Vegan Dog Food. Is it a good idea?

Hey Pet Parents, 

I’m Jordan Bruce, a vegan holistic nutritionist and dog mom.  Zoey the Doberman just turned 7 years old and has been vegan for the last few years. I’m often asked if she is a puppy and sometimes I wonder if it’s because of her diet.  My dog is a food lover and will eat anything put in front of her face, including tofu, broccoli, carrots, peanut butter and cherry tomatoes. I’ve been vegan for almost a decade now and one day it just hit me, why am I finding my dog meat and fish when she can thrive on a vegan diet? 

Can dogs go vegan? 

Yes, they can because dogs are scavengers. Dogs, just like humans, can live a long healthy life eating plant-based. A dog eating a vegan dog food will consume a similar ratio of carbs, protein and fats compared to a meat based diet. Some of you may have heard about taurine, an amino acid that cats need to get from food. Dogs have the ability to make taurine, meaning it’s not an essential amino acid for their species. The word essential means they don’t need to get it solely from their diet because they synthesize it. Some breeds do need a higher intake of taurine for cardiovascular health and you’ll often see a vegan source of taurine added as a protective measure. A quality organic vegan dog food, such as Gather by Chilliwack’s’ Petcurean or Natural Balances Vegetarian (it’s vegan), gives your pup all the nutrients it needs so you don’t need to worry.  Always opt for pet food certified by AAFCO to ensure it’s a well-balanced safe choice. 

Why are people choosing to feed their dog vegan food?

Three main reasons: the environment, animal welfare and health.

Environment 

Is pet food bad for the environment?

A study published in the journal PLOS One finds that meat consumption by pet dogs and cats creates 64 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Meat production requires more energy and resources than plant-based foods and produces more waste. 

Calling all nature lovers! We know the most effective way as humans is to save mother earth is to eat more plants as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and minimizes agriculture land use. Almost everyone in my circle has a dog so two times a day for however many years they own a dog, they are either contributing to climate change or helping to reverse it. In 2017, Moby, the famous musician and animal advocate, suggested the Los Angeles shelters feed their 33,000 dogs vegan diets for the environmental benefits. I invite you to think of all the natural disasters we have faced in the last decade. I think of everyone who has a child and I hope we make changes now so they live a safe happy life.

As veganism has risen – according to recent research it rose 600% in the US alone between 2014 and 2017 – so has the idea of feeding our companion animals something other than offcuts from the meat industry. The carbon footprint from pet food is considerable. In 2017 it was estimated the carbon emitted from meat consumed by animals was responsible for dumping the equivalent of around 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air every year – the equivalent of driving 13 million cars for a year.” 

Pet food has more meat than what humans are consuming today. This means that dogs and cats are eating 25% of the United States annual meat-based calorie. If we created our own country with cats and dogs, they’d rank 5th in global meat consumption. Russia, Brazil, China and the United States are the first four. 

Animal welfare

As a compassionate person, maybe even an animal empath, I’d feel terrible unnecessarily killing an animal. I wouldn’t be able to take an animal's life or feel good supporting the industry so I don’t rely on others to do it for me. I know, I may not be the average person, but several people in my life switched to a plant-based or vegan diet after adopting a dog. A strong bond naturally develops, you’d do anything for your pet and you realize first-hand how intelligent dogs are. A growing number of people then realize that their dog isn’t that different from a pig, cow or lamb. Speciesism is a misguided belief that one species is more important than another. That society says that pigs, cows and lamb are food, but not cats, horses and dogs are pets. 

Health 

Giving your dog meat based foods because you think their health will suffer by eating plants? Did you know that dogs don’t need to eat meat to get a complete protein? We can combine complement proteins to get all the essential amino acids we need to make a complete protein. Gather by Petcurean combines organic oats and peas together so your dog gets all protein and amino acids. I personally feel eating plants is a healthier alternative than leftover meat scraps from animal agriculture used for commercial dog food. 

Eating the top of the food chain can potentially mean consuming more chemicals and toxins, even carcinogens. The Environmental Working Group (EWG)  did a study testing the blood and urine of dogs and 35 chemicals were detected. Of those, 40% were at higher levels than humans. Dogs can be exposed to toxins present in meat such as arsenic, CDT bacteria, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mercury, melamine and salmonella. When feeding your dog raw meat, you also have to be very diligent about cleaning your counters and washing your hands to prevent you from getting salmonella. I also love supporting organic meat-free food to ensure Zoey is exposed to less chemicals. 

It’s also important to consider if you’re feeding your dog a protein it’s allergic to. Is your dog having a reaction to all the commercial meat based dog foods you’re trying? An easy fix may be switching to a vegan dog food or adding it every other month for more variety in the diet. 

A research study was conducted studying the impacts of giving Siberian Huskies meat-free food. These sprint racing sled dogs had their blood checked 4 times throughout the study. The results showed the dogs on a vegan diet were not more at risk of developing sports anemia than the dogs eating meat. All dogs in the study had a slightly higher level of iron than when they were vegan showing no negative consequences of eating meat-free. 

As a nutritionist, I often talk to clients about their bowel movements so naturally I noticed a shift in Zoey’s after switching her diet. They no longer smell terrible, she goes every morning and the consistency is perfect. I’m not sure if it’s related, but everyone also comments on how Zoey’s coat is so shiny. I will leave you with a thorough paper written comparing meat versus meat-free diets for dogs. If you feel like nerding out and doing your own research, it’s a good place to start. 

Jordan Bruce
IG: jordanbrucerhn
brucesroots.com


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