What do we know about vegan dog food?
There’s a huge amount of publicity and debate over the impact of humans eating meat.
It’s fair to say it causes worrying environmental issues.
For example, according to the United Nations, animal agriculture which needs to occur to produce meat creates 14% to 18% of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions.
This is an issue that humans are having to come to terms with, but as well as people eating meat, there are also our pets.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the pet food industry creates one-quarter of the impact of meat production.
So not only do we need to think about what and how we feed ourselves, but also our pets.
Dog food in the UK is big business, it’s worth a whopping £1.7 billion. It’s estimated there are around 8.5m dogs in the UK, now that’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed.
Dog owners, especially those who are vegan and vegetarian themselves are now looking for more environmentally friendly ways to feed their pooch.
Enter the ‘vegan dog food diet’. Yes, it seems there’s growing interest in a vegan diet for our dogs.
Whilst we want to improve our impact on our planet, it’s also important to consider whether this kind of diet is actually suitable for our canine companions.
Dogs have been eating meat for centuries, so it’s crucial that we investigate any health impacts and take a look at some studies that might provide helpful answers.
What do we actually know about vegan dog food, and can you successfully feed your dog a meat-free diet? Let’s investigate.
A brief introduction to vegan dog food
The idea of vegan dog food includes looking at creating a nutritionally complete food that dogs can eat, that doesn’t contain animal proteins.
Some new vegan brands producing dog food claim that dogs are omnivores and it’s possible to meet their nutritional needs using plant sources.
Due to the media, most people assume dogs are carnivores but they can eat both meat and veg.
Wolves in the wild do live mainly off meat, sometimes due to habitat restriction.
But they eat fruit and veg too as well as grass, grains and even nuts. Some studies have been conducted on wolves living in Yellowstone Park.
They discovered that the wolves eat a fair amount of plant matter as well as meat such as birds, rodents and deer.
Their droppings contained 74% plant matter, mostly coming from grasses.
Domestic dogs are descendants of the grey wolf.
But after hundreds of years of cross-breeding dogs and creating hundreds of different breeds, it’s fair to say domestic dogs have changed a great deal from their distant cousins.
Did you know that dogs were domesticated around 14,000 years ago?
And they’ve been completely transformed since then.
This has given our pooches a lot of time to get used to human foods and feeding habits.
And there’s some evidence to prove it. Some researchers in Sweden found that dogs are 5 times better at digesting starch than wolves.
There are plenty of stories about ferocious meat-eating dogs, wolves out hunting and our whole feeding philosophy is based on the assumption that dogs need to have meat.
Dogs are gifted with digestion systems that are able to cope with digesting plants, but is this really the best option for them?
Surely a balanced diet of meat and veg is the best solution?
We’ll explore various theories on this below.
It’s also important to note the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan diet for dogs.
The key difference here is that vegetarian dog food can still contain non-meat foods that come from animals, like eggs for example.
If you want to feed Fido a 100% vegan diet, then any animal products are a no-no.
Why does vegan dog food exist?
Vegan dog food probably exists because of the growing vegan movement and concern over the impact eating meat has on the environment.
Sources suggest that in the last decade alone, veganism in Britain has had a 360% rise.
It’s certainly a hot topic that’s infiltrating different areas of our lives.
We’re starting to not only look at what impact our diet has on our planet but our children and our pets, too.
If around 600,000 people now call themselves vegan, the chances are they may be thinking about switching their dogs to a vegan diet, too, and dog food brands have started to respond to this need.
But it has also sparked huge debate over whether feeding dogs this kind of diet is healthy for them and whether there’s enough evidence to prove it can meet their dietary needs.
Can a dog really eat a vegan diet?
It’s really difficult to say at this stage, as there haven’t been enough long-term studies on the impact of a vegan doggy diet.
Very few studies have been published, but we can look at what evidence there is, and draw our own conclusions.
Perhaps the key thing to note is that designing a vegan dog food that we know for sure contains everything they need is tough, really tough.
Some of the things dogs get from animal proteins are hard to replace, so don’t think about switching your dog over to vegan-only food without getting expert advice from a qualified vet first.
Vegan dog food brands may claim to include everything your dog needs, but some studies of vegetarian diets for pets have found some brands on the market may not contain all the nutrients needed.
Some studies have also found that dogs get more tooth fractures than wolves, even though they get fed softer food.
Should you feed your dog vegan food?
This is a very personal decision and one that’s generating huge debate.
But when it comes to your beloved dog, it’s your choice.
However, with that being said, it’s crucial that you don’t switch your dog’s food without consulting your vet beforehand.
