Many people are surprised to learn that not only can dogs enjoy vibrant health on a vegan diet, but just like people, their physical condition actually improves as a result of eliminating animal products and bi-products from their meal plans.
By genus, dogs may be classified as carnivorous, but metabolically, they are actually omnivorous. This means that their nutritional requirements can be adequately met with a plant-based diet – as they can source or synthesize all the nutrients they require from plant foods with supplementation. This is wonderful news for many of us who are already vegan and feel completely out of our comfort zone feeding our companion friends unhealthy torture and cruelty. It therefore makes perfect logical sense to transition them for health reasons mostly but also in order to decrease our carbon foot print on the planet.
If you have never considered this option or thought that it was not possible then we shall with confidence help you in the right direction. We have spoken to many vegans who have already done so and their canines are in perfect health! There is no reason why you can’t make the switch for them. It is very easy to cut meat, eggs and dairy from his diet for health and ethical reasons. With the vegan diet enjoying a positive widespread exposure, it should come as little surprise that ‘pet’ owners might want to project those ideals onto their canine companions.
The health hazards of commercial meat-based:
The health hazards of commercial meat-based pet foods are extensive, and difficult to avoid. They include slaughterhouse waste products; 4-D meat (from dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals); old or spoiled supermarket meat; large numbers of rendered dogs and cats from animal shelters; old restaurant grease, complete with high concentrations of dangerous free radicals and trans fatty acids; damaged or spoiled fish, complete with dangerous levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxins; pathogenic bacteria, protozoa, viruses, fungi and prions, and their associated endotoxins and mycotoxins; hormone and antibiotic residues; and dangerous preservatives. The combined results are rendered so delicious to cats and dogs by the addition of ‘digest’ – a soup of partially dissolved chicken entrails – that more than 95% of companion animals subsist primarily on commercial meat-based diets.
Unsurprisingly, diseases described in the scientific literature following long-term maintenance of cats and dogs on commercial meat-based diets include kidney, liver, heart, neurologic, eye, muscoloskeletal and skin diseases, bleeding disorders, birth defects, immunocompromisation and infectious diseases. Degenerative diseases such as cancer, kidney, liver and heart failure are far more common than they should be, and many are likely to be exacerbated or directly caused by the numerous hazardous ingredients of commercial meat-based cat and dog diets.
Vegetarian diets: a healthy alternative:
On the other hand, studies and numerous case reports have shown that nutritionally sound vegan companion animal diets appear to be associated with the following health benefits: increased overall health and vitality, decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism, ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites), improved coat condition, allergy control and less irritations, less dandruff or excess shedding, weight control, arthritis regression, diabetes regression and cataract resolution, improvement in breath and no stinky poos, longer life, and a general positive boost to their immune systems.
Creating a balanced diet that makes up for the loss of animal protein with substitutions of beans, soy and, to a lesser extent, vegetables and grains is key!
Many dogs with food allergies, benefit switching to a vegan diet. They also avoid taking in animal by-products from commercially produced dog food, including slaughterhouse waste products and rejects that wouldn’t be fit for human consumption. We’ve seen so much cancer and other degenerative diseases in dogs in recent years so it’s easy to suspect that pet food is a contributor.
For those who have embraced a vegan diet for their dogs, say they have living and breathing proof that it works. Their dogs are normal, healthy, energetic and rambunctious!
The important thing is that you put together a well balanced diet following a few easy guidelines that have been tried and tested over the past 30 years or so. Today it is absolutely possible to find a good quality commercial vegan dog food from a reputable vegan supplier that doesn’t have animal products in it. Please check that they have gone through proper feed control trials. If you have the time and prefer to cook meals from scratch to save on costs, it is easy to do so, once again on advice from tried and tested recipes that offer all the nutrients and a good balance of essentials needed (this is much easier than you think). We shall show you how.
You can now find all the vegan alternatives and you are able to produce nutritionally-balanced food for both cats and dogs.
Putting Together a Basic Meal:
At least a third to a half of your dog’s meal should consist of a quality protein source. The remaining portion can be made up of a variety of whole grains, raw and cooked vegetables, as well as certain supplemental items. (please refer some of our suggested listing below).
The Vegan Dog Nutrition Association recommends that the base of the meal be comprised of soybeans, lentils, rice, oats and sweet potatoes. Pinto beans are the most non-allergenic food for vegan dogs, and (along with sweet potatoes and carrots), they provide a good basis for their diet. Pinto beans and sweet potatoes can also be used exclusively for up to 6 to 8 weeks to determine whether your dog is suffering from food allergies.
Note: All legumes should be well-cooked (until very soft) and preferably mashed or puréed in a food processor.
Adding a sprinkling of sea vegetable flakes such as kelp or dulse helps to ensure a dietary source of minerals.
Dogs can enjoy fruit in small amounts if they will eat it. Our dogs enjoy a variety of fruits, ranging from bananas, apples and orange, to watermelon! Just make sure that you don’t feed your dog fruit too close to a high-protein meal. The enzymes are different and can cause digestive discomfort.
Protein & Carbohydrates:
A dog’s protein requirement need is higher than ours. To ensure that your dog gets enough, make sure that approximately a third to a half of their meal consists of a high-quality protein source (such as well-cooked legumes – pintos, chick peas, soy beans, lentils, sprouted lentils, garbanzo beans, and split peas, tofu, and tempeh (are all good).
Unless your dog requires a grain-free diet for health reasons, well-cooked whole grains are good sources of both protein and carbohydrates, as well as other nutrients such as B vitamins. We’ve found that whole grains in moderation work really well for our dogs, including brown rice, quinoa, millet, polenta (corn grits) or blended fresh corn kernels, oats, barley, and buckwheat.
