I’m a dog person, I always have been. I love my dog and even though I am vegan myself, I would never feed my dog a vegan diet if I knew it would harm him. The debate about whether or not dogs can be vegan is an extremely controversial one. Some think that it’s pure animal cruelty to feed your dogs vegan, while many vegans believe that it’s animal cruelty to not feed them vegan.
So what’s the truth?
Can dogs be vegan? Is it safe? Sustainable? Has there been scientific research and studies done to determine the effects of a vegan diet on them? Spoiler alert – the answer to all of the above questions is yes!
Dogs Are Domesticated
Almost everyone that I know in my life has a very strong opinion on how dogs are carnivores and they have to eat meat to survive. When I made the decision to switch my dog’s diet to a plant-based one, I received so much backlash and criticism from friends and family. The thing is, dogs are not carnivores. They are omnivores. Not only are they omnivores, they are domesticated omnivores! You cannot compare a domesticated beagle to a wild wolf, like many people in my life do. Do I think that wolves and coyotes should eat vegan? Of course not!
However, I have a domesticated dog, which means he relies on me for his food. I have two choices: buy the same crap that the majority of the population feeds their dogs, or find a new brand of vegan dog food.
Commercial Dog Food
The commercial dog food that is available in stores today is not natural or healthy for dogs at all. Think about it – is it really natural for dogs to eat cows and pigs? If people know half the stuff that went into dog food today, they would be appalled.
Dog food basically consists of the leftovers that humans can’t eat. It’s illegal for us to eat, but totally legal for them. Their food consists of cow heads, pig intestines, and all the other non-edible body parts of livestock.
Guess what else is in dog food? Euthanized cats and dogs. Yup, you read that right. We are literally feeding out pets their brothers and sisters, it’s a form of cannibalism and I have no idea how it’s legal.
Here are all the common items in commercial dog food
- Slaughterhouse waste (organs, heads, hooves, beaks, feet)
- Roadkill (deer, skunks, and raccoons)
- Contaminated grain middlings
- Distiller fermentation waste
- Spoiled supermarket food
- Bread and cereal rejects (cobs, stalks, mill sweepings)
- Dying, diseased and disabled farm animals
- Euthanized cats and dogs
- Restaurant grease
- Dead zoo animals
Do any of the above sound natural or healthy to you? The above ingredients are regularly added to dog food, and this has been going on for years! Companies do not create dog food with the dog’s health in mind.
Also, there is a lot of false labeling that happens with dog food. One day when I was looking at a package of dog food in the store, I saw the words
“Animal Fat” in the ingredients list. I thought to myself “what is this animal?”
I later found out from my veterinarian that whenever an ingredient as labeled as “animal” or “meat” without specifying what animal it’s from, it’s usually cats or dogs (definitely not livestock, otherwise it would have been labeled as so).
Can Dogs Get All Their Nutrients on a Vegan Diet?
Dogs are able to meet every single one of their nutritional requirements through a plant-based diet. This doesn’t mean that we should just feed our dogs rice and bananas. They do have specific needs that we need to take into consideration.
Protein is a major one. Dogs need to get 10 essential amino acids from their diets. A common argument against vegan dog food is that animal proteins contain all 10 essential amino acids, while plants don’t. This is true in the sense that plant proteins are often missing 1 or 2 essential amino acids.
However, there is a very simple solution to this problem. All you do is add complimentary plant protein option. For example, oats and peas both have different amino acids. However, when you combine these two ingredients together, you easily get all 10 essential amino acids. This makes it very easy for dogs to get all of the protein that they need, and vegan dog food brands always take this into consideration when making their formulas.
And it’s not just me that is all about making homemade dog food, please go over to Traci’s blog, SingingVegan and read about her adventures with dog food including some extra ingredients to include and not include! I will also be sharing my favorite homemade dog food recipe shortly!
Digestion With Vegan Diets
A common concern with dog owners is whether or not their dogs will be able to digest plant matter.
The answer is yes!
Dogs can easily digest, absorb, and use the nutrients that they get from vegan food. When you buy a brand of vegan dog food, take a look at the ratios of protein, carbs, and fat. You will notice that it will be extremely similar to the ratios of commercial dog food. When the food is made, the ingredients are ground or cooked when needed to make the food easy to digest. And contrary to what many people think, the crude fiber content of vegan dog food is the same as meat-based foods.
What do Veterinarians Think?
Many veterinarians are aware of the health benefits of vegan food for dogs, and they recommend it to their patients. My dog has arthritis, and my vet recommended that I put him on vegetarian food as an experiment to see if it helps (she has no idea that I was vegan at the time). I took her recommendation, and 2 years later he is thriving.
If you look at the food that is offered at vet offices, almost every single office will carry vegetarian food. And why would a veterinarian sell vegetarian food if they thought it was anything but good for dogs?
If you are truly concerned about feeding your dog a vegan diet, talk to your vet about it. Get a blood test on your dog with the current food they are eating, then put them on vegan food for a month. After 1 month, get another blood test done to compare the results. This should put you at ease.
The Oldest Dog in the World
Did you know that one of the oldest dogs in the world was actually a vegan? Her name was Bramble, and she lived to be 27 years old (189 in dog years)! There are so many studies that show a vegan diet has no harmful effects on dogs, and they can improve their lives immensely.
One study (Source) from the British Journal of Nutrition proved exactly that. The study consisted of Siberian husky sled dogs eating a vegan diet for 16 weeks. The results found that after the 4 months, the dogs had very normal blood values and their physical shape was in top condition.
Vegan Dog Food Brands
One more thing I want to mention is that many dogs who are fed commercial dog food develop health issues such as arthritis, and even cancer. It is not natural for dogs to be getting cancer and all these health issues. When it comes down to it, it’s because of the food they are eating. As mentioned before, the commercial pet food industry doesn’t truly care about the health of your dog. They want to use cheap ingredients (such as remnants from slaughterhouses and euthanized animals) so they can make a profit. The opposite can be said about vegan dog food companies.
They do thorough research to ensure that your dogs will be getting the best quality food that is actually healthy for them. Some popular brands that offer the best vegan dog food are V-dog, Natural Balance, and Petcurean.
Precautions To Take
Before switching to a vegan diet for your dog, do your own research. Take them to the vet to get a before and after blood test. During the first few months of switching their diet, it’s important to monitor them just to make sure everything is okay. When switching your dog’s food, don’t do it overnight. Slowly start adding the new food into their old one with each meal, over the course of a week. This will prevent them from having digestion issues when they switch.
Unless you are a veterinarian or an expert, don’t try to just feed your dog vegan by giving them some of whatever you are eating. Yes, dogs can be vegan with homemade dog food, but it’s not recommended for everyone to do this. Unless you have done your research and know exactly what dogs need, you can be doing more harm than good. I might share a homemade vegan dog food recipe that I came across the other day if you guys want? Leave a comment below if that’s something you are interested in. That’s why I always recommend buying the best vegan dog food from a brand that has already done the research so you know it’s safe.