The vegan diet is becoming increasingly popular, whether for environmental, health or animal welfare reasons. But if people can live with this way of life, what about our four-legged friends? Can dogs eat vegan without harming their health? The question arises, especially as vegan dog food brands are on the rise. Needs, precautions, contraindications: we tell you everything you need to know before you think about changing your dog’s diet.
First of all, you need to learn about the dog’s diet and needs. The dog is not a strict carnivore. Over the course of its domestication by humans, its feeding behavior has evolved and today approaches that of an omnivore. This means that if meat is an integral part of his diet (one third of the ration), the dog can also eat vegetables, fruits or starchy foods. Therefore, the issue of veganism in dogs may arise.
Can a Vegan Diet Meet a Dog’s Needs?
“The dog is an omnivorous animal, so it can adapt to a vegan diet, making sure it gets enough vegetable protein,” says Francis Périn, veterinarian in Salbris (Loir-et-Cher), interviewed by Futura Sciences† The issue of protein is central as dogs need 30 to 35% more than humans. Opinions are divided on this particular point. “It’s rare to see vegetarian foods that contain enough protein. In addition, the fact that proteins are only plant-based poses two problems: either they are in the same sources as carbohydrates and thus provide an excessive amount of these carbohydrates that are bad digested, causing digestive discomfort; or they come from seeds (…) not very palatable when added to a food in large quantities”argues Géraldine Blanchard, veterinary clinical nutrition specialist, with Science and future† The Practical Vegan site believes that “The needs of dogs are very well known and quantified. Most brands, vegan or not, base themselves on this need and adequately supplement the preparations”†
Indeed, brands that offer vegan croquettes or pâtés for dogs must add certain additives to their preparation, in order to meet the animals’ needs for vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Dogs need 3 times more calcium than humans, as well as phosphorus, which is not very present in plant products. They should also consume taurine and L-carnitine, which are found in raw meat. “Both are now usually added to dog food, whether vegetarian or not, as they do not occur naturally in cooked meats”says Practically Vegan.
Industrial or homemade food, the same fight?
More and more vegan croquettes or pâtés for dogs are appearing online or in the store. Most are prepared with corn, wheat, peas or even potatoes and vegetable oils. These products are supplemented with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. “We can consider that an industrial vegetarian diet is possible, if the nutrients necessary for good animal health are added to it in synthetic forms”urges Géraldine Blanchard to Science and future† Practical Vegan’s website recommends checking the composition of industrial products to ensure they can meet the above needs.
For people who prefer to cook for their pets, the site says it is “necessary to buy the mentioned additives in powder form on the Internet or in specialized stores”† A list of “mandatory” supplements has been prepared by Vegan Pratique, here (bottom of page). The Veganimalis site offers advice and recipe ideas for developing vegan household rations for dogs.
Are there any precautions and contraindications?
If it is possible to feed your dog vegan, industrial or cooked food, it is still necessary to take some precautions. The household ration without animal products, ie the homemade vegan meal, like the industrial ration, should be developed with the help of a veterinarian to ensure nutritional and digestive qualities. For example, keep in mind that raw vegetables need to be grated or blended to improve their digestibility. “A vegan diet can also cause digestive problems because the amount of carbohydrates needed to make up for the protein is too much for their gut to digest”can we read on? Futura Sciences† The opinion of the health professional is therefore essential.
If you decide to take the plunge, see your vet regularly to make sure your dog supports this new diet. Some ingredients in vegan kibble and pates may not be well tolerated and you will need to watch for the appearance of skin and gastrointestinal problems or other health problems that your animal has not shown before. Finally, it should be checked that the dog does not lose muscle mass and maintains a normal weight after adopting this new diet.
In general, the vegan diet is contraindicated in a growing puppy, in sports dogs, in a breeding period and in dogs that need to follow a special diet related to a pathology.
Think before deciding
For the well-being of your dog and yours, it is especially necessary to think about the reasons that lead you to choose one or another diet for your animal. Indeed, if you are a vegan yourself, it can seem paradoxical to feed your dog with the body of another animal that has not been entitled to the same treatment. Whether or not the vegan diet is “natural”, “it needs to be made clear that if we really want our dogs and cats to eat naturally, we have to feed them mice, birds or other small animals, or let them hunt”supports the Peta France association.
But for others, the vegan diet, whatever the motivations, is not self-evident. “Feeding a dog vegan makes no more sense than feeding a rabbit mice. This is a lack of respect for his basic needs.” believes Dr. Géraldine Blanchard, in an article in the World† “Otherwise, your best bet is to choose a vegetarian, herbivore, or grain-eating pet. There are many, very cute, a rabbit, a bird…but avoid carnivores,” she adds.
If opinions on vegan food for dogs are divided, especially among veterinarians, there is one thing everyone agrees on: the animal’s health. In all cases, it is essential to validate and verify the diet chosen for your partner with a health professional.