Seitan (wheat-meat) is a high-protein vegan ‘meat’ made from gluten flour. Dogs absolutely love it, and (just like with humans) seitan can be a great help when ‘veganizing’ a formerly carnivorous dog. But since wheat gluten should not be consumed to excess, seitan ought to remain just an occasional treat for dogs as they are not very healthy to eat on a regular basis.
Enzymes & Beta-carotene:
Sweet potatoes, carrots and other orange-colored root vegetables are important sources of beta-carotene, and should be included on a regular basis (cut finely and/or mashed). Regular potatoes (in small pieces or mashed) are also fine to include on occasion, but they do not include this important nutrient. Dogs convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is a necessary nutrient that is hard for them to get elsewhere in a plant-based diet.
Other vegetables (also cut finely and/or mashed) are good to include whenever possible, for the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. The best choices are pumpkin, squash, yams, carrots, and also other small bits of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cooked cabbage, etc. Raw, grated carrot and/or beetroot is good, as well as sprouts, and/or raw, dark leafy greens, finely chopped and mixed in well with their meals.
Some authorities recommend adding digestive enzymes to a dog’s diet, though this is not something we’ve had reason to be concerned about. The company Harbingers of a New Age sells a product called Prozyme; a supplement for dogs that contains all of the enzymes they require.
There are also some excellent supplements available for dogs, cats and other companion animals that are made from dark green leafy vegetables and other highly nutritious plant foods. One such product (which also happens to contain all the essential digestive enzymes as well as a comprehensive probiotic mixture) is called Green Mush, produced by Health Force Nutritionals. Green Mush is a whole food, green plant based powder, that includes large amounts of CoQ10, which is a powerful antioxidant involved in energy production and longevity. The owners of Health Force state that the product can be helpful for dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, ferrets, squirrels, other mammals and human animals too! Health Force Nutritionals is an excellent resource for both human and nonhuman nutritional needs.
Taurine, L-Carnitine & B12:
Vegetarian dog specialists and most companies that sell vegan dog food advise adding taurine and L-carnitine to the diets of vegan dogs. These are two amino acids that are naturally found in animal flesh, but do not naturally occur in plants. Dogs cannot synthesize these nutrients themselves. Deficiencies can be potentially serious, so a supplement is an important preventative measure. Both of these nutrients can be bought at your local health food store, and they are also included in many commercial vegan dog products.
Another supplement that we have included in our dogs’ diets is nutritional yeast; either Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula or Lotus Brands – both of which are rich in B vitamins, and are fortified with Vitamin B12. Whether or not you include nutritional yeast in your dog’s food, you should make sure that they receive an adequate source of B12.
Note: Harbingers of a New Age provides a supplement called ‘VegeDog’, which provides two of these: Vitamin B12 and taurine. One month’s supply of this fantastic product costs just $12.00. That’s only 40 cents per day to make sure that your dog is getting these important nutrients, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
Oils & Essential Fatty Acids:
Dogs need a certain amount of oil in their diets, and if they’re lacking it, their coat will be a clear sign. A lusterless coat can transform after a few days of including a nutritious oil in the diet, such as flax. A dog’s oil requirements can also be met with 1-2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed butter), flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, or ground flax seeds, coconut oil is great too. A teaspoon or two of organic sunflower, olive, or coconut oil poured over their food will get them to eat anything! Flax and hemp have the added benefit of being Omega-rich.
There are many studies that confirm the powerful healing benefits of giving dogs flax seed oil or another fatty acid blend. To ensure your dogs are receiving the necessary essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, & 9), add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of vegan essential fatty acid oil. Flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, or 1 teaspoon of ground or soaked flax seeds. (This is beneficial for vegan humans as well). ‘Total EFA’ oil also serves other purposes such as helping joint function and coat health. These oils are especially important for senior dogs.
Vega EFA Oil Blend is made from a combination of antioxidant and phytonutrient rich seed oils including green tea seed oil and blueberry seed oil. Deva and V-Pure are now producing vegan DHA, long chain fatty-acids from seaweed in a capsule for humans, which you can share with your companion animals.
Cranimals organic supplements contain vegan EFAs like DHA and ALA, as well as beta-carotene and a host of other valuable phytonutrients (urinary tract, dental and heart healthy antioxidants from berry extracts and vitamins and minerals from organic spirulina). The powdered and liquid Cranimals supplements for dogs and cats, as well as their Zendog biscuits, supply EFAs from algae, flax and cranberries.
Being a responsible guardian for any animal means making an effort to ensure that his or her diet is nutritionally complete, just as you would for yourself. The best thing you can do for your animal friends is to continue to keep yourself informed, as new research being released all the time.
Go organic where you can.
Quality protein source:
Garbanzo beans (cooked, ground/blended).
Pinto beans are the most non-allergenic food for vegan dogs
Lentils (cooked, mashed and or processed)
Split peas (cooked, mashed and or processed)
TVP (textured vegetable protein)
Variety of whole grains:
Vegetables raw and cooked:
Orange-colored root vegetables are important sources of beta-carotene
Dark leafy greens (raw and cooked = calcium and iron supplementation)
Essential fatty acids
Nutritional yeast (great source of B12)
Sea vegetable flakes such as kelp or dulse helps to ensure a dietary source of minerals
Flax seed oil
Hemp seed oil
Herbs: In small amounts and always check with your vegan vet
Please share your successes with us in switching your canines to a healthy cruelty free diet and do help us update our page here for others to share. We would love to hear from you! Are your dogs vegan yet? Have you stopped supporting the cruel factory farming industries, pet, zoo and other entertainment trades, as well as domestic breeding programmes? Do let us know!