Carnivore vs. Herbivore: What Difference Does It Make?

Could this explain your pet’s gut issues?

If we look at the physiology of cats and dogs, it is clear that they are designed to eat meat – mostly protein and fat. Cats have no grinding teeth, dogs only have a few. Neither are able to move the jaw sideways as is needed to grind plant materials. ( Think of cows chewing their cud.) Neither have salivary amylase and both have relatively short digestive tracts compared to their herbivore cousins.

Most herbivores have an intestinal tract roughly >10x the length of their bodies in order to process the plant materials, but carnivores that do not need to ferment plant materials tend to have much shorter digestive tracts; roughly 3-5 x the length of the body. Herbivores also have salivary amylase, like us, which is to start the digestion of carbohydrates before they even reach the gut and pancreas.

Dogs in the wild will consume on average 15 % of their diet as plant material, most of it low carbohydrate seeds, nuts and berries, not highly process grains which are nearly all carbohydrate.

Cats in the wild consume only 5% plant material on average.

Yet most kibbles are 50% carbohydrate and often > 60% plant material. The pancreas was never designed to produce much amylase in these animals and while all mammals are highly adaptive and they can clearly survive on these diets, they are not close to being optimal.

My suspicion is that the constant demand on the pancreas for amylase, the relatively low protein diets that do not support good healing and the presumed poorly digested plant material (due to teeth and a gut that were never designed for this much plant material) leads to dysbiosis (an imbalance of the gut bacteria and fungi) and eventual inflammation. This would explain the high incidence of inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis in our pets.

Add to that the constant bombardment of environmental toxins like glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up which is found in nearly all foods, all water supplies and is still sprayed by home owners and on common areas around apartments and communities to control weeds), medications like antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and steroids that all negatively impact the gut, it is no surprise that gastrointestinal disease in people and animals is so common.

When we then think about the fact that 70-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, it not surprising that inflammation in the gut is often correlated with inflammation elsewhere in the body.

In fact my journey into all of this started with Celiac disease that had reached the point of malabsorption before I was even tested. During that ensuing 12 months I was also diagnosed with cancer and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. I found that when I healed my gut, with just diet and herbs, my thyroid disease resolved even though the endocrinologist had reported that, based on an ultrasound, I had no functional thyroid tissue remaining.

I used similar methods, adjusted to a carnivore’s diet, for my cat when she was diagnosed with pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease with possible intestinal cancer, just a few years later. At the time she was drinking and urinating excessively, suggesting early kidney disease, though kidney values were still within normal limits. She is now 16, never misses a meal, but still drinks and urinates a lot. Her kidney values have remained normal, suggesting that with the change in diet and the healing of her gut, her kidney disease has not progressed!

No matter how my patients present, I always start by healing the gut. The diet recommendations are adjusted based on the concurrent conditions, but I find that as soon as the gut starts the heal, the other conditions start to improve as well.

For information on how I can help your pet, contact me through the Contact page.