It’s should come as no surprise that many animal-loving vegetarians find preparing meat for others to be rather loathsome. For some, this holds true even when feeding their pets. Perhaps you have wondered, “I’m vegan, can my dog be vegan, too?” As it turns out, yes, vegan dogs can be happy and healthy.
Evolution of Man’s Best Friend
Dogs are not carnivores. Rather, they evolved biologically as omnivores. According to a publication by the National Academies on pet nutrition, dogs’ bodies are ‘remarkably adaptable to a wide range of ingredients’ and can thrive on a vegetarian diet.
A 2013 study published in Nature discovered that dogs possess genes that enable them to digest starches 28 times better than wolves, a distinct trait that sets them apart from their Canis lupus ancestors. Geneticist Robert Wayne, who studies ancient dog genomes at UCLA, commented on the study,
“Every day I get an email from a dog owner who asks, should they feed their dog like a wolf. I think this paper answers that question: no.”
Dogs aren’t the only caniforms (a suborder of the order carnivora) who are ultimately omnivores. Consider raccoons, skunks and bears, none of which are true carnivores. Believe it or not, the diet of black bears can be up to 75% plant based!
Health Benefits for Canines
When humans switch to a whole-foods vegan diet, the health benefits are plentiful. For dogs, health benefits are likely to follow as well. Armaiti May, a Los Angelos-based veterinarian and vegan, has seen many dogs with food allergies benefit from a vegan diet. Additionally, traditional pet foods filled with slaughterhouse by-products may play a role in cancer and other degenerative diseases that our pets face.
V-Dog, a vegan dog food company founded in 2005, has pages upon pages of testimonials from appreciative pet parents. The testimonials say that switching to V-Dog has helped their pets with a variety of ailments including allergies, diabetes, arthritis, sensitive stomachs as well as skin and coat issues.
Fewer maladies means longer, happier lives. Would you believe one of the world’s longest-lived dogs, Bramble, was a vegan border collie who lived to be 27 years old? His mom fed him a balanced diet of rice, veggies and lentils. There are many vegan dogs thriving today, but Bramble is just one of the more famous examples. Her mom even wrote a book, available on Kindle.
Making the Switch
If feeding your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet is important to you, there are plenty of options available. In addition to the vegan-owned family companies like V-Dog, many commercial brands offer vegetarian options as well. Royal Canin, Natural Balance, Halo, PetGuard, Nature’s Recipe and AvoDerm all sell vegetarian or vegan dog food.
You can also make homemade dog food if you fancy yourself a chef or just have extra time to prepare it. Be aware that a common mistake of homemade dog food recipes — vegetarian and omnivore alike — is not balancing nutritional needs adequately. So be sure to follow an evaluated recipe (there are even cookbooks for vegan dogs!) to ensure your pet gets enough protein and other essential nutrients. Additionally, your dog’s nutritional needs varies with age so your recipe should be age-appropriate, too.
More important than whether your dog eats meat-based or vegan dog food is that he or she gets high-quality food with wholesome ingredients. After all, they are family and should be treated the same way, don’t you think?