Being an omnivore is another thing humans have in common with their canine companions. So if it’s safe for you to be on a completely plant-based diet, is it also okay to switch Fido to vegan dog food?
More research is still needed to determine how healthy or unhealthy vegan dog food is; on the other hand, meat-diets are often prescribed by vets for dogs who have digestive problems - so that’s one point in favor of veganism for dogs. If you’re thinking of having your pet pal go vegan, your main concern should be the nutritional quality of his plant-based diet. Read on to learn more about vegan dog food.
Vegan Dog Food - What Does the Science Say?
While closely related to carnivorous wolves, domesticated dogs have evolved to become true omnivores, with the ability to digest plant-based starches and thrive on not just meat, but also a wide variety of food sources, including fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, fish, and poultry.
As omnivores, dogs are biologically able to process and absorb nutrients derived from plants; but does this also mean that they can go completely meat-free?
From a nutritional standpoint, veganism in humans works because vegans can still meet all their nutritional needs from a completely plant-based diet. The same is true for dogs. Meat is mostly a source of high quality protein, but certain plant foods are also great protein sources. Algae, fungi, and yeast, for example, are considered complete proteins as they contain all 10 essential amino acids.
These 10 essential amino acids, just like for humans, can only be derived from the diet - and meat is the common source. But meat does not have monopoly over these essential dietary amino acids.
Amino acids - the building blocks of protein - are responsible for muscle-building, hormone production, immune function, and a host of other important biological processes. So as long as you’re feeding your dog a vegan diet that still delivers all the nutrients he needs to stay healthy, then Fido can live a long, healthy, and happy life completely meat-free.
Is Vegan Dog Food the Best Option for Your Furry Pal?
Switching Fido to a vegan diet due to ethical considerations is still a highly controversial topic. But if you’re focused on your dog’s health, then deciding what’s best for your best bud can be an easier task.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of vegan dog food options for pet owners to choose from. In fact, even major dog food brands are now offering vegetarian and vegan formulas. Unfortunately, most commercial vegan pet foods do not even meet the minimum nutritional requirements for dogs.
When shopping for vegan dog food, it’s important that you always go for high-quality formulas that meet nutritional standards and also ease or even prevent health issues associated with a meat-based diet. Better yet, prepare their vegan meals yourself so you can ensure that they’re healthy.
Because your main concern is your dog’s well-being, you should also be open to compromise. Consider meat-free diets that use eggs or dairy, or go for fish-based dog food. As much as possible, seek the advice of your vet regarding the healthiest plant-based diet options for Fido, whether commercially-made or homemade.
What are the Risks of a Vegan Diet?
Technically speaking, it’s okay for a dog to switch to a vegan diet; in a lot of cases, however, it’s not the ideal option. Depending on your dog’s overall health, his age, and weight, among other factors, a vegan diet pose serious risks.
Domesticated dogs can effectively derive nutrition from plant foods, but they are still more well-adapted to processing meat. Your dog can benefit from the high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other healthy compounds found in fruits and vegetables; but they may find it difficult to meet their daily requirements for protein and healthy fats from plants alone. They will have to eat higher quantities of certain plant foods to get all the protein and fats they need to maintain skin, muscle, bone, and immune health, among others.
Even with the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist, it will be extremely difficult to create a well-balanced diet for Fido using only vegan ingredients. If you opt for a commercial vegan dog food brand, testing different formulas can mean putting your dog’s health at risk for nutrient deficiencies until you find the right one. Again, consult your vet regarding what’s best for your furry pal.
Vegan Dog Food - Final Thoughts
Is vegan dog food healthy? As omnivores, yes, man’s best friend can thrive on a vegan diet. Unlike their wolf cousins who need meat for survival, domesticated dogs are capable of digesting and deriving nutrients from plant sources.
In fact, veterinarians sometimes prescribe meat-free diets when a dog suffers from certain digestive issues or allergies. This means he can do well on a completely plant-based diet. A dog who is also healthy overall can greatly benefit from a diet that excludes all animal food sources. But it’s extremely important that you make sure Fido still gets all the nutrients he needs from his vegan dog food - and this can be tricky. You will have to experiment with different commercially-made vegan dog food brands or homemade recipes. Until you find the vegan formula, you could be putting your best bud’s health at risk for malnutrition and other health conditions.
Your furry friend’s health should always come first. Talk to your vet before making any radical changes to your dog’s diet.