Dog’s Ability to Digest Starchy Foods

January 10, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

Dogs are genetically suited to process starchy foods better than wolves. This according to a study published recently in the journal Nature. Archeologists and geneticists mostly agree that all domesticated dogs, from your pug to your husky, descend exclusively from the gray wolf. Erik Axelsson of Uppsala University in Sweden and his colleagues examined the genomes of 12 gray wolves compared to 60 domestic dogs. They were looking for the genetic differences that would make one an adept predator and the other man’s best friend. Researchers identified ten different genes instructing the body in the digestion of starch that are much more prevalent and active in dogs than in wolves. Blood tests also showed that dogs can process maltose into glucose (a process in starch digestion) much more quickly than wolves. The historical implication is that dogs have been more suited to live with humans because they can digest more of our left overs. The family dog’s greatly increased ability to digest our starchy foods may even be a product of breeding or natural selection.

Axelsson E, Ratnakumar A, Arendt M, et al. The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature. 2013.

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