Can You Feed Your Dog a Vegetarian Diet?
The food you eat and how you eat is usually based on your culture, background, beliefs, and how health-conscious you are. But can these same diets and habits work for your pets as well?
Feeding your dog a primarily vegetarian or vegan diet comes with many challenges because of the physiological differences and essential nutrients required in dogs. But can it be healthy for your pet?
How Healthy Is a Vegetarian Diet?
Increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in a diet leads to better health. Not only are fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they also contain high amounts of water, fiber, and volume.
An increase of fiber within your dog's diet is linked to a decreased diabetes risk with significantly lower blood glucose volumes alongside lowered cholesterol levels (1).
Foods containing fiber and high water content are associated with improved digestive health and gut microbiome composition. An imbalance in your pet's gut bacteria composition can lead to intestinal inflammation and decreased immune function (2).
Because the health of your dog's gut microbiome is essential for overall well-being, increasing fiber intake through more fruits and vegetables will be beneficial.
Is It Safe?
Both cats and dogs usually eat a diet of primarily meat products. However, unlike cats, who lack the genetic adaptations to thrive on an omnivorous diet, dogs have several adaptations due to their ancestral need to partially thrive off human scraps.
The domestic dog is mostly omnivorous because dogs have evolved to survive on a lower protein diet and efficiently process carbohydrates (3). From an evolutionary basis, feeding your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet is safe. However, a lot of care is needed to monitor their health throughout the process.
Starting to incorporate more vegetarian-based dog food slowly is essential. During this time, track the dog’s physical and mental health. Notice any changes in behavior. Are they more lethargic? Are they defecating more than usual? How is their appetite?
Sometimes, measuring their urine output and acidity will be essential to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of vitamins and trace minerals (4). Double-check with a veterinarian if any concerns arise or extra help is needed. Consulting with a veterinarian is also recommended if your pet has any underlying medical conditions.
What Does a Vegetarian or Vegan Dog Diet Contain?
When it comes to giving your dog a vegetarian diet, ensuring the diet fulfills all nutritional requirements is crucial. Failure to make sure all their dietary needs are met can have deadly consequences, especially in the long-term.
Supplementation is often needed to enable the easy consumption of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D is not absorbed through sunlight in dogs and must be obtained through their diet. Vitamin B12, zinc, and calcium usually come from meat products, so care is needed to upkeep the proper levels. Finally, taurine and L-carnitine are both essential amino acids needed for overall health (5).
When looking for vegetarian or vegan dog food, make sure the product contains these vitamins and minerals in sufficient amounts. Also, ensure they are eating from a wide range of food sources.
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Dogs thrive mainly on beans and legumes since soy and dairy products tend to irritate their digestion. Adding some eggs into their diets is good since they’re high in protein, and most dogs love eating them raw.
Carbohydrates include rice, rolled oats, and other grains like quinoa or buckwheat. Most dog foods contain adequate amounts of carbohydrates, but if you're feeding them these foods by themselves, make sure they are well-cooked and softened.
Fats such as flaxseed oil or other cold-pressed oils are needed to ensure your dog gets enough essential fatty acids.
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables provide adequate amounts of fiber and "bulk" to your dog's diet, which is vital for their digestion and overall health. They also contain many vitamins and minerals and make a great addition to a balanced diet. Most dogs love vegetables and fruits such as pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, and berries.
Vegetarian and Vegan Dog Food Products
While changing your dog's entire diet to a vegetarian or vegan one can be achieved if carefully maintained, a less drastic approach is to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and grains into their meals. You can add these foods to their usual daily diet.
Introducing fruit-based and vegetable-based dog food products is another safe and tasty way to ensure your canine gets a wide range of vitamins and minerals from a variety of different food sources. With so many fruit-based and vegetable-based dog food supplements available, incorporating more vegetarian or vegan options into their diets has never been easier. This can improve their overall well-being, from their digestion to the health of their skin and coat.
AppleLove's Fruit and Vegetable Blend and Transition Blend are great supplements for your dog. They're both great as an addition to your dog’s diet or as a tasty treat full of essential micronutrients.
The Bottom Line
You can feed your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, you must ensure that your dog’s nutritional targets are met through a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
Adding some plant-based variety to your pet’s food will give your furry friend an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. Great food means a happier, healthier dog and peace of mind as a dog owner.