With a growing number of humans making the switch to a vegan diet, it was inevitable that many would consider switching their dogs as well. But can dogs even eat a vegan diet? Well, the short answer to that question is yes, but you should keep reading to see why it isn’t always a good idea.
Aren’t Dogs Carnivores?
As a descendant of the wolf, you might assume that dogs are also carnivores. However, there is some evidence to suggest that dogs evolved from wolves by consuming more plant-based material. If you examine the anatomy of the domestic dog as it evolved alongside humans, the more wolf-ish, carnivore features evolved to allow domestic dogs to scavenge our scraps.
Which means, that dogs are actually omnivores, and they are able to digest and absorb some nutrients from fruits and vegetables. However, they can struggle to digest a particularly high fibre plant-based diet. And it can be difficult to ensure your dog receives the necessary nutrients from plant-based sources.
Why Go Vegan?
You may need or wish to switch your dog to a vegan or vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons.
Some dogs are allergic to animal proteins such as chicken and beef and are required to consume a meat-free diet to avoid causing further allergic reactions. This is typically done on the advice of a veterinarian to ensure the dog is eating a nutritionally sound diet.
You may want to swap your dog to a vegan diet to improve their overall health and wellbeing, but it generally doesn’t have the same benefits that it does for us humans, and it can be downright dangerous to remove meat from your dog’s diet if it is not done correctly.
Going Vegan Safely
The safest way to ensure you are feeding your dog an appropriately balanced diet is to seek the advice of an experienced veterinary nutritionist. Simply selecting a meat-free option off the shelf at your local supermarket or pet store is riddled with risks as around 25% of meat-free diets sold in the US were found to have nutrient deficiencies, which could cause severe health complications, malnutrition and even death.
Dogs need a diet that is rich in protein and easily digestible. They can struggle to digest a high fibre plant-based diet and they are at risk of vitamin B and D deficiencies as well. Certain nutrients that a necessary for dogs such as collagen, elastin and keratin are also difficult to derive from a vegan diet as they are usually sourced from animal products.
Well, This All Sounds Too Hard
It can be a substantial commitment to switch your dog to a vegan or vegetarian diet. If after reading this article you are reconsidering switching your dog, here are some reasons you should keep your dog on a diet that includes meat:
- Dogs enjoy the taste of meat – what dog’s mouth doesn’t water when presented with a big, juicy steak?
- Some dogs may find the physical act of chewing entertaining – giving your dog a big, meaty bone to gnaw on is one of the best sources of entertainment
- Feeding your dog meat can have psychological benefits
- Including meat in your dog’s diet is great for their dental health as the chewing action helps to keep their teeth free of plaque and tartar
So, What Should I Feed My Dog?
When choosing what to feed your dog, their health should always take priority. Dogs thrive on a diet rich in protein and easily digestible. If you are wanting to reduce the amount of meat your dog consumes, why not consider switching to a fish-based diet? Your vet may also be able to suggest foods that use eggs or dairy in place of meat. VetShopMax recommends feeding your dog a high-quality food that uses humanely-sourced meats and ethically sourced fruits and vegetables.
What About My Cat?
Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and are unable to survive on a plant-based diet. The lack of essential amino acids such as taurine, as well as arachidonic acid and vitamins A and B can cause cats to go blind, suffer from liver problems, and cause heart failure. Feeding your cat a vegan diet is only possible if the diet is appropriately supplemented with the necessary nutrients and should only be attempted under the supervision of an experienced veterinary nutritionist.