Kuiper chews on a backyard plant.

Grain-free dog food is a modern invention

Did you know that dogs can digest plants much better than wolves can? Appearance, behavior and ability to interpret human gestures and facial expressions aren’t the only things that diverged. Dogs’ metabolisms have also changed significantly from their wild ancestors. (But I think you should feed whatever 🍖 or 🧀 or ☘️ work best for your 🐕😊)

Via genetic sequencing, we’ve learned that compared to wolves, domestic dogs have some big differences in 3 key genes related to starch digestion: AMY2B, MGAM, and SGLT1.

AMY2B is responsible for pancreatic amylase production in dogs. Amylase is an enzyme that breaks starches down into sugar (glucose fuels cells.) Most wolves have 2 copies of AMY2B; dogs have between 4 and 30 copies. On average, this makes the gene 28x more active in dogs.

Based on 2016 analysis of ancient dog bones, we’re pretty sure this shift started at least 7k years ago. That’s around when farming was really getting going. The same thing also happened to people with our salivary amylase gene AMY1.

MGAM codes for maltase-glucoamylase, which is another enzyme used in starch digestion. Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of this gene, but dogs have a longthier version which is the version we see in herbivorous and omnivorous animals. This gene is 12x more active in dogs than wolves.

Once all that starch is broken down, it needs to go somewhere useful, and SGLT1 is a gene that deals with transport.  Dogs have some pretty clear differences in this gene, too. However, we don’t see a big difference in expression, so we’re not sure yet what the SGLT1 differences do.

These seem to support the model that dogs more or less domesticated themselves by eating our (grain-filled) trash, so I try not to worry too much about feeding my dogs “perfectly.” 😊 At the same time, despite what Kuiper may claim, he doesn’t really need to resort to browsing 🌲🌲🌲 in the backyard 🙄 🚀

Sources: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235375792_The_genomic_signature_of_dog_domestication_reveals_adaptation_to_a_starch-rich_diet

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.160449

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bcz9KC8g1ty/

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