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Swedish wolf autopsies - a clue for proper canine nutrition?

In 2010, twenty-eight wild wolves from the forests of Sweden were culled in an effort to control their population. Twenty-six of these wolves ended up on autopsy tables and were examined by state veterinarians in different counties.

The overall picture that emerged from these autopsies paints a stunning contrast to the state of health in domesticated dogs. Some of the examined wolves were estimated to be very old by canine standards, yet signs of osteoarthritis, the most common disease in domestic of dogs of all ages, were nowhere to be seen.

None of the examined wolves suffered from tumours or cancers. They all seemed to be in excellent health, showing evidence of remarkable healing of old injures and bone fractures. Apart from the occasional broken tooth, their teeth also displayed remarkable health, with no evidence of plaques or periodontal disease, a common finding today, to varying extents, in almost every dog older than two.

Interestingly, the wolves had relatively small numbers of intestinal parasites, while none of them were found to have Trichinella infection or showed any evidence of scabies skin infection.

Bacteriological examinations failed to detect Salmonella growth in any of the intestinal content samples.

After reading about this I find myself asking: could this remarkable state of health in wild wolves be the result of their diet?

Given the similarity in physiology and anatomy of wild and domestic canids, perhaps we can base the model for a proper canine diet on the diet of their wild relatives. The stomach contents in the Swedish wolves indicated that the bulk of their diet is mostly meat and bones from large ungulates, mainly moose, and occasionally hare or wild birds, such as pheasant or grouse.

Therefore, their main source of energy was protein and fat from meat, organs and bones. Very often hairs, feather and even hoof fragments in various stages of digestion were found in the wolves’ stomachs, providing a clue about their source of roughage. The rest most likely came from foraging on wild berries and tubers.


Both modern cats and dogs which become feral feed in exactly the same way – they seek raw prey, or scavenge for parts thereof.

Some proponents of natural diets argue that domestic dogs need to be fed slightly putrid meat in a state of decomposition since they are closely related to scavengers such as jackals, foxes and coyotes. In my opinion this is unecessary.

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