Pet Dogs in the Bronze Age Given Vegetarian Diet!

Do not ever try this at home, but it looks like Bronze Age dogs were vegetarians! Well, according to a study of protein in 3,000-year-old canine bones that is.

During the Neolithic period, hunters began settling at seasonal fishing and hunting stations and set about farming. Settling at one location all year round meant that people’s diets shifted from almost all meats to mostly plants and cereals. A new study seems to suggest that by the Bronze Age, the diets of pet dogs also flipped upside down, from juicy cuts of giant cat leg, to bland cereals.

A new analysis of dog remains unearthed in Spain, dating to between 1,300 and 550 BC, has shown that dogs ate virtually no meat.

The new study published in the Journal of World Prehistory claims that the 3,000-year-old dogs under analysis were fed a diet made up primarily of cereal grains like millet. These dog remains have been unearthed at Can Roqueta near Barcelona

The new study published in the Journal of World Prehistory claims that the 3,000-year-old dogs under analysis were fed a diet made up primarily of cereal grains like millet. These dog remains have been unearthed at Can Roqueta near Barcelona. ( Journal of World Prehistory )

As Happy as a Bronze Age Dog with a Carrot. Hmmm.

A new study published in the Journal of World Prehistory presents the results compiled after analysis of 36 dogs found in Can Roqueta, an archaeological site in modern-day Spain about 15 miles north of Barcelona, dating back around 3,000 years. Ten of the dogs whose remains were tested were omnivores, having fed on a diet of primarily cereal grains like millet. This was a high-carbohydrate diet which served the animals well during a time when they were worked to the bone herding livestock and guarding fields at night.

Lead author, Dr. Silvia Albizuri, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Barcelona, told New Scientist that when human societies began to domesticate plants during the Neolithic period, “hunting decreased and the human diet was based mainly on vegetables.” On analysis, 17 of the dogs studied showed almost no signs of eating animal flesh. Others showed carbon and nitrogen levels “barely distinguishable from the cattle they guarded.” As always, changes in diet bring with them changes in physiology. In this case, with no need to tear meat, Neolithic dogs evolved to have weaker jaws than their wolf ancestors, making their jaws better suited to crushing grains.

The British Veterinary Association announced that vegetarian diets are not designed to meet the needs of your pet.

The British Veterinary Association announced that vegetarian diets are not designed to meet the needs of your pet. ( Michael Pettigrew / Adobe Stock)

It Might Sound Hip, But Just Don’t

According to the Daily Mail , a 2020 survey in Britain found that one in 20 cats and one in five dogs “are fed a solely vegan or vegetarian diet by their owners.” The article also reports that experts say these “well-intentioned owners could be putting their four-legged friends at risk.” If you need proof, try this: Open Instagram and search for #vegandogs. Everything looks normal at first, but as you continue to scroll a pattern soon begins to emerge. While the dog owners all look totally delighted, the dogs all share a similar look in their eyes, as if they’re trying to say “shoot me now.”

Daniella Dos Santos, president of the British Veterinary Association told the  BBC that if your personal belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet. Basically, while dogs may have eaten only grains in Bronze Age Spain, these days they need the god-awful garbage from a can that they get today. Saying that, it seems that the low-grade canned food is better than a green salad with mixed nuts on top (gruff, shoot me again). Dos Santos told the BBC that, “theoretically” it is possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it’s much easier to get it wrong than to get it right. Making this sort of dietary change in your pet would require a veterinary-trained nutritionist. So, just don’t bother even trying it.

Cats Are Not Much Different

Whatever the diet of the Bronze Age dogs under analysis may have been, veterinarians and pet nutrition experts are concerned about the current vegetarian and vegan pet food fad. According to PetMD, at the National Pet Show in Birmingham, England, in November, there was a showcase of the latest in vegan pet food and non-meat alternatives. In response to this showcase, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( RSPCA) told The Telegraph that cats “are obligate carnivores and need meat to survive and thrive.”

A spokesperson for the pet organization explained that “under the Animal Welfare Act, the law requires an owner to take reasonable steps to ensure that all the pet’s needs are met, and this includes a healthy diet. According to The Telegraph , the RSPCA has announced that “if a pet parent allows their cat’s health to decline and allows the cat to become malnourished due to an incomplete diet, they could face hefty fines or even a jail sentence under the Animal Welfare Act.”

Top image: New study shows that Neolithic dogs consumed an omnivorous diet, based on bones found at Can Roqueta in Spain. Source: mraoraor / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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