The past few decades have seen more and more people embracing a vegetarian lifestyle, as we realize all the benefits of avoiding meat. Many of us wonder if our pets shouldn’t eat a vegetarian diet as well. After all, normal dog food is made up of meat by products, bone meal, and other meat industry products. The meat industry has a huge, negative effect on the environment, and many people object to the conditions animals are raised under. A vegetarian dog food could be the answer.
However, it’s important to remember that our pets evolved as carnivores. That can make it tricky to feed your dog a balanced vegetarian diet. Some people are even concerned that all vegetarian dog foods are dangerous for our pets. Can you feed your dog a meatless diet and still have a healthy pet? Here’s what you should know.
First, we need to look at what a vegetarian really is. Many people have widely different definitions of vegetarianism, from vegans to people who insist that fish and poultry are acceptable in a “meatless” diet. Most people, however, agree that a vegetarian should be meat free, and may include ingredients like milk and eggs. The good news for vegetarian dogs is that, unlike cats, they don’t require specific nutrients they can only get from meat. This means that in theory, they can eat a dog food based mostly on legumes, beans, eggs, milk, soybeans, fruit, vegetables and nuts.
However, you can’t just feed a dog any vegetarian food and expect your pet to thrive. There are some really problematic health issues that can come from nutritional deficiencies. A dog that’s not adjusting to a vegetarian diet may seem sluggish or irritable, have digestive issues, or develop skin and hair problems. Not all dogs will adapt, though some eat vegetarian dog food for most of their lives, and never have a problem.
Remember that dogs shouldn’t have overly high levels of carbohydrates, and be sure to ask your vet about any vegetarian diet you choose. He or she can give you good advice about the right food for your pet, and help you avoid diets that aren’t up to par. Stick to foods that are AAFCO tested and meet veterinary nutritional requirements.
Some dogs will never adjust, and may need to eat meat based foods in the end. After all, some of the most common food allergens for dogs are also among the most used ingredients in vegetarian dog food. If you can’t deal with the idea of feeding your dog a meat based diet, you’ll need to think carefully when you adopt your pet. Choose dogs that have an existing history of doing well on vegetarian foods.
You may also wish to choose ethically produced meat based foods for your dog, if he or she can’t adapt to vegetarian dog food. Look for organically grown or otherwise ethically produced plant and animal foods. This helps reduce the negative impact of your pet’s meals on the environment.