It looks like I may soon be sharing my new home with a beautiful big diva of the canine persuasion. Therefore, I figured it would be a good time to read up about dogs and a vegan diet – and share my learnings here. Companion animals globally have a massive environmental footprint. So if it’s possible to reduce their impact while keeping them healthy, happy and thriving, why not?
Omnivores can thrive on plants
For the same reasons that humans can thrive on a plant-based diet, so can our canine friends. After all, our dogs are omnivores too, and can digest a wide variety of foods including plants and animal flesh. Even though our evolution followed different paths, humans and dogs alike have developed an amazing ability to metabolise nutrients from all kinds of sources. Indeed, humans and dogs can survive and thrive on an exclusively plant-based diet.[Cats and other felines, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores. Which is to say, their survival depends on nutrients that are only found in animal flesh. That said, some sources claim that it’s possible to synthesise those nutrients, and supplement a plant-based diet for cats.]
Reducing our doggo’s environmental footprint
Just as the meat that humans eat has an enormous environmental impact [mfn]a beef burger uses almost 15 times more water than a soy burger[/mfn], the same goes for the meat fed to companion animals. Whether it’s grass-fed beef or factory-farmed chicken scraps, meat-based food has a much bigger impact than plant-based.
So how do you go about feeding a dog a plant-based diet? Nowadays there are vegan dog foods (kibble) available on the market – but they can be pretty expensive. After all, they’re catering to a niche market, and they’re not propped up by meat industry subsidies. The good news is that with some careful planning, you can batch-prep your pup’s vegan food in your own kitchen.
Do your research
There are plenty of online resources and recipes, but definitely do your own research. Learn about your dog’s particular nutritional needs, including their requirements for protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The nice thing about good quality store-bought kibble is that it should be fortified with the vitamins and minerals. These nutrients might not be present in home-cooked plant-based foods, but if you do your homework, you should be able to add a couple of supplements to ensure that your pup gets what they need.
And hey, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You could vary your dog’s diet and feed them a vegan meal a couple times a week, or you could reduce the amount of meat they eat at each meal by adding vegan food to the mix. Just like with humans, ‘flexitarianism’ is a valid option for dogs!
If you’ve got experience feeding dogs a vegan diet, I’d love to hear from you – pop me a comment 🙂 This is just the start of something new for me; I am no expert on dog nutrition. Please do your own research and consult with your vet before making any changes to your buddy’s diet.