Every canine is different and some dog breeds and working dogs have very specific dietary needs.
And if you consult your vet and they support your plans, always switch your dog over to a new food gradually.
Start giving them a bit of the vegan kibble or wet dog food with their normal food and let their tummy get used to it.
You’ll also want to do your own research before making such a big change in your pup’s diet.
Generally, it’s not recommended for young dogs and puppies as they’re still in the early stages of development and need essential nutrients.
What are the effects on canine health?
At this stage in the game, it’s hard to say. There’s just not enough research. Therefore, we can only go on the few studies there are and combine this with existing knowledge of the nutritional needs of dogs and wolves.
Interestingly, a recent 2019 survey of pet owner attitudes and feeding practices discovered that pet owners were more likely to be vegetarian (6.2%; 229/3,673) or vegan (5.8%; 212/3,673) than previously reported for members of the general population.
This means there’s a community of pet owners that are facing the difficult dilemma of what to feed their dogs when they’re veggie or vegan themselves.
And their reason for wanting to do so? The welfare of farm animals (39% of respondents gave this answer).
Though 74% of these people said they were worried about the nutritional completeness of the diet.
An earlier study looked at sprint racing dogs and the impact of a meat-free diet.
The dogs were split into two groups, one was fed a conventional diet, and another a meat-free diet consisting of maize and soybean gluten.
They gave these active dogs this food for 16 weeks.
Though as a result there were no health concerns, we don’t know if there were any long-term health impacts.
Until such a time when more conclusive research is produced, what’s important to understand is that changing your pup’s diet can affect their health.
Every dog is different, that’s why it’s always best to speak to your vet or a pet nutrition specialist before switching diets so they can advise you on what’s best for your particularly furry friend.
Can you make your own vegan food for your dog?
Of course you can, but it’s very difficult to know whether you’re feeding your dog everything they need for a complete diet.
Pet food brands put a lot of time, research and money into making sure their products meet dogs’ nutritional needs.
And, of course, making food at home is time-consuming and requires a lot of prep.
Some Instagrammers who have dogs like to share their homemade doggy vegan recipes, so you might want to follow some of them for inspiration.
You can also find some handy recipes online, like this vegan kibble recipe for example.
Again, it’s important to speak to your vet before you make your own dog food to discuss whether this is a viable option for your pooch based on their health, age and life stage.
Whether you’ve got a rescue dog, pedigree pup, a superstar agility dog or resilient working dog, you’ll need to seriously assess if making your own food will give them everything they need to stay fit and healthy.
What vegan dog food brands are there?
You’ll find a range of vegan brands including Yarrah, Ami, Benevo, V Dog and Soopa.
These can all be bought online. If you’re considering buying one of these brands, be sure to look carefully at the nutritional information to see what it provides.
Discuss the ingredients with your vet and as mentioned earlier, if you do switch food, do it gradually.
Compare dog insurance - make sure your dog is covered
If you’re thinking of trying your dog on a new diet such as a vegan, vegetarian or even just a reduced meat diet, keep a close eye on how Fido is doing whilst on his new grub.
Has he become more lethargic? Are his toilet habits the same? Making sure you’ve got adequate dog insurance is key, because a sudden change in diet might cause health issues and digestion problems.
If your beloved pooch starts feeling under the weather, you may need to take them to the vet to assess what’s going on.
Remember to compare dog insurance so that you get the best price and a cover that’s right for your dog.
For example, you might want to opt for a maximum benefit cover.
You can compare dog insurance by searching on our website here at Go Get It.
Browse different options and get a quote online today.
We know that dogs are able to survive on a plant-based diet.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are omnivores and can eat a diet of both veg, fruit, meat and grains.
There’s certainly a growing interest in feeding dogs veggie and vegan food, but this enthusiasm needs to be met with solid research and careful monitoring.
Now is the time to start conducting more solid research and try to discover whether these sorts of more extreme diets are actually viable.
Whilst we want to help protect the environment and support animal welfare, we don’t want to put our dog’s health at risk.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better insight into vegan dog food and you might be in a better position to make your own decision.
Though we can’t repeat this enough - don’t switch your dog’s diet without talking to a vet or getting expert advice.
They’ll be able to discuss any major concerns you might have and point out potential drawbacks to certain diets.
And be sure to compare dog insurance so that if Fido does become poorly, you’ve got him or her covered by a plan that’s suitable for them.
You can get a quote now by clicking here.
Remember when you compare dog insurance with Go Get It we can look for a wide range of cover from the panel of top UK pet insurers.
Plus the policies have no upper age limits and can cover expensive things like emergency boarding and dentistry. Visit us today to find out more.