If you’re reading this, you’re probably a vegetarian yourself. And if you can stay healthy, it’s natural to wonder whether vegetarian diet for dogs can be safe as well. This is especially the case when you have a strong moral dilemma and don’t feel comfortable buying and serving meat for your canine companion.
Here we will present the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet for dogs before we give you the verdict.
Key argument against vegetarian diet for dogs – debunked
One of the strongest arguments against depriving your dog of meat is that dogs have descended from wolves. And we all know that wolves are carnivores. The conclusion we can draw from this is that dogs are also carnivores. This would mean that dogs’ digestive systems are adapted primarily for processing meat.
However, this argument doesn’t give a complete picture.
It might be true that dogs and wolves share 99.9% of their mitochondrial DNA. But does that mean that dog equals wolf? Use your common sense on this one.
So what’s the difference? Research has shown that the most significant genetic differences concern behavioral traits and the ability to digest carbohydrates.
What this actually means is that dogs do belong to the order Carnivora, but they have adapted to being omnivores. Dogs produce more enzymes needed for starch (carbohydrate) digestion compared to true carnivores (such as wolves). In addition, dogs need less protein and amino acids and they can get vitamins A and D from vegetables.
Bottom line: dogs can satisfy all their nutritional needs without eating meat.
What’s more, even your vet can recommend a meatless diet for your dog.
When do vets prescribe a vegetarian diet for dogs?
If vets prescribe them, that means they’re 100% safe, right? Well, maybe. Veterinarians will prescribe a vegetarian diet for dogs only when they can closely monitor the animal’s health.
Special pet foods without meat protein sources are useful in certain occasions. They’re used when it’s necessary to treat or diagnose food allergies, liver disease, and bladder stones.
It’s important to note that these are special prescription foods. These foods have been carefully developed and tested with regards to the animal’s nutritional needs.
Extraordinary Vegan Dog
More and more people are going vegetarian or vegan, and these people are often making the same choice for their pets. We’re slowly adapting as a society to the fact that dogs can stay healthy without eating meat. However, many still insist that dogs might be able to survive but cannot thrive on such a diet.
Owners, however, report fewer health problems and a longer lifespan. One extraordinary example of a vegan dog called Bramble serves as an inspiration. Bramble, a Border Collie on a vegan diet lived a long, happy life alongside her owner.
Vegetarian diet for dogs – Important considerations
While your dog can definitely thrive as a vegetarian, this is not a decision you should make lightly. The safest way to go is to create a balanced diet that includes both meat and plants.
If you make certain mistakes while attempting to switch to a vegetarian diet for dogs, the results will be devastating. These are the cases when you should avoid going through with the transition:
- You don’t completely understand your pet’s needs
- Consulting a vet or a nutritionist is not something you’re willing to do
- Your dog won’t get all the necessary nutrients for whatever reason (and you won’t consider supplements)
- You are not willing or able to make more frequent visits to the vet to monitor progress
- You’re only doing it for yourself and not taking into account your furry friend
- You want to breed your dog
If you’re really intrigued by the idea of a vegetarian diet for dogs, here are some extra tips to help you:
- Talk to your vet
- Talk to a veterinary nutritionist
- Gain a full understanding of your dog’s needs and potential consequences if you don’t meet those needs
- Create a balanced diet plan with the help of a veterinary nutritionist
- Only use commercial pet food that has gone through extensive feeding trials and is AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) compliant
- Grate or cook raw vegetables to ease digestion
- If you notice your dog is not doing well on a diet, take him to the vet and consider going back to animal products
In the end, if you really want a vegetarian or vegan pet and these guidelines seem too difficult to follow, maybe you should consider getting a rabbit instead.