Is it safe for your dog to eat a vegan diet? Our tips
In recent years, food for both humans and dogs has become increasingly the subject of numerous studies, research, and debate. Let’s see our point of view on vegan food for dogs.
Interest in a healthy, balanced diet is growing especially in Western countries, where decades of dietary neglect have led to the worrying rise of major diseases such as obesity and diabetes; this applies not only to humans, but also to our often-overfed pet.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: What Is It?
As we all know, when there is a controversial topic, hates and loves arise. This is what also happens when someone decides to make a radical decision like feeding a vegan diet to their dog.
Let’s first establish the difference between vegans and vegetarians. Although both of them choose not to eat meat, veganism is stricter and also prohibits dairy, eggs, honey, and any other items that derive from animal products, such as leather and silk.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: Can A Dog Be Fed A Vegan Diet? Is the Vegan Diet Useful for It?
This is not an easy question to answer since there is no single, universal answer. In fact, opinions about it are often pretty divergent. Before attempting to give an answer, we must bear in mind that:
- Man and dog are not the same from the feeding point of view. Dogs have a digestive system structure largely similar to that of their wolf ancestor, a predominantly carnivorous animal, whose diet was composed of 80% animal protein.
In other words, dogs’ digestive systems are not naturally designed to eat only fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, some argue that, over the long millennia of domestic coexistence with man, dogs would have undergone physical changes. These changes make them different from their carnivorous and hunting progenitor. Dogs today are smaller, and their claws are less sharp, for example.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: Is It Just an Ideological Thing?
Our domesticated pets would have become omnivorous and, therefore, they would have no difficulty adapting to a vegan diet. But “omnivores” are those who eat meat and vegetables, not those who only eat vegetables, say the detractors…
- People who oppose a vegan diet for dogs say that humans would adopt this food “philosophy” mainly for ideological reasons, i.e., to respect all animals’ lives and not to cause them any suffering derived from mass breeding.
This reasoning would not make sense to our pets as they cannot distinguish these ethical considerations. Owners would impose on them something that does not concern them and is contrary to their original predatory nature. In this way, vegans, imprisoned by the intention of respecting all animals, will actually end up not respecting their dogs’ nature.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: Is It the Right Choice?
Beyond any ideological concept, the most important question to ask is related to our four-legged friends’ health. Is a vegan diet healthy for our pets?
In this case, answers are also controversial. Some people claim that dogs are carnivorous by nature and if they are fed only fruits and vegetables it could have negative consequences to their organism due to the lack of animal proteins.
On the other hand, others point to a study carried out by PETA (a non-profit animal rights association), which shows that a pet that eats a vegan diet for years would enjoy good health and its average lifespan would be the same as those dogs that eat a carnivorous diet.
Regardless of whether the chosen diet is carnivorous, omnivorous or vegan, the most important thing is to always choose quality food, whether it is croquettes or fresh, home-cooked food.
But most important of all is not to choose a diet blindly, but to feed your four-legged friend according to what your trusted veterinarian recommends. An extreme and uncontrolled diet could have serious consequences on your dog’s health.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: What Does A Carnivorous Diet Have That A Vegan Diet Doesn’t Have?
A dog is an omnivorous animal and needs animal protein for the optimal functioning of its organism. We talked to our team’s veterinarian, M.V. P. Tarsia, who answered some questions:
Not all proteins are the same
Let’s start with some basic concepts first: What are proteins? Proteins are unique chains of variable length, made up of varying amino acids. The type of protein depends on which amino acids are present in the “chain”, M.V. explained.
Amino acids are not all the same and broadly speaking we can distinguish two groups: Essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. The former is those that our body cannot produce on its own but needs. So, they must be incorporated through. The latter are those that the body can synthesize or produce.
All proteins are extremely important, and we find them fulfilling diverse functions, for example, they fulfill a structural function in tendons, skin, ligaments, etc. They also work as antibodies. Many hormones are formed by proteins, and even the hemoglobin that transports oxygen in red blood cells is a protein. There are many more examples, but as you can see, they fulfill very varied and important functions for life.
When we talk about proteins in food, they are not all the same, it does not only matter what percentage of protein the food has, but also its quality.
How Do I Know It?
We are interested in proteins that are easily digestible, i.e., that can be easily used and contain plenty of essential amino acids that meet the needs of our animal. In addition, we are interested in the efficient use of this protein by the organism (biological value), which will depend on the quantity and composition of the amino acids.
According to our veterinarian’s opinion, animal proteins have a high biological value, i.e., they are used efficiently by the body and are more complete than vegetable proteins. For this reason, a balanced diet is essential.
This means our dog must be fed vegetable and animal protein equally. Besides, it is not known exactly how a 100% vegan diet would affect our dog. It is very likely that they will tolerate this type of diet, but it is not the best decision we can make for our friend.
If in doubt, consult a professional who will give you good assistance and answer all your questions.