The Paleo Diet for Dogs and Cats

By Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

The Paleolithic period (Stone Age) extended from about 2.5 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago, when humans developed agriculture and settled down in communities. Also during that period, wolves and wildcats were domesticated and brought into the human family.

While humans have selectively bred dog and cat breeds to look and often behave very different on the outside, their internal workings are not that different from their wild ancestors. Dogs and wolves are 99.5% genetically identical; cats’ DNA differs from wildcats in only 13 out of 20,000 genes. Those differences are important in terms of appearance and certain behavioral traits, but have very limited effects on their physiology. In particular, dog and cat digestion is quite similar to the wild type. It makes sense, then, to feed our pets as the meat-eating carnivores they are.


"It makes sense, then, to feed our pets as the meat-eating carnivores they are."


The majority of modern commercial pet food is, unfortunately, very far from that ideal. Rather than follow the prey model—about 50% protein, 40% fat, and 10% carbohydrate—many pet foods (especially kibble) are mostly carbohydrate and far less protein and fat. This makes for some inexpensive food, but it’s not so good for our carnivorous canine and feline pals, as evidenced by the pet obesity epidemic that is taking a terrible toll on their health.

Fortunately, a few companies are dedicated to producing high quality pet foods that are far closer in composition to the ancestral carnivore diet. Canned foods and freeze-dried and dehydrated diets are similar to the prey model in nutritional composition. Even dry diets are available with higher protein and less simple carbohydrates than mass-market products. And, of course, the newer raw diets with ingredients that have never been cooked are generally as close to the prey model as you can get (these are available in dehydrated, freeze-dried, and frozen formats).


"Better nutrition is the key to good health and longer life for our animal companions."


These natural foods make good genetic sense, and are far better suited to fulfilling our cats’ and dogs’ true nutritional requirements throughout their lives. Better nutrition is the key to good health and longer life for our animal companions.

Along with being a member of Only Natural Pet's Veterinary Board of Advisors, Dr. Jean Hofve is an accomplished author, including her book Paleo Dog, published by Rodale.


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