Every day we find more vegetarian dogs . Obviously, it is not a personal or free choice, but is linked to the decision of its owners to abandon meat consumption. But is vegetarian food good for dogs? No, at least initially. Canids are omnivores due to a historical evolution derived from domestication. Therefore, they need nutrients and proteins that are only found in animal products.
This does not mean that our dog cannot eat fruit or vegetables. In fact, experts recommend that 15% of the diet be made up of plant products. But, if you want the dog to be vegetarian, it should be done following the guidelines of a veterinarian. It should always be a specialist who indicates what type of feed and food to consume.
In any case, the process must be gradual. Changing habits in moderation to avoid problems, both nutritional and psychological, by breaking your daily routines. Once the process has finished, it is recommended to study the reactions of the animal, checking if its energy has decreased or if it is more tired than normal.
In addition, in those moments when you are most vulnerable, whether due to age, illness or pregnancy, it is essential that you abandon the vegetarian diet until you regain your normal condition.
Normally, this change of diet comes from the hand of an ethical decision of the person in charge. But, before transforming the dog’s habits, one must ask if vegetative food is a good diet for them.
Therefore, we are going to carefully analyze the benefits and disadvantages of a vegetarian diet , offering information so that you can choose the best food option for them. But being able to do it with knowledge of the pros and cons that this type of nutrition represents for your dogs.
The origin of the idea: humanization of pets
An increasingly common problem in dog feeding is the humanization of pets. This is how the phenomenon that tries to humanize animals and things is known and that entails thinking that “what is good for me is good for them”. Therefore, if the vegetative diet has many advantages for me, it must have them for my dog.
But this is not so. The human being is an original omnivore, while canids are by adaptation to the environment and, above all, by domestication. However, carnivores are not designed to digest vegetables. Neither teeth, stomach nor rectum will be as effective. Over time, a purely plant-based diet can lead to health problems since the dog cannot properly metabolize the nutrients provided by the diet.
Tips to change your dog’s diet
The first, and fundamental, step to take if you are going to establish a vegetarian diet is to go to the vet regularly. Only in this way can you control the functions of your body, as it can be affected by the change.
Drastic changes in diet are not advisable, so if the animal has been eating a feed with meat all its life, a gradual change should be made, increasing the amount of plant nutrients mixed with the food of animal origin. And, again, under the supervision of the vet.
The change of diet should not be carried out in sick or elderly animals, as it can accelerate the processes that they are suffering. The health of your animal must be above your own ideals.
The diet should be completed with additives that offer the nutrients that are not found in the new feed.
Finally, you have to monitor the behavior of the animal to find out if the new diet is affecting it in any way.
Advantages of a vegetarian diet
According to studies conducted by Andrew Knight and Madeline Leitsberger, and published in his article “Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals”, you can see certain advantages derived from a vegetarian diet. But the results of these studies must be taken into consideration taking into account the conditions that affected them:
- They were carried out at the request of groups favorable to the establishment of vegetarian diets in animals.
- They were developed in controlled spaces, although some animals had previously been consuming a vegetarian diet.
- The number of individuals directly analyzed did not reach a hundred, the rest were based on surveys of people whose pets had already proceeded to change their diet.
- All animals studied directly were under continuous supervision of a veterinarian.
Animals subject to a vegetarian diet are more vital. This may be because you get more energy from food supplements.
Decreased incidence of cancer and hypothyroidism
Among the animals studied by Andrew Knight and Madelaine Leitsberger, a decrease in the incidence of cancer and hypothyroidism was found. Even greater decline among dogs on a vegan diet. According to the conclusions obtained, this could be due to consuming a more natural diet. The explanation can be found in the absence of the chemical components used in industrial feed.
Absence of ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites)
Another of the benefits for the dog that has been demonstrated, has been the absence of parasites in skin and hair. Although one of the requirements was that they be in a controlled space. This could alter the result of the analysis were it not for the fact that all the animals had to go outside to perform the agreed exercise.
