Basics of Dog and Cat Digestion; Your pet is a Carnivore!
Many people thrive on a vegetarian diet, however, even though humans can live healthful lives without ever eating meat, fundamental differences in anatomy make vegetarian diets far from ideal for dogs, and impossible for cats. Dog and cat anatomy has evolved over thousands of years to thrive on a high meat diet. Both dogs and cats are considered carnivores; dogs are opportunistic carnivores, meaning they eat meat whenever they can find it, and cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat regularly to survive.
Dog and cats both have a far shorter intestinal tract than humans do, and food sits in their highly acidic stomachs far longer than it does in ours. Their digestive tracts prove that they are highly efficient at digesting meats; their stomachs make it virtually impossible for them to contract salmonella or e Coli, and their short intestines are ideal from gathering nutrients from protein-rich meat.
The inside of a dog or cat’s mouth looks substantially different from that of a human. We have molars in the back of our mouths that are designed to grind up plant matter; we also produce salivary amylase, which begins to break down our food as we chew. Neither cats nor dogs produce salivary amylase because they generally don’t chew their food, and their entire mouths are filled with sharp incisors, designed to tear off chunks of meat, not grind up vegetables.
Now, there are certain circumstances in which a dog may really need a vegetarian diet, and there are several available in both cans and kibble which can help your dog stay pretty healthy. There are not, however, any truly vegetarian foods for cats, because cats cannot produce Taurine (an essential amino acid), as well as several other animal-based nutrients, in their own bodies. The only way for a cat to get these vital nutrients into their body is to eat meat.
Because both dogs and cats thrive eating meat, I often recommend high protein diets to people who are looking for a new pet food. Grain free foods are often high in protein, and improve skin and coat health to reduce shedding.