Industry Q + A

▪ Q & A with Melinda Miller

◦ President at North American Raw Petfood Association (NARPA) (www.rawpetfood.org)

◦ CEO at Animal Nutrition Technologies

◦ CEO Smith Ridge Veterinary Center.

(A conversation debunking myths and providing insight on nutrition).

Hi Anne –

If you asked for information on wild candid dietary issues I can say with certainty that veterinarians and the veterinary colleges have next to no knowledge. As for knowledge of domestic dog dietary requirements and realities, it simply is a fact that most of the beliefs have been heavily shaped by the kibble industry. Until about 10 years ago most veterinarians received only about 4 hours of nutrition training in 4 years, and that covered several species and was largely taught directly by the staff veterinarians of the major kibble companies. 

There is now more training – which is a good thing – but it is still based on research that is fully dependent on the flawed foundation of grain based foods. Most of the nutrition “chairs” at the veterinary schools are primarily funded by the major kibble companies. The good news is that a couple of the influential boarded academics in veterinary nutrition are beginning to soften their attitude toward home-prepared diets, including raw. Within 5 to 10 years we may see a major shift in the recommendations of diets. 

<< Can you clarify and give more information, if, or when, a wolf will eat the stomach content if there is content in the stomach? If a wolf is in extreme need of hunger, will it always forgo all nutritional value and moisture in the stomach content because of simply the taste of acid? >>

A starving animal will eat anything, though even then, I suspect they would probably leave the contents and just try to eat the tissue. Hydrochloric acid is extremely strong and nasty – so it’s more than just a simple matter of taste.

It’s also important to remember that stomach contents of typical canid prey animals are primarily grass and leaves. That provides almost no nutritive value for a wild canid. And even the moisture content is negligible when compared to the blood and moisture content of the meat/organs that they are consuming.

<< Would you happen to have additional data or reflections on the differences between a wolves diet and a domesticated dog diet? I find it difficult to group dogs and wolves together 100% regarding stomach content since all my life I’ve seen our pets (dogs and cats) completely consume an entire deer or goose, stomach content included, plus pull fruits and veggies out of the garden. >>

Domestic dogs (canis lupus familiaris) are a sub-species of the gray wolf (canis lupus). Dogs and wolves are more closely related genetically than wolves and coyotes. Though we’ve changed the “wrapper” or outside of dogs, the insides remain virtually the same. Dogs and wolves are “opportunistic” carnivores (vs. cats who are “obligate” carnivores who must derive all their nutrition from animal tissue). As opportunistic carnivores they are able to make some use of non-animal nutrition. So, fruits and veggies contain some nutrients they can make use of, and – they taste good. So if readily available, they’ll eat whatever is easy and tasty. 

But, in a situation where they are struggling to survive, they are not going to spend time on fruit and veggies – except when those items are directly in front of their face. In a situation where they have to feed themselves, they will devote their energy looking for pure protein and fat calories. So, many of the abandoned dogs of Katrina survived by hunting/catching the hordes of rats that flourished in the area in the aftermath of the devastation there. Did they eat the stomach as they gulped down the rat? Probably. The stomach of a rat is relatively small.

But remember that as a species, given the opportunity, dogs will “pack” up. At that point, they will tend to hunt the largest animals available to them so that the entire pack can be fed at once. Hunting small prey individually splinters the efficiency of the pack and leaves hungry pack members.

One of the reasons that the myth about eating stomach contents continues is because people see nature shows on TV and watch as the wolves rip into the belly of the downed prey. They then assume this means the wolf is eating the stomach and its contents. In reality, the soft underbelly is just an easy entry point and a good route to take in order to reach the high value organ meats like the liver.

As far as birds, I’m not an expert on them. But I do know that the stomach acid content of meat-eating birds (owls, hawks, eagles, vultures) is very high, while it is relatively low in birds that exist on seeds, grasses and small insects. So the stomach contents of a goose may be relatively benign. 

As for cats – all the ones I’ve known always left me the stomachs of their prey by my doors like little gifts. We all learned to look where we were stepping when going out the doors. :~)

<< I completely agree with you that protein should be the main source of nutrition while fruits and vegetables should be very minimal. Do you have data that I may post and clarify on the site for nutritional value? >>

Per direct conversations with David Mech – the leading wolf biologist in the world – vegetation accounts for less than 1% of the wild wolf diet. 

<< Also, you mentioned wolves eat hide and fur, what is a comparable for domesticated pets for insoluble fiber? >>

Insoluble fiber that is acceptable to the buying public is a problem. They won’t pay for hide and hair and the pathogen issues those ingredients present would make their inclusion prohibitive. Most raw feeders don’t want grains in the foods, so even though whole grains can provide insoluble fiber, that’s not a viable solution. The *skins* of some fruits and veggies are a source of insoluble fiber, but I suspect that procurement would be a problem. Green beans, cauliflower and celery do contain some insoluble fiber so they can be a option.

Again, I hope some of this helps.

Melinda 

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