The human-canine bond has led to the evolution of dogs’ diets, with modern dogs adapting to a more omnivorous diet compared to their carnivorous ancestors.
The bond between humans and dogs has a long history, dating back thousands of years. Researchers believe that cavemen likely offered excess scraps of meat to docile wolves, which played a role in the domestication of wolves. This bond has continued to strengthen over time, as evidenced by the $58.1 billion spent by Americans on pet food and treats in 2022.
One major evolution in dogs’ diets is their adaptation to a more omnivorous diet. While their closest ancestor, the gray wolf, survived on a largely carnivorous diet, modern dogs have developed the gene for amylase, a protein that assists in starch digestion. This adaptation was a result of the shift from human hunting behaviors to agriculture, allowing dogs to adopt a more diverse diet.
In 1860, American electrician James Spratt introduced the first commercialized dog food, which consisted of grains, vegetables, beetroot, and gelatin. Before this, dogs relied on scraps from their owners’ tables. Since then, the pet food industry has continued to innovate and diversify, offering a wide range of options for dogs’ diets.
The diets of dogs vary around the world, influenced by factors such as preference and cost. North Americans, for example, have embraced the humanization of pets, treating them more like equal household members. As a result, they spend the most money on their dogs’ meals globally and are more likely to select grain-free dog food. However, it is worth noting that most dogs do not have grain sensitivities, and this specialized diet has been linked to potential health issues.
In Europe, many pet owners base their dog food choices on health claims, the breed, and the age of their pets. Interestingly, a survey found that European pet owners who practice restricted diets, such as veganism, are more likely to feed their dogs the same type of diet. This suggests a growing trend towards plant-based diets for dogs in Europe.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the preference for commercialized dog food is less common. Most countries in this region either feed their dogs table scraps or allow them to scavenge outside. This can be attributed to cultural and financial reasons, as a significant portion of pet owners in Southeast Asia fall under the lower income bracket. However, there are efforts by pet food industries, particularly in South Korea, to market their products as high-quality and value for money, slowly changing this trend.
While cost is a significant factor in the Asia-Pacific region, it is not the primary driver for every country. Hong Kong residents, for example, are more likely to purchase premium dog food, spending the most per person on pet food in the region. In Japan, where more than half of the dog population is senior-aged, consumers gravitate towards senior-targeted and health-conscious pet foods.
In conclusion, the bond between humans and dogs has influenced the evolution of dogs’ diets over time. From their carnivorous ancestors, dogs have adapted to a more omnivorous diet, thanks to their close relationship with humans. The preferences and costs associated with dog food vary around the world, with North Americans leading in spending and Europe showing a trend towards restricted diets. In the Asia-Pacific region, commercialized dog food is less common, but there are efforts to change this through marketing campaigns and changing cultural norms.