The Natural Diet

Men differ as to the origin of the dog, but all agree that he is of the family of carnivora and that he was a flesh-eating beast in his wild state. Admitting this eminently plausible theory the question at once arises, Has domestication created or developed in him the power, which his master possesses in an eminent degree, of accommodating himself to changes of foods as to other altered conditions and thereby rendered him capable of subsisting quite as well on a mixed diet, of vegetable and animal substances, as he once did on a diet exclusively animal? Scientific reasoning and experience answer in the affirmative; yet this solution is not universally accepted, and there are many who, arguing mainly from structural peculiarities, insist that he is purely a flesh-eater still and that animal foods alone are suited to his requirements.

The evidence to sustain this argument, which appears on anatomical investigation, merely shows that he is and has been fitted for flesh eating. And admitting him to be physically so constituted as to be able to derive from an exclusively animal diet all that is necessary to his support and health, he can scarcely be regarded now as other than omnivorous, or in other words as capable of subsisting on a varied diet made up of vegetable and animal substances, as on one entirely animal.

Many centuries have passed since he was redeemed, and in all these he has been the companion and friend of man. Sharing as he has the mixed diet of his master he surely must have felt the force of habit, to which no animal can be insensible, and acquired at least a tolerance for vegetable foods if not an actual need of them. It is by virtue of this force that man becomes so truly omnivorous; and that inferior animals can do the same abundant evidence has been offered in the results of experiments, which have shown that in respect to food changes in their nature have been effected and even hereditary forms of body suited to the altered conditions induced and perpetuated. Cats, for instance, have accommodated themselves to a mixed diet and become similar in form to the herbivorous or vegetable-eating animals by considerable increase in length of their bowels over other members of their family yet untamed.

It is certainly not reasonable to suppose that this power to accommodate to altered conditions in the matter of diet and to assimilate their forms is denied all animals but cats. Far from it, it is easier to believe that it can be acquired by all warm-blood animals, and that many of them that are now either purely flesh-eaters or vegetable-eaters would become omnivorous had they wits to aid them or were they educated up to the changes.





Contrast the primeval condition of the dog with that to-day. Once he provided for himself, and the tremendous amount of exercise he was forced to take while searching for food gave him not only a voracious appetite but powers of digestion equal to any burden he could put upon them. Now he is fed regularly and given some exercise but not nearly the amount he had in his wild state. Surely he of to-day cannot have the high health and vigor of his ancestors, nor can his digestive and excretory organs bear as heavy burdens as theirs were wont safely to bear. As a matter of fact allow the average dog of these times to gorge himself with flesh as his kind were accustomed to do of old, and indigestion, if not a severer penalty, would be exacted for even a single indulgence.

When speculating as to the proper diet of mankind it is quite the rule to insist that the stomach recognizes its own wants and the appetite is a perfectly safe guide.

This is true now neither of the human nor canine race, although it doubtless was so when those races were created, but since then they have been exposed to influences which in time perverted their appetites, until they could not be any longer relied upon as infallible guides.

Consider the appetite of man. There are many articles of food popular with him now which were really nauseating to him at first, and he literally was obliged to learn to like them; and once he did so, he thereafter longed for them quite as intensely as for the foods for which he had a natural craving. "Gamey" meats, clams, lobsters, and various vegetables are among the foods which to many were distasteful at first. Tobacco is even a better illustration of this acquired taste.

Indeed, nature is most indulgent and ever ready to modify her laws and requirements to conform to adverse conditions in man. Likewise with dogs, let one be denied animal food, or the quantity allowed be only very small, but there be vegetable foods in abundance, then with the latter she will endeavor to make him content, and possibly thrive on them as he would on animal foods.

But to enter into a discussion of this question is not at all necessary. The dog can safely be regarded as capable of digesting and assimilating vegetable as well as animal foods. Furthermore, a mixed diet now unquestionably best meets his requirements.

Doubtless, it is universally admitted that animal food is absolutely necessary to the dog; and it must generally be accepted that a varied or mixed diet is best suited to him; a fairly good idea of the different substances which should make up this diet also prevails; but beyond this the majority of owners are sadly wanting. About the required proportion of the various ingredients they know little or nothing, and are singularly prone to be highly generous in the use of vegetable foods and sparing of animal food, whereas it should often be the reverse. They are apt, also, to lose sight of the great difference in relation to both quantity and quality which habits of life demand, i.e. between the habits of those that are worked hard, as in the field, and those living lazy, luxurious lives, as house pets and watchers. They moreover make small account of the different requirements by the puppy and the mature dog; and seem to be still less mindful of the fact that marked individual peculiarities frequently exist. Again, very many of them appear indifferent on the matter of cooking, which oftener than otherwise is imperfect, and in consequence the foods so treated not only fail of their purpose, but, acting as irritants, cause indigestion and other disturbances.