Dogs are man’s best friend. So it follows that we’d want our best friends to enjoy the same things that make us happy and healthy. This is why it more pet owners are now switching their dogs to a vegan diet. Surprised? Don’t be. Just like us, dogs can benefit a lot from a plant-based diet. They can become healthier and improve their physical condition. They can enjoy an enhanced coat, gain weight, and have more energy.
Dogs are classified as carnivorous but they have evolved biologically to omnivores, which means they can get nutrients from a wide variety of sources like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and animal products. Unlike cats, dogs can get and synthesize all their nutritional needs from both food sources.
Kathryn E. Michel, veterinarian and associate professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine stated: “The important thing is that you use a diet that has been shown to be nutritionally adequate for whatever stage of life you’re feeding, and it is absolutely possible to find a good quality commercial pet food that doesn’t have animal products in it.”
Going vegan can be highly beneficial to dogs. There is available evidence that show plant-based meals can bring positive effects to your pets. Studies have found that such a diet offers the following health benefits: increased health and vitality, improved coat, and better weight control, as well as decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism, diabetes, arthritis, and cataracts.
One study published in Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) stated that it is possible for dogs to survive and thrive on vegetarian diets as long as owners ensure that they get all the nutrients they need. Vegan dogs may experience health problems but these are also common in animals that are on meat-based diets.
For people like Kery Shaw, a freelance photographer in San Diego, switching to a vegan diet has helped her dog, Portland, who used to suffer from bouts of diarrhea and itchy hot spots on the skin. She fed her golden retriever with a vegan kibble that had a pea-based protein and supplemented it with homemade smoothies and vegetables.
A chronic ear infection encouraged Shelley Boyle to feed her German shepherd/pit bull Cleo pinto beans, sweet potatoes, and brown rice every week. The infection was gone after five months. Cleo also sported a more beautiful and healthier coat, no longer had bad breath, and stopped excessively shedding.
Aside from obvious health reasons, dog owners can also turn to plant-based foods for environmental and ethical reasons. If you’re considering making the switch, it’s crucial that you pick the right pet food. Michel strongly suggests pet owners use only commercial pet food that have undergone feeding trials by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. It is also recommended to consult with experts in dog nutrition if you’re thinking of preparing the meals from scratch. This will ensure your dogs get the proper amounts of essential nutrients they need. Meals should contain protein from plants like soybeans, peas, or potatoes and must be supplemented with vitamins and minerals, as well as amino acids like vitamin B12 and calcium. Dogs require more protein than humans, which is why it’s important to choose a source that has enough protein.
But while some veterinarians are still on the fence about whether plants and supplements offer enough nutrients and make for an adequate substitute for meat, it’s best to consider what your dog needs. You know them better than anyone so you’re in the best position—with the help of your vet, of course—to determine if a vegan diet is ideal for your pets.