While Dogs Can Process Both Plants and Animal Products, Vegan Dog Food Might Not Include All the Nutrients They Need
Should you feed your dog vegan dog food? What about a vegan diet? While dogs can technically handle a vegan diet, vegan dog food might not have all the nutrients that your dog needs to be healthy.
While veganism is a choice that many humans make for both ethical and health reasons, it's key to remember that dogs and humans process foods differently. It's easy for us to see and feel the benefits of a vegan diet, but they're not necessarily the same for your dog. Dogs are omnivores, which means that their bodies are able to digest and absorb essential nutrients from most plants and animals. However, when you omit animal products completely, the main things that dogs lose are proteins and fats. Every vegan loves being asked where they get their protein from, but with dogs, the argument is a little harder to back up.
A dog's diet needs to be about 15 to 30 percent protein, and a few of the essential ones like keratin, elastin, and collagen are pretty difficult to get from a plant-based diet. However, with the right nutrition planning a vegan diet can be done. The question is whether or not you should feed your dog a vegan diet.
For some dogs, food allergies make it difficult to eat any animal proteins. These are one of the most common allergies that dogs face, and a vegan diet can make it a little easier for your dog to eat. In some cases, a vegetarian diet might be the better option, but that's why it's crucial that you speak with a vet or a vet nutritionist to determine what's best to feed your dog.
If you're a vegan for ethical reasons, it can be difficult to justify feeding your dog animal products because it goes against what you believe in. However, this is when it's important for you to focus on the fact that being a vegan was your choice, and your dog doesn't have the ability to make the same choice. A vegan diet can be extremely dangerous for dogs if it's handled incorrectly, and there's not a lot of room for error. If your dog doesn't receive the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, it can be deadly.
Of course, it does take a lot to get to that point, and severe health issues tend to stem from deficiencies in protein or other vitamins that your dog needs to survive. If they're spotted early they can be corrected, but if they're not your dog's health can take a significant turn for the worse.
If you want to switch your dog to a vegan diet, there are vegan dog foods available that include all the essential nutrients of a dog's diet, but make sure you check with your vet and schedule regular checkups to ensure that your dog's levels stay normal.
Can Dogs be Vegetarian?
Whereas a vegan diet is a little trickier to manage, a vegetarian diet for dogs is a lot easier to tackle. Although some people believe that dogs should eat meat, your dog can live without meat in their life and remain healthy.
A vegetarian diet for dogs doesn't struggle to find the right amount of proteins or fats mainly because of eggs. With eggs, your dog is able to get a strong source of protein as well as amino acids, which are another key factor of a healthy diet. There are plenty of dog foods available that are meat-free but utilize dairy and eggs to provide a well-balanced meal.
If your dog has food allergies, a vegetarian diet makes it easy for your pet to avoid foods that may irritate him so he can get the food he needs without issue. If you're making the switch for ethical reasons, you'll want to have a discussion with your vet to be sure that your dog is getting the right combination of nutrients. Your vet will be able to recommend good dog foods to choose from and help you identify signs that something might be wrong with your dog related to their diet.
Overall, dogs can make the switch, it's just important that you're cautious and paying close attention to what your dog needs. If you have cats, you might be wondering if they can switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet as well. However, for cats, it's not the same situation.
Is There Such a Thing as Vegan Cat Food?
Just like you have to consider the difference between how dogs and humans digest foods, you have to consider cats as well. If you're a vegan and want to share your lifestyle with your cat, it actually isn't a good idea. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need meat in their diet in order to receive the key nutrients to stay healthy. Most vets strongly recommend against vegan cat food and vegan diets for cats because of how much they'll lose without meat.
Namely, cats won't receive adequate amounts of vitamins A, B12, and D, taurine, and arachidonic acid. Without these, your cat runs the risk of becoming deficient in any of these vitamins and nutrients that they need to survive. The most common issue that cats run into with a vegan diet is a taurine deficiency. These are especially dangerous because they can lead to blindness and cardiomyopathy. Cats with cardiomyopathy have a very high mortality rate because their heart basically becomes too weak to function.
So, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, but don't want to feed your cat meat, what can you do? While your ethical beliefs go against harm to animals, the root of veganism and vegetarianism is wanting care for all animals, and this includes your cat. Instead of feeding your cat canned wet food or dry kibble, you might consider finding meat that is locally sourced to feed your cat instead. Find farmers who raise their livestock in a humane manner, or brands that label their food as “pasture-raised” or “free-range.” While these don't fall in line with vegan or vegetarian diets, they do express better care for animals, and it's as close as you can get while still keeping your cat healthy.
Remember that your beliefs are personal choices that don't extend to your cat, and while they are in your care, you shouldn't deny them the essential foods they need to survive. If you still have questions, talk to your vet about what's best to feed your cat. They might even have recommendations for where you can find locally-sourced or organic pet foods.