Can a Dog Be Vegetarian or Vegan?
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Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more common with one study finding a 600% increase in US vegan consumers between the years 2014 and 2017. The reasons for this are various and humans have the privilege of having constitutions which can easily adapt to such a diet, even if there are always nutrition considerations which need to be made. Some choose such a lifestyle as a moral response to the treatment of animals by the food industry. If this is the case for a vegan pet owner, they may want to apply the same ethical code to their canine companions.
This is why AnimalWised asks the question can a dog be a vegetarian or vegan? In answering, we can help people with various dietary considerations find the right type of nutrition, stressing how important it is to put our dog's health and well-being as our first priority.
A dog's dietary requirements
Similar to their ancestors, dogs are both facultative-carnivorous animals, but not decidedly omnivorous. This means that they can eat vegetables and non-meat ingredients in their diet, but they do require a certain amount of animal protein for optimal health. The two main reasons for this
- Teething: in dogs, as with other carnivores, we find that the incisors are small in comparison with the other teeth, the canines are large as they are used for cutting and tearing and the molars and premolars are small, but with a very sharp crest. In omnivores, the incisors are similar in size to the rest of the teeth, they have flat molars and premolars to help grind vegetation and their canines are not as big as in carnivores.
- Intestinal length: omnivores have a long intestine with different specialized enzymes to help process and break down a wide variety of foods. Such as large intestine is necessary to break down certain plant compounds such as cellulose. Dogs, like other carnivores, have a very short intestine.
In nature, wild dogs not only feed on the flesh of their prey, but they also consume bones, internal organs and intestines (often loaded with plant material depending on the species of the prey). For this reason, we should avoid feeding our dog only meat which is based on muscle as they can digest other parts of an animal as well. Fortunately, this should be cheaper for dog owners as it's unlikely you will be feeding your dog fillet steak every night.
Vegetarian and vegan diet for dogs
Have you ever wondered what the dogs of vegetarians or vegans eat? As with humans, a vegetarian diet is one based on vegetables and plant derived food. However, it can include certain animal products such as eggs or dairy products. Vegans will not east any products which have an animal origin.
Feeding a dog a vegan or vegetarian diet
If you want to feed your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet, it will be like many other changes in diet. The change must be a progressive one as cutting out animal products too quickly can have an adverse reaction in the dog. Also, it is very important to consult a veterinarian before making this change as they will be able to advise on what is best for an individual animal.
It is best to replace their regular animal based diet little by little, using vegetarian or vegan foods bought at the store which is of a high quality. They should also be checked by a governing body as there are some opportunist companies who bring out pet food which is not up to scratch. This is because there are not as many checks and balances in terms of quality control when it comes to pet food.
Any feed needs to meet all of a dog's nutritional needs and their age, breed, activity levels and health status need to be taken into consideration. Of course, it is inadvisable to change your dog's diet to a plant based diet if they suffer from particular ailments, especially ones which affect their immune system.
Once the dog has fully integrated the new plant based diet, we can go further by feeding them vegetarian or vegan wet food.
Vegan and vegetarian recipes for dogs
If you want to make homemade food for vegetarian dogs, we have provided a list of vegetables, fruits and other foodstuffs which can be tolerated by dogs:
- Yuca (always cooked
- Potato (cooked and not overused)
- Green beans
- Sweet potato (cooked and not overused)
- Natural yogurt natural (no sugar)
- Devil's claw
- Bee products
- Apple vinegar
- Beer yeast
- Vegetable oils
- Milk thistle
While dogs can eat vegetarian and vegan dishes, does this mean they should be fed this diet on a consistent basis?
Vegan diets and dog health
Recent genomic studies have discovered that dogs have a digestive system which adapted to breaking down carbohydrates. This contradicts other studies which claim a plant-based diet increases the probability of suffering from pancreas problems as this organ is in charge of releasing the enzymes required to digest these molecules.
To date, many veterinarians have used vegetarian diets for some ailments in dogs, but always for a limited time and under strict clinical control. Additionally, vegan diets for dogs based on soy protein have been shown to increase the likelihood of developing skin problems.
There are other studies which claim a dog can easily hand a vegetarian or vegan diet. At the University of Vienna, a researcher by the name Semp conducted a study of 174 dogs. The respective owners gave their dog a commercial or homemade vegan diet for a 6 month period. At the end of the study, no dog had developed significant health problem and some seemed to have improved certain dermatological problems. Another study by WY Brown at the University of New England also theorizes on the possibility of a meat free diet fore animals. While there is some evidence to support this notion, the study does claim conclusive proof is lacking.
What the research suggests is that is may indeed be possible for a dog to life a healthy and happy life on a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, this is not confirmed and further study will need to be carried out to ensure the complete well-being of dogs is met. What is sure is that, if deciding to introduce a dog to a vegetarian or vegan diet, careful consideration needs to be made in terms of nutrition. The dog's health needs to be checked regularly with a vet so that any nutritional deficiencies can be flagged and treated.
Can cats be vegetarian?
While we have gone into detail about whether dogs can be vegetarian or vegan, some may be wondering if the same goes for other pets. It is true that cats and dogs do not have the same nutritional profile as each other, but can cats be vegan or vegetarian?
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