entomo: from ancient Greek ἔντομα, entoma (insect)
phag: from ancient Greek φάγος, phágos (eater)
Dogs and humans possess a long history of cohabitation and mutual assistance. For ages dogs have eaten all kind of food shared by men, which made their digestive system very adaptable.
Even though dogs can live on a vegetarian diet for a while, they are basically carnivorous specie, just like their ancestor: wolves. Proof of their true nature can be seen in their teeth: 4 long canines – or fangs – and 4 sharp carnassials teeth (the fourth maxillary premolars and the first mandibular molars). Those teeth have a very specific function: grab a prey and tear its flesh. But dogs are not strictly carnivorous. As animal protein are an important part of their diet, it must also include plants. Beside small preys, a dog in the wild would eat fruits like berries, wild vegetables and herbs or grains, which are vitamins, minerals and oligo-elements sources.
Nevertheless, some very important nutrients can only come from other animals.
For instance B12 vitamin, proved to be essential for the nervous system and brain and to renew many types of body cells. It is found in meat, milk, fish, eggs … and some insects such as Hermetia illucens (the black soldier fly), crickets or termites. Amazingly, insects such as crickets or larvaes of the black soldier fly show levels of calcium and iron that are many times higher than those of meat, for same weight basis. Furthermore, their protein content is up to 2 times higher than those found in meat. If a hunting dog could all at once eat enough of those very nutritional insects, they could easily replace other type of preys. Incidentally the bat-eared fox – Otocyon megalotis -, an african cousin of the dog, is mostly insectivore. Insects found in abundance in its natural environment fulfit all its needs.
But these days, dogs no longer hunt for their survival. They rely on humans to get access to well-balanced quality foods. For comparable weight basis, insects such as Hermetia illucens nymphs contain more protein, calcium and iron, and as much vitamin B12 as any other type of meat. Included in a dog’s diet in replacement of meat, they provide all the animal proteins and essential nutrients their carnivorous nature needs. They are tasty, hypoallergenic and require a minimal use of water, land and food to be produced. They are an ecological, sustainable and ethical option to the problem of intensive livestock farming and its negative impacts on the environment.
With today’s high quality dry foods, dogs don’t use their carnassials teeth to tear meat anymore. They would rather chew on dog toys or even occasionaly on our shoes ! But whenever they see an insect within their reach, their instinct will dictate them to make a mouthful of this easy prey.
So indeed, man’s best friend may very well be an entomophagous!
Véronique Glorieux is a canadian-board veterinarian who cumulates more than 10 years of medical work and experience with dogs and cats. Animal wellfare and environment are 2 topics that moves her. She lives now in Berlin, where she co-founded Eat Small and uses her experience in a different field of practice. With healthy and sustainable insect-based pet food she aims to support both the health of pets and of the planet.