Dictatorship vs. Anarchy One theme is the clash between dictatorship and anarchy. The President and the First Lady have a foreboding presence throughout the novel that contrasts with the human rights activist Senator Domingo Avila; the Senator protests "crimes against the people" and is thus labeled a "leftist" by the government. Avila's assassination and the resultant coverup that implicates the innocent Romeo demonstrates the government's oppressive nature. These events are juxtaposed with an interview with the First Lady who rationalizes the evidence of their corruption and denies that the Filipino government is a dictatorship.
Marriage Another theme is the achievement of social mobility of Filipino women through marriage. Isabel Alacran, for example, marries Severo because of his power and wealth. Likewise, Isabel is a social asset to her husband and her main job in life is to always appear flawless and polished. Pucha also exhibits this mindset for women.
Beauty Another theme is the importance placed on beauty. Rio's mother, Dolores, follows a strict beauty regimen and uses various products and services in order to remain youthful. Joey also epitomizes this theme as he uses his exotic looks to infatuate customers and procure gifts from them.
Religion Religion seems to be an underlying theme as a few key characters are described as extremely religious. For example, General Ledesma’s wife, Leonor, exhibits a monastic lifestyle, with much fasting and prayer, and strives for sainthood. Religion runs so deep in the Gonzaga family that even when Rio's atheist grandfather is dying, the family priest is called. Although Rio does not directly address the role of religion in her life during the novel, in the end she states that her "belief in God remains tentative" and that she "long ago stopped going to church."
American Influence A prevalent theme in the novel is the effect of American influence. Through American movies and music young characters such as Rio and Pucha begin to desire American glamour and its brash style. Filipinos embrace American influence and admire the culture.
Role of Women Within Dogeaters, women are either preoccupied with beauty, as society expects of them, or their education.
Homosexuality Homosexuality is a strong undertone of the novel.