More and more humans are becoming vegan for a variety of reasons, including environmental, health, and personal belief factors. While being vegan as a human still provides numerous food options that allow people to be healthy even without protein from meat, some people are even extending their veganism onto their pets.
But can dogs be healthy on a vegan diet? Is it safe for dogs to eat a vegan diet? What can dogs eat on a vegan diet?
Let’s take a look at whether or not it is safe to feed your dog a vegan diet, and if it is, what you should be feeding them to supplement the protein they need in their diets.
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Signs Dogs Shouldn't Live on a Vegan Diet
While it is possible for dogs to live on a vegan diet, there are many signs and scientific explanations for this type of diet being unhealthy for most dogs. Although dogs evolved to be omnivores, cutting meat from your dog’s diet can lead to severe nutrient deficiencies if not done properly, especially when you consider that dogs actually require a higher-protein diet than humans.
Since protein provides dogs with essential fatty acids that can’t be found elsewhere, you risk skin and coat problems with a dog that lacks meat in their diet. These problems can include itching, flaky skin, and more. Eye problems have also been found in dogs that have been switched to an unbalanced vegan diet.
When switching your dog to a vegan diet, it is likely that you will need to provide a number of different supplements to prevent further health issues such as malnourishment.
If your dog becomes malnourished, you may notice that they are weak and lethargic, shaky, disinterested in food and water, and generally unhappy.
You may notice that your dog isn’t nearly as interested in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods as they are in meat. That’s because dogs like meat. Many dogs may be completely disinterested in food that doesn’t contain any meat at all. Other dogs will eat pretty much anything you put in front of them.
If your dog is lacking important nutrients, you may start to notice these significant changes in your dog’s attitude and behavior:
- Skin and coat issues
- Eye health deterioration
History of Dogs Living on Vegan Diets
While veganism isn’t a new concept, for the most part, it is a new concept for our pets. According to Vegetarian Dogs, which was founded in 1992, it is perfectly safe to feed dogs a vegetarian or vegan diet. Not much was said about veganism in dogs prior to 1992, which could mean that many people weren’t concerned about their dogs eating meat-based foods before this time.
In recent years, veganism among humans has exploded, and more and more people are hoping to take their dogs off of meat-based foods to keep in-line with their moral, ethical, and health beliefs. Veterinarians have mixed views on whether or not it is a good idea to switch dogs onto a vegetarian or vegan diet unless medically necessary. Without a carefully designed diet, dogs can quickly become malnourished with the proper amount of protein.
Today, there are numerous dog food brands that sell vegetarian and vegan dog foods. While these foods can be difficult to find and expensive, if you, with the permission of your veterinarian, decide to move your dog onto a vegan or vegetarian diet, you should select one of these foods. If you want to make homemade vegan food for your dog, you should work with a veterinary nutritionist to do so in a way that is safe for your dog.
Science Behind Dogs Vegan Diets for Dogs
It may seem easy to transition your dog to a vegan diet, but dogs are omnivores, which means that they would eat both plants and animals in the wild.
To keep a dog healthy on a vegan diet, you need to be sure that you are providing your dog with an ample amount of protein coming from beans, corn, soy, or whole grains. Proteins provide necessary amino acids that dogs need to stay healthy, but there are some vitamins and minerals that dogs receive from protein that they otherwise may not be able to get.
For example, dogs can create vitamin D in their skin, and they need D3, which is only found in animal sources, unlike D2, which is found in plants. Pets also need taurine, and dogs can only produce taurine when they have appropriate dietary protein.
Veterinarians will probably warn anyone considering a vegetarian or vegan diet for their dog to be extremely cautious. The lack of protein, amino acids, and certain vitamins and minerals can lead to serious health problems, including eye problems and an enlarged heart.
In case you were wondering, most veterinarians wouldn’t recommend switching cats to a vegan diet due to the additional protein they require to stay healthy.
Training Your Dog to Eat a Vegan Diet
If you decide that you want to make the switch over to vegan dog food, you need to be considerate of your dog’s needs. The first step would be to speak to your veterinarian. In some cases, it may not be possible to safely feed your dog only vegan food, and if that is the case, you should not move forward with a vegan diet.
If your veterinarian believes that your pet can live a happy, healthy life without meat, then you will need to work with a veterinary nutritionist to develop a plan for your dog. In many cases, you will need to provide your pet with plenty of plant-based proteins and supplements to make up for certain substances and nutrients that can’t be found in plants.
Feeding your dog a vegan diet isn’t natural, and generally isn’t appropriate. Supplements are chemically synthesized nutrients, and while they are fine to give to your dog, they aren’t nearly as good as the real deal, which would normally be available to your dog without the supplement.
In some instances, vegan diets may not only be okay for your dog, they may be medically necessary. If your dog has food allergies that include meat, then a vegan diet may be the only safe option for your dog. Dogs with frequent bladder stones and liver disease may also be put on vegan diets for their health.
Veterinarians also warn owners against feeding dogs a vegan diet to please themselves. If you want a pet that can live off of a vegan diet and still be healthy, consider getting a pet that already eats a vegan diet, such as a goat, rabbit, hamster, or another rodent.
Safety Tips for Feeding Your Dog a Vegan Diet
Work with a veterinary nutritionist to come up with a safe vegan diet for your dog.
Keep an eye on your dog's health and seek a vet if problems start.
Ensure that your dog is getting enough protein to stay healthy without meat.
Provide your pet with necessary supplements.
Understand that vegan diets aren't appropriate for all dogs and that it may not be an option for your dog.