Caring for animals is one of the few common reasons people such as myself go vegan, and it’s also why a lot of vegans enjoy being around animals. Having a pet like a dog or a cat seems like a simple enough idea, but what if the pet owner is vegan? Dogs and cats eat meat, right? This means vegan owners would have to feed them meat, but we can’t get it without financially supporting some place that slaughtered it in an inhumane way. So what do vegans feed their dogs and cats? Can they be fed vegan? If not, what good options are there?
Since dogs and cats are natural meat eaters, it initially didn’t occurred to me that feeding them a vegan diet would be in any way viable. People say feeding them a vegan diet would surely go against these animals’ physiology, this would be equivalent to feeding meat to a horse and likely cause them to get sick. It would seem hypocritical to cause one animal to suffer because I wanted to avoid the suffering of another animal. But would dogs and cats really suffer on a vegan diet?
Aren’t Dogs and Cats Carnivores?
Although dogs belong to the order Carnivora, they’re actually omnivores fully capable of thriving in good health on a completely vegan diet. Although the canine body does tend to absorb some nutrients like protein more efficiently from meat sources as opposed to plant sources, as long as you give them the right balance of foods they can still get all the necessary amino acids while avoiding meat. This means if you plan their nutritional intakes properly, not only can vegan dogs be sustained/survive on a vegan diet, they can thrive!
Cats are just completely carnivores and most just cannot be vegan no matter what. Although there are a few reports out there of vegan cats doing well on a proper formulated and supplemented diet, there are many more reports of vegan cats doing poorly. Most of the time feeding a cat a vegan diet will cause their PH levels to go out of wack, which causes some cats to develop stones in the urinary tract, this can be both painful and fatal. It’s possible to sustain a cat’s life by feeding it vegan foods with some proper nutrient supplementation, but you need to feed your cat some meat if you want it to thrive and become the healthiest that it can be.
Trying to get your fully carnivorous pet to go vegan is kind of risky, and not recommended. Some people go with the route of feeding cats 50% vegan foods and 50% meat products. This compromise reduces the harm done from purchasing and supporting cruel meat industries, while ensuring the cat receives the nutrients from meat. This issue with cats not being able to fully thrive on a vegan diet is why I’d recommend vegans to get a dog instead or some other omnivore or herbivore pets.
Vegan Dogs – Nutritional Requirement
Feeding your dog a vegan diet is easy. Like bears and humans, they’re omnivores who can do perfectly fine on just plant foods alone. But their nutritional requirements and digestive systems are quite different from humans, therefore you should pay close attention to your dog for any signs of changes.
Is your dog getting enough…
Human vegans get a lot of questions like “where do vegans get protein from?” It’s not too hard because there are hundreds of vegan foods high in protein, and because we don’t need that much to begin with. The RDA for protein is generally 46g a day for women and 56g for men, this is roughly 10% calories from protein assuming you eat around 2200 calories a day.
Vegan dogs need quite a bit more than this though because their ability to absorb plant protein is weaker to that of meat protein. The recommendations by the AAFCO (they regulate pet food) for protein in adult dog food is a bare minimum of 18%, and ideally 25% to 30% for vegan dog food to compensate for the weaker absorption of plant proteins.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Dogs need about 20 amino acids of which 10 of them are essential, meaning their canine bodies cannot produce it on their own and need to obtain it from food. If you make your own pet food, it’s important to ensure 10 of the essential ones are met in the diet, missing even just one can stop the production of specific proteins. If you’re buying commercially sold vegan dog food, all the amino acids are usually included in the formula.
These 10 essential amino acids are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Carbs & Fat?
Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and fruit can provide fiber, minerals like iron, and antioxidants. Although it is also a good source of energy, dogs can very well convert energy from proteins and fats. The AAFCO recommends the fat percentage to be at 10-15%.
Vitamins & Minerals?
Unlike humans, the dog’s body cannot produce vitamin D from sunlight, so it’s important they get it through their diets. Be cautious when supplementing your dog’s vitamin D, because too much vitamin D is toxic to the dog. I suggest you talk to your vet to get the correct amounts you should give to your dog!
There is no vitamin B12 found in plant foods, so just like vegan humans, vegan dogs will need B12 supplementation. If you’re buying commercially sold vegan dog food, make sure it’s fortified with vitamin B12.
Minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium help maintain normal body functions, also needed are trace minerals including iron, zinc, sulfur, and iodine.
Does your dog need L-Carnitine and Taurine?
These two amino acids is very important in maintaining healthy heart muscles in your dog. As long as the dog receives the proper amino acids through diet, they should be able to synthesize l-carnitine and taurine in the liver on their own. Some dogs cannot synthesize enough of them and would need supplementation. Deficiencies is a big problem and can contribute to a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. (DCM)
If you’re making your own dog food, here are some of the important vitamins and minerals to keep in mind. This list doesn’t include everything, but just to give you some ideas of what foods you can feed your dog:
Vitamin A – carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, turnip greens, pumpkin, squash, broccoli
Vitamin D – tofu, some mushrooms, fortified foods, supplements
Vitamin E – leafy greens, almonds, seeds, plant oils, whole grains, wheat germ
Vitamin K – leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, prunes
Vitamin C – fruits and vegetables
Vitamin B – whole grains, sweet potatoes, nuts, beans, nutritional yeast
Calcium – tofu, fortified soy milk, broccoli, green beans, kale, bok-choy
Phosphorus – whole grains, nuts, beans
Magnesium – whole grains, leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bananas
Potassium – fruits, vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes
Zinc – beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, oats, nutritional yeast
Iron – lentils, tofu, quinoa, brown rice, seeds, tomatoes
Sulfur – arugula, beans and legumes, bok-choy, broccoli, kale, dried fruits
Iodine – sea vegetables, cranberries, strawberries
Ensure that you cook the starches (potatoes, beans, legumes) well until they’re super soft. If they’re not cooked enough it could ferment in the dog’s big intestine and cause health problems.
Buying Vegan Dog Food
Best Ingredients to Look For: The Vegan Dog Nutrition Association recommends that dog food have a base of ingredients such as soybeans, rice, lentils, and sweet potatoes. Pinto beans and sweet potatoes are a great option for dogs with issues with allergies.
Should Always Include: Make sure your vegan dog food has the right nutrients and it’s formula is complete and balanced. A few things that should always be included in commercially sold vegan dog food are taurine, l-carnitine, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Here are a couple of well-rated vegan dog food brands on the market today that you can find online at Amazon…