Why Should I Feed Plants to My Carnivore?
Good question, glad you asked.
There are definitely different schools of thought among “raw feeders” when it comes to feeding plant matter to dogs (and cats, for that matter). If you’re brave enough to tackle the comments sections of raw feeding Facebook groups (braver than I!) you will find many, many people arguing that dogs are carnivores who do not need plant matter and would not have eaten plant matter in the wild. They’ll tell you that wolves do not eat the stomach contents of their prey, as if this is all the evidence you could possibly need to immediately stop giving your dog anything that didn’t once have a face. Put down the carrot, Clare. This issue alone deserves a seperate post unto itself.
At an educated guess, I’d say there are a few reasons wolves don’t eat the stomach contents of their prey. Canines are opportunistic scavengers; they’re not omnivores in the true sense. They will seek out the nutrients in plant matter when they feel they need it, or when other prey is in short supply. Clearly if they are feasting on prey and they have the option of consuming the stomach contents, prey is not in short supply. If they are feasting on prey, plant matter is also not what they are seeking out at that time and nutritionally may not be what they require at that time. A wolf who doesn’t eat the stomach content of their prey, may at a later time eat some grass. And depending on what stage of digestion the stomach contents is at, there may be few nutrients left in it.
It’s also generally accepted that they DO eat the stomach lining and intestinal walls, which contain huge amounts of good bacteria and digestive enzymes. This is why green tripe is considered such a wonder food. But not everyone has access to green tripe, and the human grade meat available to most is stripped of all of this yummy, weird, nutritional goodness. I can’t remember the last time I saw an unwashed rectum at my butcher.
At the end of the day though, aren’t we feeding our dogs a fresh diet because we want them to be as healthy as possible? Why would I follow arbitrary rules regarding what wolves may or may not eat in the wild when I know that the kelpie currently curled up at the foot of my bed can benefit nutritionally from plant matter added to his diet? Yes, he eats around 80% meat, bones, organs, fish and fats. But he also gets fermented dairy and sauerkraut for probiotics, blended green veggies for prebiotics, starchy vegetables for added fibre and stool bulk, smoothies for a quick fix version of all of the aforementioned, tahini for manganese and supergreens powder for trace minerals.
No matter how many people in the comments section of a Facebook group tell you otherwise, pretty much all of the key figures in the field of animal nutrition (your Karen Beckers and Ian Billinghursts of the world) agree that suitable plant matter provides important, often critical, nutritional benefits and should be included in a balanced homemade diet. I’m proud to join their ranks.
If you want to learn how you can effectively incorporate plant matter into your pet’s diet, check out the programs in my shop.