Believe it or not, dogs can do well on a meatless diet. If you’re thinking of switching your canine companion to a vegan or vegetarian menu, here’s what you need to know.
Dogs love meat—there’s no getting around that fact. But can they do without it? It’s a question more and more people are asking, as concerns about the environmental and ethical impacts of raising meat animals become more widely known. If you’re considering switching your own dog to a vegan or vegetarian diet, this article will arm you with the knowledge you need to make the right decision for him.
What Are the Benefits of a Meatless Diet?
There are a number of reasons why people turn to a vegan or vegetarian diet for their canine companions:
Dogs with food allergies can be sensitive to some meat proteins. A meatless diet can accommodate these sensitivities.
A vegetable-based diet is much more environmentally sustainable than one composed primarily of meat.
Given the rising cost of meat, a vegan or vegetarian diet may be more economical, especially if you grow some of your own product.
Those who are concerned about the ethical issues surrounding meat production feel better about feeding their dogs a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Many of the meats used in pet foods are contaminated with pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals, which can be harmful to your dog’s health. “The slaughter animal feed, human and pet food industry is intertwined with the chemical pharmaceutical drug industry,” says Eric Weisman of Evolution Diet, a company that offers plant protein vegan foods for dogs and cats. “Most of the drugs and chemicals added to foods are not included on labels, and don’t have to be, according to government requirements.”
What the Research Says
A recent study of 2,639 dogs and their humans, conducted by the University of Winchester, indicates that a vegan diet is a healthy choice for canines.
The researchers looked at the prevalence of 22 specific health disorders, including skin/coat issues, dental problems, allergic dermatitis and arthritis. One or more of these conditions were found to occur in 49% of dogs eating conventional meat diets; 43% of those on raw meat diets; and only 36% of those being fed vegan diets.
“The findings show that…dogs fed conventional meat diets appeared to be less healthy than those fed either a raw meat or a vegan diet,” states the study. “They had poorer health indicators in almost all cases. Dogs fed raw meat diets appeared to fare marginally better than those fed vegan diets. However, the effect sizes were statistically small, in every case.”
“A published 2021 International Guelph University Ontario Veterinary College study proves that dogs—and cats—live healthier and longer on plant-based vegan Evolution Diet pet foods, as compared to those eating flesh-based pet foods, including prescription diets, raw flesh diets and conventional flesh-based premium pet foods,” says Eric.
Meatless Foods You Can Add to His Meals
Even if you’re not ready for your dog to go vegan or vegetarian, you can cut down on the meat by adding a wide variety of meatless protein-packed foods to his diet. It’s a good idea to talk to a holistic/integrative veterinarian or canine nutritionist for guidance, and be sure to proceed slowly to help avoid digestive upsets.
Eggs are a good source of protein, linoleic acid, and vitamin A.
Adding a dollop of yogurt or cottage cheese to his meals adds some extra protein.
Dogs can eat peanut butter in moderation—avoid brands that include added salt, sugar or xylitol.
Grains are another source of protein, but many dogs have allergies to wheat and corn. Alternatives include brown rice, barley, oats, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and rye.
Algae also contains adequate amounts of protein, as do vegetables such as broccoli, kale and mushrooms.
While many dogs thrive on a meatless diet, it’s important to do your homework before turning your own canine companion vegan or vegetarian. Your vet should regularly monitor his nutrient levels, and supplements may be required depending on your dog’s individual needs or health status. Done properly, though, a meatless diet is very doable, and is healthier for your dog, and the planet!
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