Vegetarian or vegan diets sometimes are viewed controversially in humans, not to mention in dogs. Can you feed your dog a vegetarian diet? Your dog is probably howling NOOOOOO and is trying to destroy your laptop so you do not read any further!
Would Dogo recommend feeding no animal protein diet? In this article, we will shortly review what you need to know.
Protein is a very important part of dog nutrition and a healthy balanced diet should include 18-25% crude protein (dry mass). The dog’s body can not store up protein like other nutrients. Excess protein received will be removed with urine. Therefore it is important that every day’s meal includes a sufficient amount of protein.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Dogs are able to produce themselves about a half of them, but 10 amino acids are essential and your dog should get it with food. Good source of essential amino acids for vegetarian dog diets are soybeans, eggs, algae and rice.
Dogs, unlike people, cannot make vitamin D in their skin and they should receive it with food. When balancing a vegetarian diet for dogs, one should consider how much vitamin B, calcium and phosphor a dog receives. It is especially important in fast-growing puppies of larger breeds. Deficiencies in these elements and vitamins can lead to skeletal problems that would diminish a life quality later on. Dogs absorb vitamin D, B and calcium with phosphor better from meat and animal products than from plants.
Dogs are wolves
Yes, dogs did descend from wolves but they are not wolves. A big study was conducted in 2012 that researched the dog domestication and it showed that more than 10 genes differ from the wild species of wolf and these genes are responsible for starch digestion. Dog’s are able to break down starch from plants and digest the carbohydrates. Actually, it is believed that this ability has contributed greatly to dog domestication.
“For dogs, certainly vegetarian and vegan diets can be done, but they need to be done very, very carefully. There is a lot of room for error, and these diets probably are not as appropriate as diets that contain at least some animal protein,”says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Dogs are omnivores and can adapt well to a vegetarian diet. If you decide to prepare food at home, we would suggest having a veterinary nutritionist who goes over your recipes and checks if you have all the ingredients well balanced out. A small survey of 86 vegetarian dogs found that over 50% of the diets were deficient in protein, essential amino acids, calcium, zinc, vitamins D and B12. The risk for dogs increases as their diet varies less than the one of humans. People consume a great variety of products. Most of us eat 3 different meals per day and snack in between on fruits, nuts, etc. The variety of food decreases the risk of deficiencies.
On the market, we see more suppliers that prepare balanced vegetarian dog foods. This would be the safest way to feed a vegetarian diet. Only consider commercially prepared diets that have gone through trials and meets AAFCO standards.
Whether your dog is allergic and does not tolerate animal-derived protein or has liver, urine bladder problems, or whether it is your own beliefs that motivate you to feed your dog vegetarian diet, it can be done. However, you should ask experts for help in order to balance the diet well or buy a commercially prepared balanced vegetarian food.
⚠️Please be aware, that cats have a very different metabolism than dogs. Many things should be taken into consideration before feeding your cat a no-meat diet and a consultation with a professional is mandatory!
Fun fact! Bramble was a vegan dog that made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. She lived 27 impressive years. We do not know if vegan diet contributed to her longevity, but at least we can say she is in the Guinness book.
Dwyer JT. Nutritional consequences of vegetarianism. Annual reviews of nutrition 1991: 11: 61-69.
McDonald P, Edwards RA, Greenhalgh JFD, et al. Evaluation of foods – protein. In: Animal Nutrition, 5th ed. Harlow (Essex), UK: Longman Scientific and Techincal, 1995.