When Vegan Diets for Dogs Are Therapeutic
A vegan diet may be a good option for your dog if she needs to avoid animal proteins, says Dr. Joe Bartges, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and professor of Medicine and Nutrition at the College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Georgia in Athens. “For example, with kidney disease, urate bladder stones and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).”
Some dogs are very reactive to animal proteins—more so than they are to plant proteins—so transitioning them to a vegan dog food (or vegetarian dog food) could be useful for IBD, says Dr. Weeth. “That’s not to say vegan and vegetarian diets are better for all IBD cases. With IBD, it really depends on what the individual dog’s triggers are, so if there’s a food allergy component to it, we need to keep an eye on where those protein components are coming from—whether it’s a plant or animal source.”
“That being said, there are commercial hydrolyzed protein diets that are complete and balanced and work very well in dogs with food allergies,” says Dr. Weeth.
Plant-based diets also tend to have lower fat levels, says Dr. Weeth. “For dogs with things like pancreatitis or high triglyceride levels, they may do better on a moderate fat vegan or vegetarian diet.”
From health benefits to environmental sustainability, there are a lot of perks to plant-based diets. But can our dogs thrive without eating meat or other animal products?
“Can my dog be vegan?” Though many experts are hesitant to admit it, the answer to this increasingly common question is yes. But hold the phone…it’s not quite that simple.
Sure, in theory many dogs can thrive on a vegan diet. The trouble is, meeting your pup’s nutritional requirements on plants alone is a lot easier said than done. In fact, the reason many people fail to keep their dogs healthy sans meat is because they don’t adequately replace meat-based protein sources with plant-based ones, which leads to major dietary deficiencies. In other words, you can’t just toss Rover a salad and expect him to prosper – you have to determine exactly what his needs are and be prepared to go out of your way to meet them.
Avoid empty carbs and fillers
This applies no matter what you feed your pup, but it’s especially important if you’re switching him to a plant-based diet. Consuming fewer animal products means your dog needs all the nutrients he can get from the other ingredients, so if his meals are packed with empty carbs and fillers with little to no nutritional value (like corn, white rice and wheat) his health is sure to suffer.
Can Dogs Thrive on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet?
For health and ethical reasons, many vegetarian and vegan humans choose to share their dietary preferences with their dogs.
In general, dogs are omnivorous. They eat meat, fish, and poultry, but also can derive nutrients from a wide variety of sources, including vegetables, grains, fruits, and legumes.