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Why Do Dogs Adopt Other Animals?

yellow chick sitting on black dog's head

The words  "dog adoption" probably conjure up images of people visiting an animal shelter and discovering a canine soulmate they can't wait to take home. It's an act of caring and devotion that makes life better for all involved (especially children!).

But there's another very different kind of dog adoption that can also be characterized as an act of caring and devotion: when dogs adopt other animals. This inter-species "adoption" is the maternal instinct taken to a higher level.

Inter-species Adoption: Why Dogs Choose Other Animals

Altruism in animals — in which animals, often of different species, bond with or help each other — has been discussed and researched by biologists and animal behavior experts for quite some time. For us humans — especially dog lovers — one of the most touching examples of this behavior is when a nursing dog adopts newborns from another species. Female dogs are more likely to adopt than male dogs, and they tend to choose young mammals to mother as their own pups.

One of the reasons we love dogs so much is because  they’re so generous with their love. That's why stories of dogs adopting youngsters from other species (strange as the individual cases may sometimes be) don't strike us as impossible. Dogs are social animals willing to add both canine and non-canine members to their pack.

When Dogs Adopt Other Animals

There’s no shortage of documented examples of inter-species adoption involving dog + other. The videos on YouTube alone could easily keep you busy for several happy hours. A Google search also delivers many heartwarming examples.

Here are some of our favorite examples of inter-species dog adoption:

Dogs + Wolf Cubs

Because dogs and wolves are canine cousins, this combination isn’t surprising. Still, when you hear stories of dogs raising wolf cubs in zoos and conservation centers, your heart goes out to both the mom and the youngster. Those wolf cubs have excellent role models in their adoptive doggie parents.

dark golden retreiver playing with grey cat

Dogs + Kittens

Those of us who have both dogs and cats in our homes know that — cliché cartoon storylines aside — these two species are capable of forming strong bonds. It's not surprising, then, to come across stories (and videos) of mother dogs nursing cute kittens.

However, this situation takes on a new dimension when the kitten isn't a domestic cat, but a panther or tiger. Big cats that are reared from a very young age by a dog have been known to form a strong maternal bond, even as the adopted cat grows to be much larger than their mother! Stories like these have been reported in places as far apart as China, England and Kansas.

fluffy fat puppy nuzzling dark grey piglet in the grass

Dogs + Other Non-canine Mammals

This rather broad category includes dogs that have adopted pigs, deer, squirrels and monkeys. Granted, not all of these adoptions involve nursing, but in many cases the "parent" dog becomes a surrogate adult leader for a very young member of a very different species. Some research posits that mother dogs have a knack for sniffing out the pheromones of young mammals, leading to them mothering many types of fuzzy, warm-blooded babies.

curious dog looking at baby chick sitting in human's palm

Dogs + Birds

Birds of a feather may flock together, but what happens when a chick comes out of their shell and the first thing they see is the barnyard dog? Instant bonding. Biologists call it "imprinting," and it can make for a very strong connection between a chick, duckling or gosling and their four-legged, non-feathered parent figure.

So don't be too surprised if you see some puffy and perky chicks trying their best to keep up with a dog as they wander around a farm. And, likewise, don't be surprised if you see that dog taking their parenting job very seriously, keeping a protective eye out for the chirping chicks in their care.

Dogs are amazing creatures that can raise a vastly different baby animal as their own, sense when their owner is pregnant, communicate through licks and yawns, and so much more. Whether they’re rolling around in smelly things or making us laugh with their silly doggie antics, dogs have a way of keeping us on our toes and also smiling from ear to ear — just another reason why owning a dog is so beneficial for us.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall

    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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