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Can Your Dog Be Vegetarian Or Vegan?

 

vegetariandog

Many animal-loving vegetarians and vegans find themselves in a conflict of interest when feeding their pets. It is no surprise that many “hardcore” pet-lovers are also advocates for animals in the wild and on farms as well. So, depending on how “extreme” they are, some pet owners want to cut meat out of their and their pets’ diets as well, to avoid participating in the factory farm industry.  While personal ethics are for you to decide, the main concern is whether or not a vegetarian diet is appropriate for dogs; and the answer is yes, your dog can be healthy while not eating meat. This is great news if you want to relieve your conscience of guilt associated with buying any meat products regardless of who eats them. Vegetarian diets can also be a good option for dogs that have allergies or food intolerances associated with eating meat, and for wary owners who question the quality of the meats included in your average dog food.

While you might have heard that dogs cannot live without meat, biologically this could not be further from the truth. Dogs are omnivores, meaning that they adapt well to a plant-based diet. The right vegetarian dog food, such as Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula, can give the canine body everything that it needs to thrive. You can also possibly make your own vegetarian or vegan dog food with the many recipes and videos online from experienced vegetarian/vegan owners!

Protein is the nutrient that most people are concerned about, but dogs have the ability to transform certain amino acids, the building blocks of protein, into others. This means that dogs can get all the amino acids they need without eating meat.  Eggs are an excellent source of protein for dogs.  The amino acid profile of an egg closely matches that which a dog requires from its diet.  So, if you are willing to feed your dog a high-quality food that contains eggs, you have no reason for concern.  If eggs are off the table, plant-based sources of protein like soy will also suffice. Soy is something that also comes with its own issues and possible concerns; like whether the soy is from genetically modified plants, or plants with pesticides, or uncultured soy, etc. Before you begin to start substituting meat with soy, ensure that you have done proper research beforehand. Finding the right balance of legumes, whole grains (which are usually unnecessary and also come with possible health dangers), and other plants is a bit trickier, but still possible.vegandog

The most crucial aspect of switching dogs to a vegetarian diet is the transition; it’s best to do it gradually. Initially, mix just a small amount of the new food in with the old. Every few days, add more of the plant-based food to less of the meat-based food until the old is gone for good. Your dog may be skeptical at first, but eventually the change will become less weird and more of a routine. Soon, your pet will have a diet completely free of meat, but packed with all kinds of alternate protein sources!

If after reading this, you are still concerned that your dog’s health might suffer from a vegetarian diet, you can always ask your veterinarian to run a urinalysis, blood chemistry, and complete cell count after feeding the new food for a month or so. Everything should check out just fine, which will give you the peace of mind to continue with your dog’s new diet. If there are issues, then you can either amend the parts of your dog’s nutritional plan that do not suffice, add supplements, or – if the health concern is just too risky, you can ease your dog back into a meat-eating diet. Maybe you will decide that just cutting down your dog’s meat intake will be sufficient for your guilty conscience. After all, beef is the most unsustainable meat – so if you just cut down your pet’s beef intake only, you’ll already be making a positive environmental impact.

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A vegetarian diet could be beneficial for animals with sensitive stomachs, food allergies, or any other negative effects associated with meat. Some dogs (like my own) are allergic to poultry meats such as chicken, turkey, and duck, so it could be a very positive change to feed them more protein-rich vegetables and soy products rather than chicken. When making the transition, be wary of certain foods that you may find to be irritating to your animal’s digestive system, such as a wheat allergy or intolerance to grain. Some dogs (again, like my own) develop skin irritation and other problems due to grain intake.

Keep in mind that this information does not apply to your cats.  Our feline friends are obligate carnivores, meaning that to remain healthy, they must eat a cat food that contains meat or a vegetarian diet that is heavily supplemented to replace the nutrients they are missing. If you currently have your dog on a vegetarian or vegan diet, share your experiences with us!

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • wiki-ins.ru June 29, 2013, 4:56 am

    Very good blog post. I certainly love this website.
    Continue the good work!

    • VetDepot January 4, 2016, 10:31 am

      Thank you! 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Nancy J. Olds February 4, 2016, 10:08 am

    Thanks for also mentioning that a vegetarian diet could be fine for dogs but terribly wrong for cats. This diet would kill them! BTW, our dog loves eating grass anyway. She doesn’t do it when she feels sick, she just loves fresh grass! I read that sawgrass is too sharp for canine stomach though and could cause serious internal injuries, so avoid that.

    • VetDepot February 4, 2016, 11:53 am

      Good to know! One of my dogs (a senior Chihuahua) also loves chewing on grass outside. LOL My cats seem to like it as well. I don’t think we even have any saw grass – heck we don’t even have normal grass at my house. All of our “grass” is crabgrass or weeds. 😛

      • Sandy March 28, 2017, 10:48 pm

        I work on many new construction and renovation jobs, and construction costs these days are very miiscnoeivcng. Thanks for giving us insight on what to think about when we are about to start a project. Nice job.

