a vegetarian dog diet has become popular over the last few years as a perfect alternative to the traditional meat-based food.
Several factors have contributed to the rapidly increasing popularity of people interested in vegan dog food alternatives – including the unfortunate brand pet food contamination that happened a few years ago, celebrity marketing, as well as other things.
Brand pet food contamination that resulted in the death of over 4000 dogs and cats after developing kidney failure sparked a new age where pet owners want to take more control over what their pets eat. The other reason why other pet owners introduce vegan foods to their pets is when they are diagnosed with allergies with the most well-known case being that of Shelley Boyle and her dog Cleo.
Shelley Boyle was advised by her veterinarian to stop feeding Cleo dairy and meat products after the dog was diagnosed with chronic ear infection.
After five months of feeding her dog with batches of brown rice, pinto beans, leafy greens and sweet potatoes, the infection was gone.
The Cleo case has encouraged many people especially the conservative on the benefits of vegetarian dog food. However, it is still important to highlight that many experts argue that feeding your dog with vegan food is against nature as the dog is biologically an animal tissue-eating pet with short intestinal tract and teeth better built to shred meat than other types of food.
Is it healthy to feed your dog a vegan diet?
Although dogs are classified as carnivores, they are perfectly capable of getting nutrients from plant-based foods. Since their domestication many years ago, dogs have slowly evolved to eating starch-rich foods. In fact, experts believe dogs of today cannot survive on an all meat dog food after dogs grew weak, thin and developed metabolic disorder when brands were making all meat canned dog food a few years ago.
Furthermore, although well-formulated meat foods are optimal, diets can also be formulated without animal products to meet the sufficiency criterion of a perfectly balanced and complete dog food.
If well formulated, you should not fear to feed your dog with a vegetarian dog food as the dogs are capable of transforming certain amino acids to others, which makes it possible to get all the amino acids they need without eating meat. However, much care must be observed when feeding your dog with a vegan food as dogs have a high nutrient requirement for calcium and protein. Dogs also require a lot of B12, which is not possible to obtain from plants and the dog may develop resistance to vegan foods when first introduced.
Therefore, you should not suddenly change your dog’s diet, but slowly mix the vegan food with what you have already been feeding your dog and gradually increase the percentage until your dog is fully eating vegetarian dog food. You also need to ensure that your food is well supplemented to prevent deficiencies that could affect your pet’s health. It can take up to six months before the symptoms of the deficiency can appear and thus, it is recommendable to take your dog for frequent checkups during the transition to prevent the deficiency.
Things that you should consider when choosing a vegetarian dog food
When buying or making your own vegan dog food, you need to remember that some foods are toxic to dogs while others are not perfectly formulated to offer all the nutrients your dog needs. For commercial vegetarian dog food, you should ensure that the food meets all nutritional requirements for your dog.
When buying, you should ensure that the food is certified as a vegan food and contains the best ingredients. Various dog associations recommend that the vegan food base should be comprised of sweet potatoes, oats, soybeans, rice, oats, and lentils. Other super food ingredients that you should look for in vegetarian dog food include chia, wheat germ, parsley, and soy protein isolate.
The food you choose should also contain the right nutrients such as taurine, vitamin D, L-Carnitine, and B vitamins, especially B12. You should also avoid artificial preservatives such as propylene gel, BHT, and BHA.
Vegan foods with natural preservatives such as vitamin C, E, and rosemary extract are more recommended. Furthermore, you should understand what different labels mean as different dogs have different nutritional needs. It is also beneficial to supplement your pet food with the right dog supplements to help avoid nutrients deficiency especially during the transitioning period to vegetarian diet.