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I've been dancing around the idea of becoming a vegetarian (or pescatarian) for several years. I reached out to the vegetarian community and landed on an email list where I received daily emails of animals being slaughtered. This was supposed to keep me from falling off the wagon.
No, thank you.
I posted about my plans on social media and some people jumped in to help, others told me about their failures, and one person told me that I was part of the problem. Apparently, the beef industry is suffering due to my lack of consumption of meat. Who knew?
And recently, social media was all abuzz because Dr. Pitcairn said something or other about feeding dogs a vegan diet. Grab the pitchforks and holy water, we've got some work to do.
Thanks to Donald Trump – yep, you read that right, I'm thankful, dammit – I have learned to do a little bit of research before I jump on the bandwagon. I Googled “Pitcairn, Vegan” and found that he's been talking about vegan diets for several years (I didn't scroll all the way down the page) so this isn't new for him.
Put away the pitchforks. Keep the holy water.
A friend of a friend has a dog that is having health issues and the veterinarian recommended a vegan diet. The dog was tested and he's allergic to everything on the face of the planet, except vegetables. Interesting.
My first thought is that the dog isn't allergic to “everything,” the dog is allergic to commercially over-processed kibble and canned food and needs a species appropriate diet of raw muscle meat, organ meat, and bone. With the vegetables sprinkled in the mix, because I like to piss off the Prey Model feeders. Although Hope could care less about my penchant for feeding vegetables.
But I don't say all of that because I've learned that when we Bible thumping raw feeders start shouting the Gospels of the benefits of BARF, people cringe and slowly start looking for the closest exit. Instead, I gently directed my friend (to tell her friend) about raw feeding. They both already know. I guess I wasn't very stealth. She's going to start with freeze-dried raw, feeding novelty proteins.
What is a Vegan Diet for Dogs?
Because dogs are carnivores – and yeah, I think they're carnivores – I can't imagine what a vegan diet looks like. I guess I'd be a smart ass if I told you that it's 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organ meat. Right?
I returned to Google to search for a vegan dog food recipe. Peta has several, but I have issues linking back to their site due to their stance on pit bulls.
Why Would Someone Feed a Vegan Diet
Of course, this is speculation, but my guess is that people are interested in a vegan diet for two reasons:
- Dog parents don't want to support the factory farming industry that is so not humane when slaughtering animals. And please don't lecture me about how slaughtering isn't humane.
- A dog is allergic to every protein known to man (or every protein available at the pet store) and a plant-based diet seems to be the only option left.
Should Dogs Eat a Plant-Based Diet?
I completely understand that if a dog can't eat any protein available to him or her, then a plant-based diet is the only thing left to consider. I get it. But before we run to the organic vegetable aisle of the grocery store, let's consider a few things:
- Dogs are carnivores – just look at their teeth. Their sharp and pointy; meant to tear and rip muscle meat.
- Dogs have shorter digestive systems, which is perfect for the raw food diet. Vegetables take longer to process and dogs may not get the nutrients they need before they've passed through their digestive tract.
- Dogs have trouble digesting vegetables. I spend an hour (or close) pureeing vegetables for my dogs. You can also cook them, but then you lose some of the nutrients and have to add them back, which I wonder if many do through synthetic vitamins – what's the point?
- “Dogs require 22 essential amino acids to handle all their metabolic and energy requirements, but their bodies are only able to produce 12 of the 22. The other 10 must come from the food they eat. Herbivores, with their multiple stomachs and lengthy GI tracts, are able to produce amino acids in huge numbers. But dogs, with their short, simple digestive tracts can't accomplish this feat and must obtain preformed amino acids directly from their diet.” ~ Dr. Karen Becker
But what do I know? I'm just a Dog Nutrition Blogger (not being facetious here). Pretty much everything that comes out of my mouth is a big dose of Opinion with a little sprinkling of Fact to satisfy Google.
Yep, I said it.
So I reached out the veterinarian community to learn if dogs can thrive on a vegan diet. What I got back was a surprise…
“I'm not a holistic veterinarian (not even sure what that is) but I'd be happy to talk to you about feeding and vegan diets.”
And finally, a holistic veterinarian (definition above) responded. Dr. Kellerher is a local veterinarian and raw food proponent.
What Experts Have to Say About Vegan Dogs
Dr. Karen Becker
Rodney Habib, Pet Nutrition Blogger
Dr. Laurie Coger, Healthy Dog Workshop
Dr. Donna Kelleher, Whole Pet Vet
“The amino acid deprivation, as well as the mineral deprivation, which is common in most dogs generally translates to a dog that wants to eat everything! Toilet paper, metal objects, clothes or anything to satisfy that deficiency. These dogs do not live very long and do have a variety of strange health problems. Even with synthetic amino acid supplements, there are still problems and I do not recommend this diet.” ~ Dr. Donna Kelleher, Whole Pet Vet
Dr. Kelleher shared that if feeding a vegan diet is important to a pet parent, then they should adopt a pet that thrives on a vegan diet, like a “bunny, guinea pig or goat, all of which are wonderful pets too.”
Benefits of Feeding a Vegan Diet to Dogs
In my research, I haven't found many benefits other than a dog being intolerant of any meat-based proteins. I'm not going to tell you that this is impossible because I honestly don't know. However, this is the only reason I can think of, besides placing a human's morals onto a dog, that would make someone feed their dog a vegan diet.
However, there are several risks with feeding a dog a vegan diet.
Risks of Feeding a Vegan Diet to Dogs
Dogs are at risk of the following health conditions:
- inflammatory bowel disease
- urinary and kidney issues
- increased allergy systems due to the reliance of grains in the diet
- poor weight gain
- muscle loss
- adrenal issues
Source: Dr. Donna Kelleher, Whole Pet Vet
And, now, there are folks who believe that a high-carb diet may lead to heart disease in dogs.
When I compare a vegan diet to a raw food diet, the first thing that comes to mind is that a dog doesn't experience the following:
- teeth cleaning – raw meaty bones and recreational bones floss and scrape the tartar from the teeth.
- living enzymes – the enzymes in a raw food diet help promote a healthy digestive system for dogs.
- natural vitamins and minerals – a raw food diet offers a full array of vitamins and minerals for our dogs; green tripe alone is a superfood, it's all natural, it helps clean teeth, and the dogs go crazy for that smell.
So, Should We Feed Our Dogs a Vegan Diet?
Nope. No, we shouldn't. Unless we're under strict orders and guidance of a holistic vet. But if the choice to feed a vegan diet is because you worry about the treatment of the animals you'll be feeding to your dog, then switch to raw feeding, find a reputable co-op, butcher, hunters, or buy from a reputable brand like Darwin's Pet, Answers Pet Food, or Raw Paws Pet Food (or many others).
Read More About Raw Feeding for Dogs
- 5 Reasons Why Commercial Raw Diets Aren't Balanced
- 3 Reasons Why I Feed Whole Prey Raw Foods to my Dogs
- My Easy Raw Feeding Meal Prep Routine (Only 5 Steps)
- How I Use CBD Oil Effectively with Each of My Dogs
- When Raw Dog Food Spoils After a Power Outage