Are Dogs Carnivores?

by Betty Lewis
Most dogs aren't too picky about what's in their food dish.

Most dogs aren't too picky about what's in their food dish.

Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images

Dogs are members of the carnivora group, meaning they're placental animals, not hatched. However, members of this group aren't necessarily carnivores, or meat eaters. The amount of meat Prince eats, compared to other items such as plant material, determines if he's a true carnivore.

Carnivore vs. Herbivore vs. Omnivore

There's been some debate over whether dogs are carnivores, as domestic cats are known to be, or omnivores or herbivores. To understand where Prince falls on the scale, you have to understand the difference between the dietary needs. Carnivores consume a diet consisting of almost exclusively animal meat. Omnivores eat both plant and animal material as their primary food source. Herbivores consume only plant material.

Dogs are Omnivores

Just because Prince is part of the carnivora order doesn't make him a carnivore. Cats, who have much different dietary requirements than dogs, are classified as true carnivores. Giant pandas are herbivores. If Prince were on his own in the wild, he'd be considered an omnivore, along with raccoon and bear.

Traits of Omnivores

Hills Pet Nutrition states that "strict or true carnivores, such as cats, have a higher nutritional requirement for taurine (an amino acid), arachidonic acid (a fatty acid), and certain vitamins (niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin A)." Omnivores such as Prince -- and you -- don't have the same high requirements that Kitty has, who needs meat to meet those requirements. Other factors that contribute to Prince's status of an omnivore include the design of his teeth (to grind bones and fibrous plant material), his ability to digest almost 100 percent of carbohydrates he consumes, his larger small intestine and his ability to create vitamin A from beta-carotene in plants.

The Proper Diet

Just because Prince doesn't need as much meat as Kitty does doesn't mean he doesn't want it or shouldn't eat it. Like everyone in the carnivora family, he requires a balanced diet that provides him regularly with proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. Most commercial pet foods will meet these requirements and if you have any doubt as to whether they'll meet his needs, look for a statement of nutritional adequacy on his dog food label. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes nutrient profiles for pet food and if Prince's food is in compliance, the label will reflect that. If he has special needs, you should discuss his specific nutritional requirements with your vet, who will be able to recommend a suitable food.

Photo Credits

  • Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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