  • Lynne Duke March 9, 2016, 7:37 am

    Dogs can survive on a vegan diet but not thrive. A terribly irresponsible article. Will not make any further purchases from this site.

    • VetDepot March 9, 2016, 9:40 am

      Hey, the article barely mentions a VEGAN diet, it mainly discusses a vegetarian diet, hence the talk about eggs and such. I only included “vegan” in the title and towards the end of the article because I didn’t want people who feed their dog vegan diets to be upset and feel left out. I am also pretty skeptical of people who feed their dog vegan diets (hell, I’m skeptical of PEOPLE who eat vegan diets lol) so I kind of ignored that part of it. Keep in mind these aren’t “articles” they are more like blog posts that open the floor for discussion. So, I would love for you to expound on your stance that a vegan diet isn’t possible, because I have been told otherwise!

  • Blair March 9, 2016, 10:30 am

    My two dogs, 6 and 9 years old, have been vegan for their entire lives and are thriving and much healthier than other dogs I see. I feed Natural Balance vegan and a mixture of rice, barley, beans, and vegetables. They’re very clean smelling, have beautiful coats and are very active. You really should try to understand the science behind nutrition. http://nutritionfacts.org/

    • VetDepot March 9, 2016, 11:01 am

      Thank you so much for your comments, you seem to be very knowledgeable on the subject! 🙂 I think most people are already not convinced completely that a vegan diet is viable for HUMANS let alone our PETS, so people are quick to write it off completely. Do a lot of people who do vegan diets probably cause their dog malnutrition if they don’t do it properly? Maybe, but that shouldn’t be representative of ALL people who embrace vegan diets. I commend you on your efforts and commitment to going vegan, I am progressively becoming less of a meat eater by each passing day. I used to eat burgers every day (sometimes twice a day) and now I hardly eat them, or meat in general. I personally think that feeding your dog store bought brand kibble with awful ingredients is way worse than a vegan diet, and that is something that is done on a MASS SCALE.

  • Blair March 11, 2016, 6:03 am

    We’ve been subject to misinformation from corporate agriculture for decades. Fruit and vegetables don’t lend themselves to a centralized corporate marketing structure. For anything you want to believe, there is someone on youtube, or some website telling you it’s true. The only objective way to learn is to study the science. The leading causes of death are all due to a diet of animal products: see nutritionfacts.org. 52% of carbon emissions come from animal production, 2/3 of the brazilian rain forest has been cleared for animal production, the number one source of land and water pollution in the US is animal production: see the documentary http://www.cowspiracy.com/. We pamper our pets but seem to be oblivious to our treatment of other domestic animals: see “Farm to Fridge” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju7-n7wygP0.

    • VetDepot March 11, 2016, 10:58 am

      *RESOUNDING APPLAUSE* YES YES YES AND YES. It is *ASTOUNDING* how much effort our society has put into the meat trade – when it is harmful to our HEALTH, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, and MORALE. When you combine the destruction to the environment, abuse and torture of animals, and the unsustainable business model, and harmful health effects together, it should be a NO BRAINER that we NEED TO embrace a meat-free society in order to heal many parts of our crumbling infrastructure both natural and man-made. The problem is that we as Americans are so utterly ignorant and stubborn, that any kind of change STILL MANAGES to SCARE US! Why are people so unwilling to try other alternatives to get them the protein and nutrients they need? Because 1) that is a drastic change from what we were raised to believe our whole lives and 2) Americans are too stubborn and caught in centuries-old rhetoric to give anything else a proper try. I am not vegetarian or vegan, but I cut down on my meat intake almost 90%, favoring vegan/vegetarian options more often than not. This is coming from someone who used to eat a burger every day, sometimes twice a day – definitely would eat meat with every meal. Now, I find myself trying to avoid meat whenever possible, and it is a great feeling to know that you aren’t contributing to the factory farm industry! What REALLY made me conscious of my meat intake was when the whole Yulin dog meat festival happened. As an animal rescuer and advocate for shelter animals, I was horrified – but then I realized that I was being hypocritical in being disgusted by DOG MEAT as opposed to PIG MEAT, COW MEAT, CHICKEN MEAT, basically all of the other animals that I was eating! What made DOG meat so horrific but the other types of animal meat excusable? The answer was NOTHING, except our silly society constructs that we have learned to accept and embrace. Well, I have since decided that I am NOT accepting OR embracing this status quo, and I will do my part to reduce my meat intake – especially when it comes to beef (the most harmful in terms of health and environment) and pork products (second most harmful). Thank you for your post!

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