If you’ve already hopped on to the band-wagon of veganism, you might have considered giving your dog a meat-free diet as well. Whether you’ve taken up this lifestyle (dog food) change based on your beliefs, health concerns or to decrease animal-cruelty based products, you might want your dog’s paws to follow in your footsteps (see what we did there!).
Right now, there is a lot of controversy on this matter for dog food. You’ll find passionate advocates of veganism declaring that dogs can live based on a meat-free diet. But one can also see many vets with theories that suggest a high-protein meat diet is essential for your dog.
Can dogs be vegan?
The technical answer is, yes. Dogs, being omnivores, have the necessary enzyme amylase that converts starch into simple sugars. So dogs can convert plant-nutrition and grains into their digestive systems. A variety of mammals, similar to humans, have the ability to produce amylase in the saliva, which helps them pre- digest carbs. But dogs don’t have any such salivary enzyme, hence the controversy of going vegan. Also, from evolutionary perspectives, it is even suggested that dogs might have evolved to love carbs in order to live with humans.
“For dogs, surely vegetarian and vegan diets can be done, but they need to be done very, very carefully. There is a lot of room for error, and these diets probably are not as suitable as diets that contain at least some animal protein,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
Why switch to a vegan diet?
Apart from the moral and cultural reasons that we humans are bothered by, there might be a few pros to your dog going vegan.
Why Switch to a Vegan Diet?
Meat obtained from commercial, factory- based animals contains high levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Your pooch’s adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands might get affected by this.
Another reason for being anti-meat is the toxins present in meat. Animals that have been fed on pesticides might have alarmingly high levels of toxins accumulated in their tissues, even higher than there were originally present in their food.
Bramble Heritage from England lived to the age of 175. No, we’re not talking about some famous vegan Instagram influencer. Bramble was a dog of breed collie. The average life span of a collie is 14 years. Bramble outshined her species by over 100 years. Anne Heritage, her owner, attributes this feat to the dog’s completely vegan diet. Bramble feasted on brown rice, lentils, textured vegetable protein, herbs, and yeast extract.
For pet owners, such instances are proof of the marvel of veganism. Yet, vets and researchers all over the world still don’t promote an exclusively plant-based diet for pet food.
The perils of veganism for dogs
Though it is possible for your dog to obtain nutrition from organic plant based diet, it is much more difficult for them, as compared to digesting animal matter. Canine digestive systems are made for consuming animal products and it was only human companionship that led them to be omnivores.
While fruits and vegetables could provide your dog with the appropriate amount of antioxidants and vitamins, but they lack the essential amounts of fat and protein. Proteins like elastin, keratin, and collagen are derived from animal products- all of which are necessary for healthy skin, muscles, teeth, and joints of your fluffy friend. These, if not impossible, are very difficult to acquire from a purely vegan diet.
The bottom line is that unless you are making this lifestyle transition for your dog under the supervision of a vet, veganism can prove to be fatally dangerous. One needs to ensure that you supplement the protein requirements with external supplements and food options such as artificial protein. Even though it is commendable to be concerned about the environment, your four-legged friend’s health should be your primary concern.