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What Do Wolves Eat? (& How Does It Compare to Dogs?)

Nicole Cosgrove

More and more brands are labeling dog foods in a way that harkens back to their wolf lineage. But what do wolves even eat, and how does it compare to what a dog needs?

Whether you’re simply curious about what a wolf tracks down and eats in the wild or if you’re wondering if dog foods that promise to deliver more “natural” results are actually better for your dog, you’ve come to the right place.

We break down everything that you need to know about both wolf food and dog food. From how they’re similar to how they’ve changed, we answer all your questions here.

divider-catWhat Do Wolves Eat?

Like most wild animals, wolves aren’t overly particular about what they eat. They’re considered carnivores, but you can find them munching down on various fruits and veggies to sustain themselves during scarce times.

Wolves’ common food sources include hares, deer, elk, bison, moose, squirrels, birds, snakes, lizards, beavers, fish, caribou, boar, and more. The wide array of food sources is mainly because what a wolf eats depends on what’s around.

They hunt in packs so they can take down larger and faster animals, and they prefer larger animals like deer and bison when available.

Another thing that you’ll notice a wolf munching down on occasionally is grass. But they don’t eat grass for its nutritional value. Instead, they eat it after ingesting something that doesn’t agree with them. It’s their way of self-medicating a stomachache! The grass induces vomiting, and this can get the problematic food out of their system.

Wolves eating a deer_ Geoffrey Kuchera_Shutterstock
Image credit: Geoffrey Kuchera, Shutterstock

Breaking Down Wolf Food

The primary nutrients that wolves need to survive are protein, fat, and carbohydrates, which is why they thrive on hunting other animals. All three of these nutrients are energy-dense, and they enable the wolf to go longer between meals, which is a big deal when you don’t know when the next takedown will be.

Wolves will eat fruits and vegetables when food is scarce, but these don’t sustain them for as long, and they can’t live off them alone, which is why wolves are considered carnivores and not omnivores.

Do Wolves Need Vitamins?

Absolutely! While wolves rarely eat fruits and vegetables unless they have to, that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting the vitamins and other nutrients that they need to survive. That’s because much of their preys’ organs contain the vitamins that they need.

From the liver to the lungs, all the vitamins that they need are there. That said, if they don’t get access to prime pickings after the hunt, they can supplement with fruits or vegetables if needed.

Wolf eating watermelon_ nordantin_Shutterstock
Image credit: Nordantin, Shutterstock

Comparing Wolf Food to Dog Food

While dogs are a distant cousin to the wolf, their dietary requirements have changed drastically throughout the years. For starters, many foods that a wolf can eat in the wild will make your dog sick, as they’re no longer able to break down the different bacteria.

Furthermore, dogs tend to have more fruits and vegetables mixed into their kibble than wolves eat in the wild. While this is a great way to keep your dog fit and trim, it’s not what a wolf needs to survive.

The need for this distance is clear. Your dog gets consistent meals, so they don’t need to store as much fat and protein with each meal. On the other hand, wolves can and often must go a long time between meals, so they need to make each meal count.

That said, your dog still needs protein and fat to survive, and they need to get it from various meat sources. That’s why you can’t get vegan or even vegetarian dog food, as your dog can’t survive off that.

Your pup still needs fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and their bodies metabolize it best from meat. Another big difference between dog food and wolf food is that dog food often has grain. Over the years, dogs have developed a gene that allows them to metabolize grain, while wolves still can’t.

While the science is still out on whether you should feed your dog grain-free dog food, the point is they can metabolize grain if it’s in their diet.

divider-catFinal Thoughts

While wolves and dogs share a common ancestor, they took different paths years ago and now have completely different dietary requirements. So, the next time that you are looking at purchasing a bag of dog food and the company is pushing that it’s similar to what a wolf eats, keep in mind that it might not be a good thing.


Feature Image Credit: Illutagoean, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.