what did dogs eat before dog food?

For todayโ€™s pets, nutritionally complete dog food makes feeding straightforward. However, commercial pet foods only became widely available in the last 80 years. What did our furry friends eat before processed kibble and canned diets? Let’s look at the history of canine cuisine.

๐’๐œ๐š๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐š๐ง๐ ๐…๐จ๐ซ๐š๐ ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ข๐ง ๐„๐š๐ซ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐‚๐ข๐ฏ๐ข๐ฅ๐ข๐ณ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ

In ancient history, dogs lived on the fringes of human settlements, and sustenance came from foraging. They scavenged whatever food scraps, like meat bones, rotting produce, plant material, and waste from early farming or hunting activities. Dogs likely consumed certain grains and fruit intentionally offered by humans as well.

๐“๐š๐ฌ๐ค-๐‘๐ž๐ฅ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ƒ๐ข๐ž๐ญ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐–๐จ๐ซ๐ค๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ƒ๐จ๐ ๐ฌ

As breeds became specialized for particular working roles like herding, hunting, and sledding, their diets evolved to match. Sighthounds needed energy from meat to fuel sprinting and chasing prey. Nordic breeds like Huskies ate diets rich in fish and sea mammals to provide warmth and omegas. Hunting hounds and working dogs were given bones, organ meats, and fat after hunts to supplement meals.

๐…๐š๐ซ๐ฆ ๐ƒ๐จ๐ ๐ฌ ๐–๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐“๐ซ๐ฎ๐ž ๐Ž๐ฆ๐ง๐ข๐ฏ๐จ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ

On family farms, dogs eat โ€œanything and everything.โ€ Table scraps, dairy products like milk, eggs from the henhouse, garden vegetables and fruit, grain mash from the stable, food waste from butchering animals, caught rodents, and other hunted critters constituted farm dog meals. Their varied diet depended on the farmโ€™s particular livestock and crops.

๐‡๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ฆ๐š๐๐ž ๐‘๐ž๐œ๐ข๐ฉ๐ž๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ƒ๐จ๐  ๐๐ข๐ฌ๐œ๐ฎ๐ข๐ญ๐ฌ ๐„๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ๐ ๐ž

In the mid-19th century, some owners began shifting away from table scraps and formulating homemade dog food. Hunting magazines and dog training manuals provided โ€œdog cakesโ€ recipes with meat, grains, molasses, and veggies. Published cookbooks had recipes for nutritive biscuits containing cod liver oil and other supplements.

๐‚๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ๐œ๐ข๐š๐ฅ ๐ƒ๐จ๐  ๐…๐จ๐จ๐๐ฌ ๐€๐ซ๐ž ๐ˆ๐ง๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ž๐

The first commercial dog foods came to market as food processing technology advanced. Sprattโ€™s Patent created the first mass-produced dog food in 1860: a biscuit from wheat, beetroot, vegetables, and beef blood. Canned horsemeat dog foods emerged in the early 1900s from companies like Ken-L Ration. These commercial foods provided convenience over home cooking.

๐“๐ก๐ž ๐‘๐ข๐ฌ๐ž ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐Š๐ข๐›๐›๐ฅ๐ž

Over subsequent decades, dry dog kibble largely replaced canned wet food and homemade meals thanks to lower cost and more accessible storage. Improved nutritional science also allowed companies to formulate dog food better to meet canine health needs, making kibble a dietary staple by the 1950s.

๐‡๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ฆ๐š๐๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ ๐…๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ๐ก ๐ƒ๐ข๐ž๐ญ๐ฌ ๐Œ๐š๐ค๐ž ๐š ๐‚๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐›๐š๐œ๐ค

Today, while commercial diets remain popular for convenience, some owners are shifting back to fresh, homemade, and raw diets. These aim to mimic the ancestral canine diet and nutrition.ParseOptions like freeze-dried, stew-style, and grain-free foods are also chosen with health in mind.

๐‹๐จ๐จ๐ค๐ข๐ง๐  ๐๐š๐œ๐ค ๐š๐ญ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐„๐ฏ๐จ๐ฅ๐ฎ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ƒ๐จ๐  ๐…๐จ๐จ๐

While commercial kibble provides balanced nutrition, some owners feel dogs benefit from โ€œback to basicsโ€ homemade or raw feeding approaches. This nod to history honors a dogโ€™s ancestry as a hunter-scavenger thriving on diverse foods. From foraging to commercial kibble to fresh-cooked meals, the quest continues to find the optimal diet to feed our pet dogs.

Sufiyan Ali is a canine nutrition expert with over 3 years of experience researching dog foods. I read books on providing dogs a healthy, balanced diet. Now I love to share my knowledge about dogs diet with you.

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