Isn’t it strange to hear of vegan dog food? You bet it is! Veganism for pets is a recent trend and though we do not have any strong negative opinions about it, the fact remains that a purely vegan diet may not be enough for some of our four-legged friends (such as a cat). But how about a dog? Will a "manufactured" vegan diet be enough to keep him healthy?
Since we are mostly talking from the context of raw dog food feeding, this would not be a run-of-the-mill "vegan" pet food article. We're not just going to help you make an informed decision as regards the best vegan dog food, but we'll also discuss vegetarian diets for pets in general.
Moreover, we would touch upon topics that would explain why the essential nutrients that dogs can get from a completely plant-based diet—as compared to those derived from animal sources—are extremely limited for their needs.
The Nutritional Value Dips When Ingredients Are Cooked Or Processed
Do you know that most vegan food substitutes for meat (like Kind Kibble produced by V-Dog and Wild Earth) are processed and/or gently cooked? That alone can extremely limit the type of foods that the dog can eat under raw vegan diets. Moreover, they can also fall short of being nutritionally complete to give your pooch a balanced diet.
Giving your pooch a proper diet (and high-protein, too) through his pet food has a lot of benefits like healthy skin, strong bones, shiny coat, and many more. This is why we would also talk about how a plain vegan pet diet, including cooked or processed food items, can affect your pet's wellness.
While we're at it, we will go over key topics like food sensitivities and similar issues that may affect your pet's well-being and overall health with respect to the consumption of vegan products for canines.
Is There Really Such A Thing As Vegan Food for Dogs?
Are you vegan? A vegetarian? Or just someone who has strict dietary restrictions which you would want to share with your fur baby? Or are you just tired of serving the same wet food or dry food over and over? Perhaps you’re someone new to the raw feeding movement or maybe you simply want to try out a vegan dog food for your pet.
Whatever your reason for wanting to read this article, we’ll go through a short definition of important terminologies for the sake of clarity. This is to properly walk you through the topics as we go along. Let's start things off by differentiating vegan dog food from vegetarian dog food...
Vegan Dog Foods VS Vegetarian
Here's something that a lot of pet owners seem to overlook when it comes to vegan food versus its vegetarian counterpart. Vegetarians do not eat animal flesh. It is as simple as that. Vegetarians generally abstain from eating animal meat, be it a cow, a pig, a sea animal, a chicken, a sheep, a goat, among others.
On the other hand, a vegan does not eat any animal product at all. This means that in addition to no animal meat, vegans do not eat eggs, dairy products, lard—EVERYTHING. As a whole, vegans also do not use animal products such as leather and similar products that may be derived from wild Earth, and so on.
Vegan Is Not Automatically Vegetarian (And Vice Versa)
So we guess it is rather clear that a vegan dog diet is a lot stricter than a vegetarian dog diet. Even humans can have a very hard time getting their nutritional needs met on a vegetarian diet, more so with a vegan diet if cooked or processed food is not involved. If it is that difficult for humans, think how much trickier it would be for a dog!
We understand that a lot of pet parents love all sorts of animals. And that feeding your pooch animal flesh is a revolting concept for you. However, the fact remains that it is nearly impossible to implement a raw dog food diet together with a vegan dog food one because of all the essential nutrients that your pet may miss out on.
Choosing Between Plant-Based Dog Food And A Raw Diet
Okay, okay, some of you may think, “Forget raw dog food! Let’s talk about feeding our dogs a vegan diet!” That may actually work—if you have what it takes to put in a lot of effort, and we mean EFFORT! However, it still comes with cons or disadvantages (granted that it may also have some benefits).
So why is it that "manufactured vegan" foods may not be enough for your dog? If we're being honest, there are so many companies in the dog food industry that claim they have the best vegan dog food, too! Let’s find out below.
Why A Vegan Dog Diet or Vegetarian Dog Diet Is Not The Best Option
#1 - There are not enough studies to support that a vegan dog diet or vegetarian dog diet will not produce negative effects.
This is simply the truth. Veganism or even vegetarianism for pets is a very new practice and there is not enough documentation supporting it or if it will be fine for dogs of all life stages. Hey, do you know what has thousands of years of real-life backup? Raw feeding!
Dogs and their ancestors have been eating pure and clean fresh meat from the wild Earth (with the occasional herb and veggies) for hundreds of thousands of years. Otherwise, we won’t have the dogs we have today. There isn't any scientific evidence of any purely vegan dogs.
#2 – Is vegan dog food healthy? Not all dogs would tolerate eating a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Your pet may likely eat a bowl of rice and beans to avoid starvation, but given a choice, a juicy piece of high-protein meat is more up your dog’s alley. Remember, meat is a healthy option as long as it is fresh and natural. No bacon, hams, and hotdogs please!
Food scientists always emphasize the importance of a balanced diet to maintain strong muscles, healthy skin, and other crucial wellness factors. If your pet's current food lacks some of these nutrients, the effects can be significant.
#3 – A vegetarian dog diet (or a vegan dog diet) may not support your dog’s needs for all life stages
The majority of people who’ve tried going vegan with their dogs did so with adult dogs. Remember that puppies have different needs and those needs may not be supported by a plant-based diet—no matter how popular or cruelty-free they may be.
For instance, speaking of proteins alone, there are some amino acids that are not found in plant sources like sweet potatoes. More so, dogs need a lot of B12, and it is not something plant-based foods can provide.
