This article is contributed by guest writer, @Dakota_Murphey.
Should You Make Your Dog Go Vegan?
Veganism has been on the rise for a number of years now. Just five years ago, there were 276,000 vegans in the UK alone. Today that number stands at well over 600,000 – more than quadrupling in only half a decade – and you don’t have to look too hard to find out why.
Over recent years, more and more reports, films and documentaries have come out detailing the ‘truth’ behind the meat industry, leaving many people feeling appalled at the conditions certain animals are left to suffer when moving from farm to fork.
Just look at the statistics: 90% of the UK’s chicken production involves intensive windowless sheds which each house approximately 35,000 chickens; dairy cows produce up to 10 times more milk than they should naturally; and more than 97% of pigs spend their lives indoors.
It’s no surprise then that many people want to stand up against the meat industry, following the example set by political ethicist Mohatma Gandhi – being the ‘change they want to see in the world’.
Humans vs. Dogs
However, while it may be all well and good for humans to stand up against the meat industry – avoiding meat and dairy produce in their diet – is it fair to inflict the same kind of principles and diet onto our pets?
As the vegan movement has continued to grow, more and more dog food companies are now jumping on the bandwagon, developing vegan-friendly dog products in place of meat-based alternatives. But is this giving our dogs this type of food actually sustainable?
Certain owners who have adopted vegan/vegetarian diets for their dogs have highlighted the benefits of choosing to do so. ‘Increased mobility’, ‘decreased allergies’, ‘improved bowel movements’ and ‘excellent weight maintenance’ are all benefits that Lindsay Rubin, vice president of vegan dog food company V-Dog, states that owners can enjoy when implementing her company’s plant-based dog food.
However, there is no evidence to back any of these claims up – and herein lies the problem.
The current lack of scientific evidence proving that vegan/vegetarian diets are beneficial to dogs speaks for itself. If it really was beneficial, there’d be proof of it. Currently, there isn’t, so the case has to be closed, right?
Well, no – it’s not as black and white as that. In essence, a dog’s diet needs a balance of proteins, starches and fats – all of which can be found in meat. Therefore, while it is technically possible to feed dogs a plant-based diet, by choosing to do so, this places more of an onus on the owner to ensure their pooch is getting all the nutrients and vitamins they require. If they aren’t, they could actually be putting the dog’s health at risk, potentially leading to expensive vet bills and pet insurance claims.
Dogs Aren’t Vegetarian
Many vets state that it’s important for owners to remember that dogs are omnivores (i.e. they eat meat and plants), rather than simply herbivores (i.e. they only eat plants). Understanding this key difference is vital to ensuring dogs stay healthy when being fed a vegetarian or vegan-based diet, since they won’t necessarily be getting the nutrients they would have done from a meat-based alternative. Plant-based diets are typically higher in fiber for example, meaning dogs won’t be able to digest them as easily as traditional meat-based dog food.
Should a vegan decide to pass on their beliefs and principles in the dog food they buy, it’s important to ensure that the manufacturer has the right credentials as a legitimate vet-approved dog food company. The dog food itself should also include enough protein, essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamin A & D and methionine – all of which should be available on the external label. If the nutritional information isn’t listed, avoid it or double-check with your vet before you decide to buy it. Otherwise, you could harm your dog, potentially requiring specialist veterinary equipment to help determine any related issues.
The Vegan Verdict
The decision to adopt a plant-based diet in dogs really depends on the owner involved: their values, their beliefs, and their ability to bypass the lack of scientific evidence.
Generally speaking, choosing to do so isn’t sustainable, since dogs aren’t simply tiny humans that we have the right to alter thousands of years of evolution over. They have different requirements both nutritionally and morally so, regardless of what an owner’s personal dietary beliefs might be, they could actually be doing more harm than good moving their dog onto a diet that’s not right for them.
Until the science says otherwise, I for one will be keeping my dog on a meat-based diet – whether I, as a vegetarian, like it or not.