You may have heard of the “Cave Man” diet as it applies to humans, the theory being that unprocessed fresh foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates are best for people who evolved successfully over thousands and thousands of years consuming just such a diet.
The concept of the “Ancestral Diet” for dogs is similar in nature. Dogs and other canids evolved successfully through hunting and scavenging, consuming foods that were not at all like the kibble so many are fed today. Recent nutritional science increasingly supports an ancestral-type diet—high protein, balanced fats, and at least some fresh foods—as the healthiest approach to feeding most dogs.
There is no way of knowing for sure exactly what constituted the diet of the ancestors of the modern, domesticated dog. And, of course, depending on the natural environment (the geography and climate) in which they lived, it may have varied considerably. However, there has been a lot of research done on this subject and we do know quite a bit about the diets of the dog’s closest wild relatives such as the wolf, coyote, and fox.
One thing that we are quite sure of is that dogs were hunters and scavengers, their diet consisting largely of meat (including some fish) with some lesser amounts of fruit and grasses.
Based on a review of the literature and my own research, I have concluded that the ancestral diet consisted of about 85 to 90% meat (primarily from whole prey) along with small amounts of fish and eggs, and 10 to 15% scavenged grasses, berries, nuts and other vegetation.
This is a high-protein diet, with almost 50% of the calories coming from protein, 44% from fat, and only 6% from carbohydrate. This protein level exceeds all but a few dry and raw foods, and all of the homemade raw foods that I’ve analyzed, unless the recipes specify very lean meats. There are few fat animals in the wild!
The fats in the canine ancestral diet were well balanced; I’ll write more about that in a future blog.