May 31, 2012
How to Change Your Dog to a Vegan Diet
On Tuesday, we heard the story of Peanut D. Dog, whose medical problems disappeared after he started eating a 95% vegan diet. I asked my friend, the Czech Vegan, who has been working in the pet nutrition field for 7 years, if she could write a post about vegan dogs, and what they need nutritionally. Here is what she wrote;
You eat a plant-based diet and proudly call yourself a Herbie (herbivore) or a Vegan. If you have a dog companion, you have probably asked yourself at one point, "Can my dog be a Herbie (vegan), too? Can he survive, or even thrive on a vegan diet?" The answer is YES, your dog can happily live on vegan diet, with the exception of some dogs with allergies or other food issues, or specific health problems that require a different dietary approach.
Dogs have evolved from wolves, who are carnivores. Their teeth and digestive systems are typical for carnivorous animals. They are very different from a cow and other herbivores, or true omnivores.
However, dogs are very adaptable and can survive on an omnivorous diet. They can derive nutrients from animal products, as well as from fruits, grains, vegetables and legumes. Cats are a different story. You can read my post about The Vegan Cat Dilemma.
A dog's digestive tract is much shorter than that of an herbivore, therefore dogs simply cannot completely digest chunks of vegetables (If you ever gave your dog a piece of carrot, you most likely saw that piece virtually unchanged when it came out the next day). The most effective way to provide your dog with the needed nutrients from fruits and vegetables is to be sure the food is shredded, pureed, very finely chopped or steamed.
Many studies have shown that adding veggies to your dogs diet daily can reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens) are especially nutritious. carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, yams and beans and other veggies should be fed often as well since they are full of nutrients. Read my post about the best veggies and fruits for dogs.
Avoid grapes and raisins since they can cause kidney failure in dogs, and totally avoid onions because they are toxic to dogs.
If you prefer to feed your dog home cooked diet, consult your vet or a certified pet nutritionist to ensure a proper balance of essential nutrients. Home cooked diets need to be supplemented with vegan friendly supplements to assure that your dog is getting all the important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I also recommend adding probiotics and digestive enzymes to your dog's diet.
If you decide to feed vegan commercial pet food (kibble or canned), make sure that the food has gone through Association of American Feed Control Officials feeding trials. Look for food that is naturally preserved without the use of propyl gallate, ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT. Don't buy food with added dyes or other chemicals.
When changing your dog to a vegan diet, do it gradually. Mix 25% new food with 75% of his old food for a few days, then mix 50% old food with 50% new food for few days, and then 25% old food with 75% new food for few more days before feeding all new food. If your dog develops diarrhea due to a food change, add some pureed pumpkin to his food and monitor him. If he does not get better, try different food combinations.
Keep in mind that dogs have a significantly higher daily protein requirement than humans, good vegan protein sources for your doggie are beans, peas, lentils, soy and tofu. Your dog's diet should be about 20-30% protein and 10-14% fat in dry matter (kibble)-when all water is taken out of food. Otherwise 30-60% protein if you include carbs, or about 80% protein on carb-free diet. Your dog needs fat in his diet. About 1/2 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight daily - you can choose either flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, sunflower oil, olive oil, avocados, almonds, or seeds.
Dogs can have about 20-45% carbs (rice, couscous, millet, pasta, potato, rolled oats, barley, yams, etc). Grains are high in carbohydrates and because of dogs have much shorter digestive tract, they can have a difficulty digesting grain, or excess grain. Some commercial dry foods (kibble) can be composed of as much as 90 percent grain, even though dogs do not have any dietary requirements for carbohydrates.
If your dog has diabetes or cancer, or if your dog is overweight, try feeding zero grains or small amounts of grains. Potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) are better sources of carbs than grains.
Keep in mind that wheat and corn are common allergens for dogs. Some dogs will scratch and/or chew themselves if they are allergic to their food. They can also have diarrhea, other digestive issues, ear infections, or stains around their eyes.
And let's not forget about your dog's teeth! Chew toys and chew treats are a great way to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Dehydrated sweet potato jerky makes an excellent and tasty chew that even dogs with sensitive bellies can safely enjoy. Large raw carrots, kale stems or broccoli stalks can act as a fun vegan "bone".
Thank you Czech Vegan for all the great advice!
This information is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Please, consult your veterinarian before making any changes in your pet's diet.