#4 – A "safe" vegetarian dog diet or vegan dog diet is bound to be very expensive.
If you are prepared to go through all the lengths to feed your dog a vegan dog diet or a vegetarian dog diet, you have to be prepared to shell out some serious cash. Why? Because a near-complete vegan or vegetarian dog food is only done or manufactured by a very exclusive group of dog food companies that charge really expensive fees per feeding or per set of meals.
Sure you can try to make your very own vegan recipe or vegan formula. But are you prepared for the consequences, such as starving your furry best friend out of key nutrients he or she needs? Even board-certified veterinary nutritionists emphasize the importance of meat to maintain a natural balance in a dog's diet.
#5 – A vegan dog food plan or vegetarian dog food plan is not truly healthier for your pet as it is for you.
Think about evolution. Think about how the human anatomy is designed as compared to a dog. Humans are "designed to be omnivores. We can tolerate new food like plant protein consisting of ground peas and brown rice, among others, without digestive issues.
Now think about how dogs are built. Just by the looks of the dog’s external anatomy, do you truly think that dogs are meant to forgo meat and animal products? Regardless if it's the best vegan dog food out there, chances are your pet's overall health will be affected.
What we are saying is, that what is healthy for you is not the same as what is healthy for a dog. You may argue that the vegan dog food brands you're going for use only organic ingredients that are cruelty-free. But are these really nutritionally complete?
The Ethical Question to Really Consider
We can come up with more cons or disadvantages regarding dog vegetarianism or dog veganism. However, we think that everyone reading this already understands what we mean. Think about what is natural for your dog, not what is natural or ethical for you.
We understand that you love your fur baby and wants the best, but what is best have very different definitions depending on the animal’s specie. Our pet parents need to understand that keeping our dogs healthy is all about giving them a varied diet that suits their bodies' needs.
Is Going For Vegan Dog Food Brands the Best Way To Go?
Before you make the plunge to feeding your dog a mostly plant-based diet (vegetarian) or a purely plant-based one (vegan),you have to understand that going for this route means a lot of work on your part. You also have to consider that your dog has no say in your decision and that you have to be objective in your decision-making.
With the raw food diet, you will have more safe choices on what to feed your dog without having to sacrifice your dog’s health. This is because he always has access to protein-rich ingredients, not to mention amino acids or fatty acids, as well as other beneficial nutrients.
The Difference Between Carnivores and Omnivores
Do you know that dogs are not omnivores but are rather scavenging carnivores? So what’s the difference? An omnivore’s (like a bear) diet consists of a mix of plant materials and animal protein. Scavenging carnivores, on the other hand, need more animal-based protein and nutrients.
Sure a dog can survive on a diet mainly consisting of vegetables and plants with just a tiny bit of animal protein. However, this is merely "surviving" and if you are not careful, it can hurt your dog’s health.
Just a look at your dog’s teeth and it is pretty obvious that their digestive system is not designed to eat plants and grains. Plant-based dog food like organic chickpeas, pea protein, dried yeast, organic peanut butter, potato protein, and organic oats may have some benefits too, but they won't really satisfy your pet's physiological needs.
Please note that we did not write this to completely eliminate the possibility of switching successfully to a plant-based dog food diet (except if your canine best friend has some extreme allergies to animal protein).
We've put together this blog post to introduce you to the possibility of a better option. Maybe in the future, a purely vegan dog diet can be done successfully, but at present time, there are more cons than pros to subjecting your best friend to a very restrictive form of feeding.
So How About Raw Dog Food?
We will not go into the details of how the dog’s digestive tract is not designed for eating plants. We would rather focus on what the dog’s digestive tract is designed for. They can possibly have sensitive stomachs sooner or later if they only eat plant-based stuff like dried peas, dried yeast, and sweet potatoes out of their food bowl.
Simply put, dogs are meat eaters. From the mouth, the digestive enzymes, to the length of the intestines, it is all made for eating meat. Not just any meat though, but the safest and most "natural" kind, like what wolves eat.
What option does that give you? You got it, raw meat! Isn’t raw meat dangerous? Before you stop reading, you have to understand that a dog’s stomach acidity level is way higher than a human’s. Dogs can even consume human-grade food without a problem!
Helping Ease Your Pet's Transition to Raw Food
If your dog can eat poopor drink pee—you know it happens—and chow on other "grubs" found on your walks or time spent outdoors, you bet that the dog can be totally fine with fresh raw meat. You can even throw in some sliced apples or carrots from time to time, too. Dogs love that!
As for making sure you can help your pooch transition to raw dog food, going for premium natural probiotics and a total detox can help with that.
We’ve talked about the history of dog food in an earlier post, and next up will be the raw dog foods of raw dog food benefits. We’ll also share our top raw dog food recipes so stay tuned for that! Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook and be a part of the Zumalka family!
HOMEOPATH & CO-FOUNDER OF ZUMALKA
Suzie Cyrenne has dedicated more than 20 years of her life in making and improving natural animal health solutions in the global setting.
Being the co-founder of Zumalka, Suzie is a forerunner in enhancing the lives of pets through natural and homeopathic options using the knowledge she has gained from the Classical Homeopathy School in Quebec.
Besides immersing herself in books, personal development and visiting new places, Suzie also enjoys keeping herself in tiptop shape by snowboarding and taking daily hikes with her husband and Zumalka co-founder, Matt Lessard, and their Golden-Doodle, Westin.