The Ancestral Diet for Dogs

5/21/15

The Ancestral Diet for Dogs

Steve Brown

Steve Brown is a renowned dog nutrition expert who has been in the raw dog food industry since its start. He’s been called the Godfather of Raw Dog by many, but is most known for his book “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet” and “See Spot Live Longer.”

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!

Caloric Contribution graph Ancestral diet vs Darwin's Pet vs Typical Dry food

The fats in the canine ancestral diet were well balanced. Learn more about the importance of balanced fats here.

Read Steve Brown’s The Dog’s Ancestral Diet


Steve BrownSteve Brown is a dog food formulator, researcher, and author on canine nutrition. In the 1990s he developed one of the leading low-calorie training treats, Charlee Bear® Dog Treats, as well as the first AAFCO-compliant raw dog food. Since 2003 he has focused on research and education. He is the author of two books on canine nutrition (See Spot Live Longer, now in its 8th printing, and Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet (Dogwise Publishing, 2010); and a 40-page booklet, See Spot Live Longer the ABC Way.

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