Many Americans are choosing to limit their animal-based diets, some entirely and going vegan. When that happens, they often want to make the move completely removing all animal products and byproducts from their home. One of the things they struggle with is the idea of vegan dog food. Is there such a thing? Can dogs be healthy on a plant-based diet? We are answering that and more this time on the Acoma Animal Clinic blog!
Can Dog’s Even Go Vegan?
Believe it or not, dogs are not carnivores like we may immediately think. Though they are descended from a wild carnivore like the wolf, dogs are in fact omnivores. Unsurprising for anyone who has found their pooch scavenging through the trash. It certainly seems dogs can eat anything (well, almost anything) and be happy. But should they?
Some dogs are allergic to animal proteins, something you’ll want to discern quickly. If you’re seeing symptoms or allergic reactions whenever your pup eats dinner, get to a vet quickly and determine what exactly is the cause. If it is the animal protein, well your vet or a pet nutritionist might recommend a meat-free diet.
So Vegan Then?
Hold your horses. Designing a vegan diet for dogs that contains all the necessary parts is difficult. Dogs’ digestive systems are designed to get their needed nutrients best from animal matter. While they can still digest plant matter like fruits and vegetables (and those are great for getting antioxidants and vitamins in their diet) those lack the needed fat, protein, collagen, keratin and elastin your dog needs to keep healthy muscle, skin, and joints. it is possible to provide your pet a healthy lifestyle through vegan dog foods but they do need to provide the proper nutrition to sustain your dog. The right amount of protein, as well as all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, must be consumed in order for your pet to properly meet their nutritional needs. Not consuming the right amount of either protein or essential amino acids could lead to certain medical conditions. Most of the larger vegan dog food brands and veterinarians, don’t recommend a vegan diet to growing puppies, pregnant dogs, or senior dogs as they all have unique nutritional needs.
What are the Standards for Dog Food Nutrition?
Before looking into vegan dog food brands, it is important to know what to look for. A good place to start is checking for the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO statement on products. For a food to receive this statement, it must meet the nutritional levels set by the AAFCO to provide a complete and balanced nutritional adequacy level in foods. This statement can usually be found on the nutrition label of any dog food if it has met the requirements. While you’re looking at the label it is a good idea to also look at the other information on there. Look through the amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates that are shown to see if they meet the needs of your dog, also check through the ingredients list to make sure you know what you will be feeding your pet. Plant proteins don’t provide a complete amino acid profile for a dog’s dietary needs compared to meat proteins and, as such, different plants have to be combined to meet those needs. Looking at the ingredients list is also important as some plants are harder for dogs to digest than others and some ingredients may not agree with your specific dog’s digestive system or previous medical conditions.
Why are You Vegan?
Answering this question can help determine where your priorities for your canine friend are. If it’s for dietary or health concerns, that’s great! Making the right choices for yourself are crucial to living a happy, healthy life. Similarly, dogs need animal protein to be their healthiest selves. It can be difficult for them to get their necessary nutrients without it.
If it’s ethical reasons, which are admirable, talk with your vet. They can point you in the direction of ethically made dog foods, such as brands that use eggs or dairy instead of meat. Using a fish-based dog food might make all the difference for your pup and get them as close to vegan as they can easily be. There are plenty of brands of food out there that use humanely treated and sourced meats if you’re able to get them.
What Should you Watch for if you Switch?
After consulting with your vet and finding a vegan dog food that meets your dog’s nutritional requirements, you’ll want to look for to see how the vegan diet could be affecting your pet’s health. A change to their coat could mean that they aren’t getting enough essential fatty acids. If the coat goes from a glossy shine to looking scruffy or dull, another change could be needed for their diet. Other conditions that you’ll want to keep an eye out for include any allergic reactions that your pet may have to the new food and the ingredients that are included in the food. Common signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction can include poor skin, an itchy coat, chronic ear or foot infections, or diarrhea that may or may not be accompanied by vomiting.
The health of your furry friend is often your top priority as a pet owner, and part of maintaining that health means making sure they are meeting their proper nutritional needs. Although a vegan lifestyle can be good for people and is possible for your canine companion a lot of thought should go into the decision making process to change your pet’s lifestyle. Contact us to discuss your pet’s nutrition options, ask questions and find out if a vegan diet is the right choice for your pooch.