first published Top Dog Journal October 1993
The natural or wild diet of a dog reflects its ability to hunt and/or harvest. The ferasl packs of dogs may adopted several ploys for food gathering, hunting as a pack, hunting as pairs, hunting as individuals, scaveraging from other pack kills, scaveraging from human refuse. The essence of any of these programmes is the gathering of a variety of food types and food qualities.
One point of interest, in light of the current investigations into a reported link between diet and dental disease, is that feral packs have a low incidence of dental disease. Tooronga Zoo, NSW, routinely feed their big cats with fresh meat and bones; they report a very low incidence of dental disease; conversely other Australian based zoos feed canned or processed food and seem very proud of announcing to the media when they have the `dentist' in!
The actual content of a wild diet will by the nature of seasons and availability of food, be diverse. In spring eggs are plentiful, during winter roots could well form the basis of the diet. In autumn grains, berries and fruits are plentiful. In late winter carcasses may become more prevalent as winter takes its toll on birds, small mammals, and larger animals. Minerals and dirt can even play apart in the natural diet, as does animal manures.
The dog is a scavenger as much as a hunter. Only the most competent and fit can actually hunt, pull down, or trap, and kill prey. In good seasons, with plenty of grasses and such the prey will be well nourished and fleet of foot making hunting more difficult. Even the successful hunter will scavenge from other carcasses and food sources.
The following can be expected in the wild diet of canines in Europe and the Americas where the dog is well established and basically comes from.
Eggs - freshly laid but more often partly incubated
Birds - small groound loving birds that dart about in front of dogs
Small mammals, such as rats and mice - actually caught or scavenged when dead
Milk - secreted in good seasons, or gleamed from the carcase of a suckling mother
Honey - from broken hives
Nuts, fruit, grain - as gathered in season
Meat - freshly killed carcases or scavenged from another's kill; both muscle meat and organs are eaten
Bones - old and fresh
Dirt and manure- scavenged when hungry or there is a yearning for a different taste
Beetles, and other insects - gather as an appetiser and snatched when wandering
Grass - a small amount is often eaten to add fibre and `freshen' the digestive tract
Fish and reptiles - either scavenged or caught. =