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What is the evolutionary programme of nutrition for dogs?

Updated: Feb 28

Last weekend, I delivered a presentation on How to Optimise Your Dog's Nutrition - Naturally. In just 30 minutes or so, the audience received a great level of information on what it means to feed your dog a diet that provides optimum nutrition.

One of the central keys of optimising your dog's nutrition is by following something called "the evolutionary programme of nutrition".

The evolutionary programme of nutrition is not a phrase that I can take credit for creating. Australian vet, Dr Ian Billinghurst, refers to this phrase in his book 'Pointing the Bone at Cancer in Dogs Cats & Humans'.

Some of you may have heard of the phrase 'wild diet' or 'species appropriate diet' or 'biologically appropriate diet'. The evolutionary programme of nutrition or the evolutionary diet centres around the same principles and in this blog I'm going to discuss what an evolutionary programme for dogs consists of.

The evolutionary programme of nutrition requires that we go back in time to examine what our companion animals have eaten over the last few million years.

The relevance of going back in time is to identify which foods have shaped their genome, which then tells us what foods we should be feeding our companion animals today.

The greatest weight should be assigned to the dietary environment that has prevailed for the longest period of time. But, we must not forget the more recent dietary environments as they are relevant to a small extent.

Looking at the dog, it is generally believed that the dog evolved from the wolf. For evolutionary purposes then, we go back to the dog's ancestors, right back to the wolf, one million years ago. (You can read on for a breakdown of each relevant period or just check out the pretty timeline below which displays it in a much more visually pleasing way).

Timeline_Canine Evolutionary History


Wolves caught, killed and scavenged other animals. They ate whole carcasses, including gut contents. They ate vegetable matter in times of famine and they ate raw, whole, fresh and rotting foods.

Camp Followers

Next, we look at the "camp followers", wolves who followed nomadic humans. This era existed about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Camp followers were also known as "dog wolves". They scavenged more and hunted less, they were less fearful of humans. They ate less whole fresh kills and consumed more old rotting kills. They ate more bones.


Ten to fifteen thousand years ago, the modern dog started to emerge. They started to eat rodents. They ate more bones, more faeces and more vegies. They ate less hunted food and a little cooked food. They may have eaten a little grain. Physically, they were more dog-like.

Breed development

About two thousand years ago, the breed development era began. Because of the relevantly short period in the entire evolution of the dog, this period has had minimal impact on the genome of the dog.

During this era, dogs ate mostly raw foods of animal origin, with minimal cooked grain.

Fake industrial pet food

Finally we have the fake industrial pet food era. This era began in the mid nineteenth century, about the 1930s, during the great depression. This era of only 40 to 150 years saw the introduction of processed foods for both humans and companion animals alike. There was an almost disappearance of raw animal flesh and the like and an appearance of dried and canned foods with little to no relevance to the evolutionary diet of the canine.

The diet fed throughout the fake industrial pet food era has had no impact on the genetic dietary requirements of dogs.

So what is the evolutionary programme of nutrition for dogs?

Basically, the evolutionary programme for your dog consists of raw meat and raw meaty bones, organ meats, vegetables, fruit and a small amount of starches (plus healthy food-based supplements).

Ummm, what about cats?!?

Don't worry, I never forget about cats! In the next blog, we'll be looking at the evolutionary history of cats and how relevant the cats evolutionary past is to what you should be feeding your puss cat today.

In the meantime, have you subscribed to my newsletter yet? Being a subscriber is the best way to stay up to date on natural animal health PLUS you receive discounts and your free holistic guide to optimum wellness for animals! Subscribe here.

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About Ruth

Ruth Hatten is a Holistic Animal Care Mentor with qualifications in animal naturopathy, pet nutrition and energy healing. She helps animals using holistic principles and natural remedies, including naturopathy, nutrition, plant medicine, energy and spirituality. Ruth believes that animals can thrive when they are supported in this way.​

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