Dr. Jean Dodds' Pet Health Resource Blog

Considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, Dr. Dodds focuses on vaccination protocols, thyroid issues and nutrition.
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Prey Model vs. BARF Diets: Possibly the most contentious battle in the dog world

Question: So many raw feeders say that variety in proteins, organs, etc. is all a dog/cat needs to be healthy; no need for adding fruits, veggies, grains, or supplements to the raw diet. Is this true or are supplements still needed?

Answer: You are referring to the debate between prey model and BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) diets. The prey model is based on the premise that a companion animal’s diet should mimic that of their wild counterparts. BARF diets include fruits, vegetables and supplements.

I disagree with using the prey model diet for dogs. They have been domesticated by humans and evolved over thousands of years to be obligate omnivores now rather than true carnivores. Dogs were domesticated not only to help us and be our companions, but also to curb landfill waste or eat table scraps. For instance, when you see images of stray dogs, they are usually foraging near garbage piles. This sociological trend is confirmed by scientific research. A recent study by Robert Wayne, a professor at University of California Los Angeles, determined that dogs are not as closely related to wolves as once believed. In conclusion, the genome of domesticated dogs has adapted over time from that of wolves to aid digestion and utilization of a starch-rich diet. Accordingly, the BARF diet is more balanced for today’s dogs. Vegetables, fruits and supplements are important for them as well as meat.

Cats are still carnivores and can survive without vegetables and fruits, although their raw diets may need supplements of vitamins and minerals, too.

This topic stirs up passions and emotions so I anticipate several comments about my position and encourage a civilized dialogue. Perception is reality. Unfortunately, an emotional debate may discourage someone from continuing their journey of learning more about pet health and nutrition. Ultimately, the debate could do more harm than good for the intended companion animal eating the diet, if it became divisive and unconstructive. My point here is to communicate freely, but with a sense of decorum.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

References:
Axelsson, E; Ratnakumar, A; Arendt, ML; Maqbool, K; Webster, MT; Perloski, M; Liberg, O; Arnemo, JM; Hedhammar, A; Lindblad-Toh, K. “The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet.” Nature. 2013 Mar 21;495(7441):360-4. doi: 10.1038/nature11837. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Viegas, Jennifer. “Dogs Not as Close Kin to Wolves as Thought.” Discovery News, JAN 16, 2014. Accessed April 14, 2014. Retrieved from: http://news.discovery.com/animals/pets/dogs-not-as-close-kin-to-wolves-as-thought-140116.htm