dog training. His mission is to provide the best dog feeding tips that help dogs live longer and happier.

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