Veganism is rising in popularity among humans, but can our canine friends benefit from such a diet?
To know whether dogs can be vegans, it’s important to understand their dietary needs.
Let’s take a closer look.
So, can dogs be vegan?
Technically, yes, dogs can be vegan - but ‘technically’ is the operative word here. Whilst it is possible for a dog to survive on a meat-free diet, this doesn’t necessarily mean plant-based diets for dogs should be encouraged.
But dogs are carnivores, aren’t they?
Not quite. Dogs are actually omnivores, meaning their digestive systems can derive essential nutrients from fruits and vegetables, as well as animal products.
Dogs with food allergies can, in some cases, be allergic to meat-based proteins. In these instances, they’ll be put on a meat-free, essentially vegetarian diet. But here’s the important bit: these diets are carefully designed by qualified veterinary nutritionists.
A vegan dog diet - does it exist?
So yes, technically it does. Think of it like this though: vegan diets for dogs are possible, but VERY hard to get right. Unless you’ve been advised otherwise by a vet, your dog should eat a high-quality, complete, and balanced diet that includes meat as part of a range of ingredients.’
If you decided to put your dog on a meat-free diet without contacting your vet for advice, you’d put them at risk of multiple dietary deficiencies and health problems. If you did it with the help of a vet or nutritionist, you’d have to follow their advice very carefully.
Because of the effort, time and expense involved with this, it’s recommended that dogs should only become ‘vegans’ as a last resort. It’s not something you should strive for!
But fruit and veg is healthy, right?
Fruits and vegetables are undeniably healthy, yes. They’re rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but they lack other nutrients like protein and healthy fats, so they shouldn’t make up your dog’s entire diet.
Dogs’ digestive systems process meat-based foods a lot easier than plants, meaning dogs get more nutrients from meat and use up less energy in the process.
Your dog’s daily diet should comprise at least 90% high-quality, complete & balanced pet food. This will likely be made from meat and plants, and will contain all the necessary vitamins, amino acids, minerals and other nutrients they need to live a long, happy and healthy life.
You can still feed your dog certain fruits and vegetables as snacks. Just be sure to do your research first. Certain fruits, like grapes and oranges, are very harmful to dogs and should be avoided altogether. Others, like apples and bananas, contain lots of sugar and calories, so should only be fed in small doses.
Can dogs be vegetarians?
Dairy products are typically high in fat, and over-consumption can lead to weight gain and all the added complications. In fact, some dogs are even allergic to dairy products. Your dog may appreciate a tiny piece of cheese now and again - it’s a great incentive to use while training - but dairy should take up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet.
Boiled eggs are also a great snack for dogs. They’re a lean source of protein and Vitamin D. Once again though, eggs are very calorific, so overfeeding can lead to rapid weight gain.
If eggs and dairy should only be fed in small doses, the rest of your dog’s diet should come from… you guessed it.... a complete and balanced food that contains the right amounts of veggies AND meat.
Whilst it is possible for dogs to survive on a vegetarian diet, it is a big risk, especially if it’s done without the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist.
Dogs are designed to eat meat
Just look at their teeth compared to human teeth! Dogs’ teeth are perfect for ripping and tearing meat, whereas human teeth are designed to grind food down.
Not only this, but a dog’s digestive tract is designed to process meat too. Over-indulging on what we think are healthy sources of protein, like grains and pulses, can cause dogs to suffer gastrointestinal trouble.
So, what should vegans feed their dogs?
It’s a tough one. With an estimated 9.9 million pet dogs in the UK today, the vast majority of them living on meat-based products, it’s hard to ignore the ever-growing carbon footprint of pet food.
There are various forms of vegan pet food on the market, but it’s always best to check with your vet before switching your dog onto a new diet - especially a vegan one! Perhaps vegan dog foods are the future, but right now, it’s worth sticking to what we know and understand:
Dogs are technically omnivores but removing meat from their diet altogether will ultimately do more harm than good.
For more help and advice on your dog’s diet and nutrition, give us a call or make an appointment to see one of our vets or nurses.