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Vegan dog food: is a plant-based diet good for you dog?

What happens when pets go vegan? This is a hotly debated topic at the moment. Many people consider it flat-out wrong or even dangerous.

But the number of dog owners who take out all animal products from their pooch's diet is growing.

A vegan dog? This idea seems less and less far-fetched nowadays.
A vegan dog? This idea seems less and less far-fetched nowadays.  © 123RF: Alexey Maximenko

What may have been merely a trend a few years ago is now a widespread lifestyle: veganism.

Plenty of people have long since learned how to get by without eating animal products. As vegan diets have become an integral part of their lives, some are naturally asking themselves:

Would vegan nutrition be good or bad for my dog?

A look at the rapidly expanding market for vegan dog food suggests that it's perfectly possible for dogs to thrive without eating animal products.

But there are some important things to consider before deciding to introduce your furry friend to a vegan diet.

If the new nutrition plan isn't carefully designed, there's a risk of serious health problems developing. These can range from stomach aches, to weak immune systems and even heart disorders.

What to watch out for in vegan dog nutrition

Cute little puppies will grow big and strong even on a vegan diet – but only if they are given the right nutrients.
Cute little puppies will grow big and strong even on a vegan diet – but only if they are given the right nutrients.  © Unsplash: Andrea Lightfoot

First off, it's worth emphasizing that dogs are capable of safely going vegan. As a Tufts University blog post explains, even though dogs are technically classified as carnivores, their metabolism is much closer to omnivores, thanks to enzymes specialized in digesting carbs.

However, some particularities and quirks have to be taken into account to prevent dogs from getting sick or developing deficiencies.

Here's what every dog owner has to pay special attention to when it comes to nutrition:

Protein

Dogs need a lot of protein. Although their nutritional demands are not quite as high as those of cats, they still need plenty of it and a protein deficiency can have serious consequences for a pooch. However, it doesn't matter what the protein source is, as long is the dog is getting enough of it. Protein-rich vegetables can be just as good as meat and other animal-based products.

Taurine

Another essential element is taurine. Dog owners should make sure that their canine companions have a sufficient supply of this amino acid to stave off disorders of the heart muscle. Since taurine is almost impossible to find in the plant world, it should be added as a supplement to a vegan diet. Luckily, most dog food suppliers already include taurine in their products – vegan and non-vegan – so it's not hard to find a balanced meal for your pet.

Poisonous foodstuffs

Some ingredients are absolute no-nos when it comes to dogs and it's crucial for dog owners to know what to avoid, especially if they intend on switching to an exclusively plant-based doggy diet. Everyone knows that chocolate is poisonous for pooches, but almonds and macadamia nuts are just as bad. The avocado, another vegan favorite for humans, is also harmful, and fruit should only be included in moderation.

CONCLUSION

Anyone who is considering buying or cooking exclusively vegan food for their dog should definitely consult with a vet first.

Incidentally, cats should never be put on a vegan diet! Their organism functions differently to that of dogs and is geared towards meat consumption. Taking animal products out of a cat's meals can end up being fatal for the feline!

Cover photo: 123RF: Alexey Maximenko

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