What is Vegetarian Diet?
Dogs are, in their natural habitat, omnivorous-- able to eat a large variety of both animal and plant matter without experiencing too many digestive difficulties. This is a matter of necessity, as harsh winters or droughts can kill off whole populations of prey animals or defoliate a large area, making adaptability essential for pack animals such as canines to survive. It logically follows then, that it may be possible for a dog to survive on a purely vegetarian diet and this is a practice followed by some owners for ideological reasons, as well as vets for medical ones. However, in medical cases, the diet is most often temporary, enabling the vet to administer treatment more effectively, or to make a diagnostic decision. Though not commonly used nowadays due to the prevalence of effective pharmaceuticals, a vegetarian diet may still be used to assist dogs in specific cases.
Vegetarian Diet Procedure in Dogs
The process of changing the diet of most dogs will be quite slow and gradual. This is because in order to prevent the dog from rejecting the new food and refusing to eat, it will be necessary to slowly wean them off their normal food over the course of a week or so. During this time, more and more of each meal will be replaced by vegetables until no meat remains. It is imperative that owners make sure to avoid including vegetables that are toxic to dogs such as onions and avocado, though the vet will most likely be able to provide advice in this regard. After the changeover is completed, it is important for owners to monitor the dog's energy levels to make sure that they are not experiencing serious side effects. A lack of protein can sometimes cause especially infirm dogs to become particularly lethargic.
Efficacy of Vegetarian Diet in Dogs
The results of the vegetarian diet will be apparent very soon after it commences, with bad digestive reactions to the animal's normal diet fading away as it is phased out. Additionally, the problem ingredient will cause an immediately obvious reaction, allowing the vet to quickly identify it. Meanwhile, the lack of good nutrition for parasites will lessen their activity somewhat, slightly reducing irritation caused by their presence. That said, a fair number of vets are of the opinion that the vegetarian diet is outmoded as both a means of treatment and as a diagnostic tool, as modern methods of taking a biopsy of infected tissue and ever-stronger drugs can often be faster solutions. That said, a simple diet change is much less invasive than a surgical procedure such as a biopsy.
Vegetarian Diet Recovery in Dogs
After the dog's condition has been diagnosed and treated, the animal will be able to resume its normal dietary habits (assuming that they are healthy ones). At this point, it will again be required that the change in foodstuffs is gradual, so that a sudden reintroduction of meat into the dog's system does not cause further digestive problems. Also, the dog should try to resume regular exercise as soon as is possible, so that it does not gain an unhealthy amount of weight as it returns to a more calorific diet.
Cost of Vegetarian Diet in Dogs
The main advantage of treatment methods such as dietary changes is that they are very low cost. In fact, due to the relative disparity in nutritional value between meat-based and vegetarian dog foods, it can often be less expensive to feed the dog vegetables. The drugs required to treat the underlying problem, however, can be quite expensive, with a course of antibiotics running close to $100 in price and anti-parasite medications costing slightly more.
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Dog Vegetarian Diet Considerations
As dogs typically prefer to eat meat whenever possible, it is understandable that many people have concerns that a vegetarian diet may cause health problems for the animal, especially if they are already sick. This can be somewhat true if owners do not follow the advice of their vet to the letter, however, as there are numerous vegetables that are toxic to dogs. Additionally, seemingly benign foods can cause digestive problems, especially grains, as the dog's stomach finds it hard to break them down. Similarly, a lack of protein can, on a long-term basis, cause the dog significant difficulties, meaning that high-protein vegetables such as squashes must be selected in order to keep the animal healthy if the diet is to extend for a significant period of time.
Vegetarian Diet Prevention in Dogs
The most common conditions that will necessitate a change to a vegetarian diet are parasites and liver or kidney disease. Unfortunately, the symptoms of these conditions can be quite subtle early on, making it hard to catch them in their early stages and eliminate them. However, these problems can be avoided with some simple steps. The first of these is for owners to keep a close eye on what their dog is eating, making sure that they are staying well away from things like poisonous plants that could attack the internal organs, or even feces left by other animals that may be carrying worms. The second is to have them vaccinated against common diseases, as these conditions can quickly cause widespread damage if not attended to, yet they are so easy to sidestep.