If you are a vegetarian, it is normal that you will want to feed your dog vegetarian dog food. You probably are not so excited about feeding your dog meat or fish when you have sworn off them.
Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, it is still a possibility that you are looking into switching your dog to a vegetarian diet. We’ll try to guess your reason for that later. We’ll also be giving you information that could help you decide whether vegetarian dog food is a good idea or not. Stay with us.
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Can A Dog Be Vegetarian?
This is a tricky question. The thing is, dogs are primarily carnivores. This means that they have been wired to eat meat. The cute dogs we see today have their ancestry among the wolves, so you see how dogs can be carnivores.
Also, a dog’s features are adapted for carnivorousness. Have you ever looked at your dog’s teeth? You would have noticed that his teeth are all pointy and sharp. It’s like your dog has a mouthful of human canines, only pointier.
What do you use your canines for? That’s right, for tearing. So, your dog has a mouthful of tearing instruments which is perfect for meat. He gets the meat and basically chomps them into bits.
Humans have a combination of flat and blunt teeth (like herbivores) and pointy teeth (like carnivores). This then allows us eat what the carnivores eat and what the herbivores eat. Which is basically what it means to be an omnivore (basically).
However, since dogs have been living among humans who are omnivores, they have come to learn to eat what humans eat. One thing though, probably due to their ancestry, no dog sets out to be a vegetarian. It’s a choice made by their human parents. However, some of them actually come to love the choice made for them.
So can a dog be a vegetarian? Yes. Is it a good idea? Why not stay with us?
A Quick Look Into The Concept Of Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism, as we all know, is the abstention from meat and basically any kind of animal flesh. People decide to become vegetarians for a number of reasons.
Some are vegetarians as a form of protest against what they consider cruelty and savagery to animals. They refuse to eat animal products because animals go through some form of torture to extract their products, like their meat and sometimes milk.
Some others are vegetarians due to cultural and religious stipulations. And yet some others are vegetarians in deference to animal life. These ones refuse to eat anything that has life or the potential of life whether torture was applied or not.
These different reasons are reflected in what the vegetarians allow themselves eat, leading to a classification of vegetarians according to what they do or do not eat. There are quite a number of vegetarian choices in the categorization according to what they do or do not eat. However, the major ones are:
- Ovo-Lacto Vegetarianism: Ovo-lacto vegetarians eat animal products like eggs and dairy.
- Lacto Vegetarianism: Lacto vegetarians allow for just dairy products.
- Ovo Vegetarianism: The only animal products ovo vegetarians eat are eggs.
- Veganism/ Strict Vegetarianism: This is where we find the strict vegetarians. They do not eat anything that has come out of or from an animal. They get all their nutrients from plant sources only.
We decided to do a crash course on the concept of vegetarianism to help you understand the different options open to dogs who have been turned vegetarians.
Some will be allowed to eat some animal products while some others will be kept off animal products in its entirety. Basically, a dog’s vegetarian status will be determined by the type his human parent practices.
However, let’s look at some reasons dog parents decide to keep their dogs on vegetarian diets.
Why Some People Switch Their Dogs To Vegetarian Dog Food
What looks like the most obvious reason people turn their dogs vegetarian is that they are vegetarians themselves. They probably face ethical crisis feeding their dogs something that they are firmly against. Especially those that are vegetarians for religious or ethical reasons.
A number of vegetarians can’t even bear to pick up meat at the market talk more of bring it home. So they feel the best thing for everyone involved is for the dog, like the other family members, to switch to vegetarianism.
For some, especially non-vegans, it’s about the dog’s health. A dog with kidney issues might have complications if he is constantly fed just animal products. This is because, animal products have very high concentrations of protein. So, some people just decide to eliminate the meat all together.
The Vegetarian Dog Food Controversy
Whether or not to serve your dog a vegetarian diet is an argument that has become increasingly louder. There is so much talk about whether it is or is not a good idea.
It could be a hassle sorting through all the noise to get the right information you need, so we’ve done that for you. We’ve sorted through the arguments and we bring to you the popular arguments for and against vegetarian dog food.
Arguments For Vegetarian Dog Food
There is the fear of what commercially prepared meat-based meals contain. Advocates for vegetarian dog food who also fear meat-based food say that commercially packed meat-based meals usually contain some weird animal parts like brain, spinal cord, beak and lungs.
Veganoutreach says that these commercially packed meat-based meals usually contain what is referred to as the 4-D meat; dying, disabled, diseased or dead animals.
They also give a good case for steering clear of commercially packed meat-based food, enumerating some very scary toxins and bacteria that hide (some of them do not exactly hide) inside meat and fish.
Some people go as far as saying that the cases of cancer, kidney issues and all such health problems are results (directly or indirectly) of consumption of commercially packed meat-based food.
