Veganism has been around for quite awhile, but it may surprise you to know that dogs can eat a vegan diet too. But can dogs be vegan safely? Well, yes! With proper monitoring and some added supplements, depending on the vegan food you choose, your dog can successfully adhere to a vegan diet and reap the health benefits as well.
There’s a dog named Bramble in the Guinness Book of World Records. Known as the world’s oldest living dog, Bramble was a vegan Border Collie that lived to be an impressive 27 years old year’s old. That’s 189 in dog years! She was a healthy dog that stayed active throughout her life and was raised as a vegan dog.
Despite the lack of knowledge many dog owners have about feeding their dogs a vegan diet, you can accomplish this with the proper information and transition process. The transition process is important because if your dog is currently eating a regular meat-based diet, a sudden switch to a vegan diet can cause problems. We’ll tell you exactly how to make the transition from meat-based to plant-based a little later though.
There are many different vegan-friendly foods that your dog will be able to eat on a vegan diet. Some of these foods include:
Dark, leafy greens (Spinach and kale)
Certain types of beans (Just like in humans, beans can cause flatulence in your dogs as well, so use beans sparingly)
There are commercially prepared, vegan dog foods available that have all the nutrients your dog needs. You’ll still need to read the label to ensure they contain the appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, mainly l-Carnitine and taurine. Worst case scenario, you can supplement these two amino acids if the food doesn’t have enough. Speaking to your veterinarian can help you understand the right amount of pet food and supplements your dog needs to be healthy on a vegan diet.
Make sure that at least one-third to one-half of your dog’s meal consists of high-quality, non-meat protein sources, also known as the base of the meal. Some examples of appropriate and healthy base foods include lentils, oats, sweet potatoes, and soybeans but ONLY if your dog does not have soybean allergies (many dogs do).
Pinto beans make an excellent base food as they are considered the most non-allergic food for dogs on a vegan diet, however, you want to be sure that the beans are cooked completely until they are very soft and then puree them or mash them before adding to the other foods and serving it to your dog.
The remaining part of your dog’s diet should be made up of a combination of cooked and raw vegetables, whole grains, and supplements. A great supplement to consider is sea vegetable flakes like dulse or kelp. A simple sprinkle to your dog’s food will get them the dietary minerals they need.
Fruits are also a great option! Bananas, apples, watermelon, and oranges are good but be cautious when mixing them with a high protein meal as it will cause digestive upset due to the different enzymes fruit contains.
Health benefits of vegan dog food
Just like in people, a dog’s overall health can improve by eating a vegan diet. Even though dogs are considered carnivores, they are actually metabolic omnivores which means their dietary needs can be met on a plant-based diet. This is because they can get what they need from the plant-based foods along with supplementation to have a complete, sound diet.
As long as the balance of nutrients and supplements is correct, it’s possible for your dog to experience a reduction in allergies, skin issues, bad breath, obesity, and other common ailments that dogs can suffer from. As long as your dog is receiving the right combination of nutrients for their size, weight, and breed, they will feel good and have more energy.
Misconceptions about veganism for dogs
Below we have listed five common misconceptions about veganism for dogs. These myths typically stem from lack of knowledge and research on the subject. Many people don’t understand how to create a well-balanced, nutritionally complete veg diet for dogs and simply go around telling others why veganism is bad.
If you do a little research and pay attention to the instructions for adjustments, proper supplementation, and foods to avoid, there is nothing to worry about.
Dogs are carnivores and need meat to successfully thrive – According to scientific research, the dog and the wolf are not as similar as the media would have you believe. Dogs and humans have evolved with each other for over 10,000 years. During that time, domesticated dogs adopted a different genetic component that enabled them to make good nutritional use of plant-based, starchy foods. Researchers found that domesticated dogs have higher amounts AMY2B, a gene that is critical for the production of amylase. In fact, the AMY2B gene was a whopping 28 times more active in domesticated dogs than in wolves. Domesticated dogs have also been able to break down maltose into glucose which is crucial for the digestion of starch.
Dogs need to have meat for their protein source – It is very true that dogs need protein. This is not restricted to JUST meat proteins. Proteins are found in many non-meat foods as well. Through a vegan diet, your dog can be fed plenty of protein from organic and plant-based compounds. Good examples of high protein, non-meat based foods are peas and pinto beans.
Your dog’s health will decline on a vegan diet -This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. As long as you are monitoring the nutrients that your dog is getting, you can give them a complete diet that comes from 100% plant-based foods. Your dog can live a healthy, long life, possibly even into their 20s like Bramble.
Feeding your dog a vegan diet, even a complete and balanced one, is animal neglect/abuse – Feeding your dog a vegan diet, as long as it is complete and balanced with all of the nutrients your dog requires, is in no way animal cruelty or neglect. What matters the most is that the food you feed your dog is balanced and complete. Talk to your vet, get the right supplements, and avoid the foods that dogs shouldn’t eat.
All veterinarians think that vegan diets for dogs are unhealthy –This is also not true. Yes, there will be veterinarians that may not agree with a vegan diet for dogs, but that doesn’t make a vegan diet wrong or unhealthy. Just like human doctors have differences of opinion on what is healthy and what isn’t, so do veterinarians. Ask your veterinarian what they think about veganism for dogs, but also do your homework and make sure the veterinarian knows that you know the importance of balanced and complete nutrition.
How to implement a vegan diet for your dog
If you want to have a vegan dog, it is best to start as early in your dog’s life as possible. You will want to ensure that your pup is getting plenty of non-meat protein, l-carnitine, and taurine in their diet. If they aren’t getting it through the food, you can purchase l-carnitine and taurine in supplement form at the health food store. Also, make sure to research what dogs can and cannot eat so you know what to avoid.
You will want to start introducing the vegan diet into your dog’s current meat-based diet slowly. Start by mixing in some of the vegan diet foods you will be implementing into their current meals. Gradually, over the course of a couple of weeks, reduce the amount of meat-based foods until there is no meat left in their food.
If your dog seems to be resisting the new food, you can add olive oil, nutritional yeast, soy milk, baby food without meat, and powdered kelp to entice them. Fortunately, most dogs will eat anything so getting them on board with a vegan diet is unlikely to be too difficult. Sometimes serving it warm can make a difference for your dog as well.
Be patient and definitely don’t punish or yell at your dog if they resist at first. Trust that they will eventually give it a try and more often than not, enjoy it! If you notice that your dog is not thriving, you will need to take them to the vet. Usually though, if you’ve done your due diligence, your dog will do just fine, if not better than they did on a meat-based diet.
Dogs can’t process excess salt, so it’s best to avoid adding it to the meal. Make sure that in addition to the plant-based diet, your dog is getting plenty of sunshine, exercise, and water. Daily walks outside in the sun are just as important for dogs as it is people.
Avoid feeding your dogs chocolate, macadamia nuts, nutmeg, raw garlic, raisins, or onions. All of these foods are toxic to dogs and can cause serious health problems and reactions. See here for a list of foods that dogs should avoid.
If you have decided to feed your dog a vegan diet, the main thing to remember is to make sure that their food is nutritionally sound and complete and includes the right supplements as well. All of this information can come from personal research and your dog’s veterinarian. You will notice a big difference in your dog’s health, temperament, and energy level as they get used to their new way of eating.