Humans are the most conscious species on earth. We control most of our decisions, including our dietary choices. Some people eat meat, and some don’t. We have our reasons behind what we choose and often feel passionate enough to implement our decisions on our canine companions thinking it’s the best dog food for them.
As a vegetarian, you may want to turn your dog into a vegetarian too. One more animal taken away from animal products, will save the day. Right? But, is vegetarian dog food good enough to keep them healthy?
Let’s find out.
Pros of Vegetarian Dog Food
Though not many, there are a few benefits to vegetarian dog food. Let us look at them below.
1. Leads to A Healthy Digestive System
Vegetarian dog food is free of acidic and inflammatory components that certain animal proteins contain, making it a lot healthier for the digestive system. Plant based protein is lighter and therefore easier to digest amongst dogs with liver and kidney problems.
2. Vegetarian Dog Food Increases Metabolism
Plant protein is easier to digest and produces less waste when compared to animal protein. So, when a dog consumes wholesome vegetarian dog food, they are more likely to have more energy shortly after consuming the vegetarian meal.
3. Anti-Allergic Attributes
If you make sure the diet is balanced and wholesome, vegetarian dog food may indeed be a better choice for hyper-allergic dogs.
The above pros are only possible if you purchase premium quality vegetarian dog food. In most cases, this is quite expensive in India because they are imported from the west. So, we usually settle for cheaper varieties that does more harm than good to dogs. Most vegetarian dog food is loaded with grains and carbs which is terrible for their heart, bones and overall well-being.
Cons of Vegetarian Dog Food
Though there are a few benefits to vegetarian dog food, the cons exceed in terms of the number of and severity. Let us look at some of the cons of turning your meat loving canine into a vegetarian dog.
1. Dogs Are Omnivores
Dogs are one of the few omnivores that belong to the group “Carnivora”. It may seem harmless to put your dog on a vegetarian diet- (if humans can do it so can dogs!). Unfortunately, we are very unalike from our canine friends in terms of our dietary needs. Inadequate nutrition from a vegetarian diet can be extremely detrimental to their health.
2. Deficiencies From Vegetarian Dog Food
Dogs process certain nutrients differently than we do. For example, Dogs cannot produce vitamin D on their own, which is why we should add it in their diet. Vitamin D3 is crucial for their fur, bone health and muscle growth and it is present in animal based proteins. You may notice vitamin and taurine deficiencies in dogs that consume vegetarian dog food.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants, necessary for your dog’s health, but they fail to provide essential fats and proteins. Proteins derived from animal products, like collagen, elastin and keratin are vital for their skin, muscles and joints. It’s near impossible to extract them in vegetarian diets.
Dogs can naturally synthesize Taurine if their diet contains enough sulphur containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine. This is present in non-vegetarian dog food, which is why a dog has no trouble to synthesize it into taurine.
Vegetarian dog food may have enough methionine and cysteine but it doesn’t have enough sulphur containing amino acids. Hence, your dog can’t synthesis taurine from vegetarian meals. Taurine deficiency leads to many health problems like retinal degeneration, reproduction problems, gastrointestinal disease and weaker bones and muscles among dogs.
If you still decide to put your dog on a vegetarian diet, you need to take extra measures to maintain their health. For instance, you must add vitamin and mineral supplements in their food to provide them with a wholesome vegetarian diet. You’ll also have to increase the number vet visits to make sure they’re healthy.
An un-monitored vegetarian diet can lead to a number of deficiencies like amino acids, calcium, phosphorus and taurine deficiencies.
Research shows that most commercial vegetarian dog food does not have all the vitamins and minerals required to sustain a dog. It is even changing their facial structure and bone density!
Lastly, there is more to vegetarian dog food than its’ nutritional capabilities. The thing is, we choose our own diets but take away that choice from your pooch. If you offer your dog a piece of vegetable and a piece of meat, they are more likely to eat the meat. Is it fair to take away what they are naturally inclined to eat, only to support a manmade calamity?
When Should You Put Your Dog On a Vegetarian Diet
Though a non-vegetarian diet is the preferred choice for dogs, there are some cases when vegetarian dog food has proved beneficial. Here are some instances when you should put your dog on a vegetarian diet-
1. Meat Allergies
In case if your dog is hyper allergic to animal based protein, a balanced and wholesome vegetarian dog food may be the most ideal for them.
Yes! There are a few dogs out there who prefer vegetarian dog food than meat based meals, in which case, a vegetarian diet is the way to go!
3. Age/Health Problems
Just like humans, aging dogs may develop tooth decay and liver and kidney problems. In such cases, bones and meat may be detrimental to their overall health. Please talk to a veterinarian if you want to outline a senior dog diet. If you consider giving them vegetarian dog food, make sure it contains all the essential vitamins and minerals needed for their aging body.
It is possible to provide your dog with vegetarian meals, but it requires careful planning, supplementation, vet visits and so on. In most cases, a vegetarian diet may prove to be very expensive and inconvenient.
Better Alternatives to a Vegetarian Dog Diet
There are better alternatives to a vegetarian dog diet. Instead of feeding them completely vegetarian dog food, consider the following:
- Incorporate vegetables in your dog’s diet along with meat-based meals.
2. Instead of going all vegetarian, go for healthy and premium dog food brands that make sure their animal products come from ethical sources and use human grade ingredients. This will not only bring about human practices in the pet food industry but also provide your dog with wholesome and nutritious dog food.
3. Go for grain free dog food with at least 50% animal protein. This way you know that even if your dog has 50% animal meat, the other 50% of their diet contains fibre rich vegetables.
Your food preferences are not always the best for your dog. The priority here is their health. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own beliefs to make sure they get the best possible nutrition.
Just because dogs can survive on vegetarian dog food doesn’t mean that they thrive in it. Since they cannot express their likes, dislikes and needs, it is our responsibility to do what’s best for our dogs.