Another argument is that some dogs get skin reactions because they are allergic to meat or animal protein in general. Putting those dogs on vegetarian dog food will help ease those reactions to those allergies and even prevent a recurrence.
On a lighter note, some say that putting your dog off meat saves you the smell of dog food meat. It smells kinda nasty and if your dog is a vegetarian you will not have nasty meat smell in your house.
Vegetarian dog food enthusiasts generally give reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, better coat condition and also reduced reactions that are results of food intolerance as reasons to keep your dog on a vegan food diet.
The Guinness Book World Record holder of the longest living dog title is a 27 year old Border Collie and he was a vegetarian. That’s a mighty strong case for the vegetarian dog food.
Arguments Against Vegetarian Dog Food
The major argument against vegetarian dog food is that it is unnatural. Dogs are primarily carnivores and feeding them anything that isn’t meat is going against their nature. Some even go so far as saying it is inhumane.
Vegetarian food for dogs requires a lot of attention and keeping up. This is because there are a number of nutrients that are basically found in only animal protein. Webmd tells us of Vitamin D3 which is essential for your dog.
According to Webmd, your dog’s skin cannot produce any form of vitamin D (unlike humans). And Vitamin D3, which he absolutely needs, can only be got from animal protein. The only other option is supplements.
Also, plant protein is not as ‘heavy’ as animal protein. So if you’re serving your dog vegetarian dog food, you’ll have to give him more portions than he would normally eat. This is to make up his required protein intake so he doesn’t suffer from protein deficiency.
Switching your dog to vegetarian dog food will take a lot of doing. He probably will not like eating no meat the first few times.
A strictly vegan dog food is even riskier. For Lacto-Ovo’s, Lacto’s and Ovo’s, the dog can get some of the needed vitamins from eggs or milk. A total abstention from animal flesh and animal product could lead to a number of complications if not properly monitored.
So, if you are thinking of switching your dog to vegetarian food, be ready and willing to pay your veterinarian a lot of visits. If your dog is already a vegetarian, pay your veterinarian a lot of visits.
The vegetarian dog food argument is an unending one. We advise that you do whatever seems best for your dog. However, whatever you decide is best for your dog should have received a stamp of approval from your veterinarian.
Transitioning To Vegetarian Dog Food
If you’ve read through the arguments and transitioning your dog to vegetarian dog food is still something you want to do then we’re good.
The first thing to bear in mind is that your dog might not be so enthusiastic about the change. As we’ve said before, it will take a lot of doing on your part but it can be done.
What you need to do is wean him off animal products. So instead of abruptly removing all forms of animal products from his diet, do it little by little.
Start with introducing fruits and veggies to his diet if he doesn’t already eat them. Then as he gets accustomed to them, increase them in quantity and variety and reduce the meats. Keep doing that till all you give him is plant based or vegetarian.
You will have to look to supplements to provide those essential vitamins and minerals that are present in animal sources but lacking in plant sources.
Commercially packed vegetarian dog food should contain the necessary nutrients in their right quantities if the manufacturers know what they are doing.
So you can decide to buy them only if they are approved by the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). However, they could be quite expensive seeing as there isn’t so high a demand for them.
You could also decide to prepare stuff yourself. It’s trickier but doable. However, whatever you do and even before you decide to do anything speak with your veterinarian.
They are in the best position to decide if a vegetarian diet is the best fit for your dog or not. They should also help you come up with a proper all-nutrient-inclusive vegetarian diet plan for your dog.
What Your Vegetarian Dog Shouldn’t Eat
Not all fruits and veggies are OK for your dog. In fact, some of them are downright deadly and shouldn’t even be thought about. Humans can eat them and enjoy them but dogs can’t and shouldn’t. Some of them include onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and even beans.
You can check our article on BARF dog food for more information on what your dog (vegetarian or otherwise) shouldn’t taste.
If you want to breed your dog, you should not transition him to vegetarianism.
Let’s do a quick recap of all we have learnt in this article
- First, dogs are carnivores by ancestry but could be omnivorous due to association with humans.
- So, yes it is possible for dogs to survive as vegetarians.
- However, it will take a lot of doing.
- What your vegetarian dog will or will not eat will be greatly influenced by what you, his dog parent, do or do not eat.
- However, vegetables like onions and garlic shouldn’t be eaten by your dog irrespective of whether you as his human parent eat it or not.
- If you are going to purchase commercially packed vegetarian dog food ensure it has the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approval.
- If you are going to breed your dog, feed him meat.
- Finally do not make any dietary change, plan or decision before consulting your veterinarian. They should walk with you through the whole process. And even after.
With all we’ve said so far, we are sure that you’ve made your own sense out of the entire controversy. We are sure that whatever decision you decide to take (based on your vet’s advice of course) will be the best for your dog.