Improved coat conditions
The improvement in coat conditions were the most striking and fastest to be detected. Within a few months of the change in diet, all the owners announced the same improvements: more shine and softness and more hair.
Again, it seems to stem from the disappearance of products with high chemical components from the diet of dogs.
Weight management and diabetes
The change of diet, supervised by a veterinarian, allowed the animals to maintain a stable weight. By controlling the intake of sugars and derivatives, the onset of diabetes was avoided.
Cataract improvement in dogs
An improvement of all the animals with vegetarian feeding was the arrest of the advance of the cataracts. Improvement that was more contrasted in older dogs that had been on a vegetarian diet for a longer time; always for more than five years.
Disadvantages of a vegetarian diet
Along with the advantages provided by favorable studies, veterinarians show a series of risks when it comes to a vegetarian diet for dogs. Even diet studies themselves confirm these risks.
An adult dog should consume at least 18% protein in its diet. And this average is the lower limit, and it is still not recommended if you want to be in acceptable health. This is because protein sources contain amino acids, but each animal will need a different type.
Proteins and amino acids are necessary for a good metabolism and maintenance of soft tissues. To be able to take full advantage of them, the animal must be genetically engineered for it. However, carnivores are not able to be properly metabolized by those of plant origin. In the protein chains we find 22 amino acids, of which dogs can only synthesize twelve in sufficient quantity to meet their needs. The rest, called “essential”, must be achieved through a proper diet.
Infections in the digestive system
Studies show that dogs on a vegetarian diet are more prone to urinary tract infections. This occurs due to the lack of taurine, methionine, cysteine and the fatty acids provided by meat.
In addition, they do not tolerate the consumption of large amounts of fiber, although they do need to consume it. This is because they have a shorter digestive tract than humans.
Canine dilated cardiomyopathy affects the heart muscle, characterized by a worsening of myocardial contraction function, compensatory dilation of one or both ventricles, and thinning of the heart walls. Although it is a common disease in certain breeds ( Doberman Pinschers , Iris Wolfhound, Boxer and Cocker Spaniel , especially), in its idiopathic variant you can see an increase in the ratio among vegetarian dogs. This is due to nutritional deficiencies and a lack of taurine and L-carnitine in the diet.
Unadapted genetic design
As we have already mentioned, dogs are carnivores in origin and their genetic design is aimed at the consumption of meat. For example, they lack molars that allow you to crush products of plant origin. This leads to poor digestion of these products, which are metabolized more slowly, or are not, producing intestinal problems and lack of nutrients in the animal.
Is it a good diet?
According to all studies, the vegetarian diet is not the most recommended for dogs, due to its structure and genetics. It may have some benefits for the animal, but only when the change is made strictly. And always under the supervision of a specialist.
In many cases, this change in diet is conditioned by a strong animalistic ideology of the person in charge of the dog. It is in those moments, when it must be remembered that each animal has its own nature and that we should not take any action that could cause them harm.
In the event of an insurmountable moral incompatibility between the dog’s meat diet and the personal decision not to eat it, it is recommended to seek solutions that do not affect the animal. The human being can choose freely, the dog must adapt to what is offered. Think about it: it’s not always the best, or it’s just not to your liking.
Just as a 100% animal diet is not beneficial for dogs, a totally vegetable diet will not be either. A balanced diet is required that provides the nutrients and proteins necessary for good physical development.
But the psychological changes that may occur in them must also be taken into account. Dogs are routine animals, suffering from sudden and unexpected changes. These same changes, produced at the nutritional level, can lead to disorders that affect food intake, reduced energy and decreased vitality.
For all this, in case of deciding that the dog has a vegetarian diet, the adaptation should be made slowly. And it should always be supplemented with vitamins and protein components, which make up for the deficiencies in the vegetarian diet.
In any case, if the dog’s diet is changed, it should always be done under the supervision of a specialist. Otherwise, we could cause harm to the animal. And it should be suppressed immediately if it is affected by any ailment derived from the diet. The well-being of the dog must come before all else.