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How Dogs Eat

How Dogs Eat

While the eating behavior of a dog may seem strange or awkward to some dog owners, to the dog it is the most comfortable and satisfactory way of getting its food from its bowl into its stomach. The normal pattern of swallowing in a dog is often described as “bolting.” The dog picks up a piece of food with its front teeth and with a short, quick thrust of its head, tosses the piece of food back onto the top of its tongue. The piece of food is then rolled (without being chewed) to the back of the mouth. As the piece reaches the base of the tongue, a reflex causes the back of the tongue to push the food upward and backward into the esophagus. From there it is carried directly into the stomach.

When a piece of food is too large to be swallowed, the dog holds the food with its paws and uses its front teeth to tear off smaller pieces that can be swallowed. If the food is too tough to be torn, the dog will cut it into pieces small enough to be swallowed, using two specialized jaw teeth.

These teeth are called carnassial teeth and have large shearing surfaces that act like scissor blades which can cut through such tough substances as muscle, hide, gristle, and even bone. While the powerful jaw muscles of a dog are useful for cutting chunks of food into swallowing size, these muscles are used very little for actually chewing those pieces. A dog's teeth are few in number and poorly equipped for mastication.

Many dog owners think that every different breed of dog must be fed differently, according to some sort of specification. However, the eating behavior of a dog is characteristic of the whole species, not of any individual breed, since all dogs eat the same way. As a result, there are certain general considerations that can be made when feeding any dog.

A dog is not required to eat its food the same way a man does. A dog has no hands. A dog's jaws are suited for biting and cutting rather than chewing. There are few “gag” reflex nerves at the back of a dog's mouth, but many in a person's throat. A dog has fewer taste buds on its tongue, but a much greater sense of smell than a man has. There are many other differences as well.



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