Can dogs be vegan?

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Vegan diets are on the rise today: more and more people decide to become vegans and stop consuming animal products, including meat, milk, cheese, fish, honey and eggs. 

Such rise in interest in vegetarian diets has led scholars to study the impact of such diets on dogs and to find out, whether canines can be vegans.

The short answer given by the veterinarian science is “yes” – dogs are capable to live a full life by following a plant-based diet. 

According to Cailin Heinze, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, in reality dogs are rather omnivores than carnivores that are equipped to thrive on without meat.

As long as dogs’ diet is balanced and consists of all necessary nutrients, canines can be easily vegetarian and even vegan.

Some people believe that the ability of dogs to be vegan depends on their breed.

However this belief is clearly mistaken: the results of one recent study showed that even extremely active and hard-working dogs, such as Huskies or shepherds, are able to live a healthy life on a meat-free diet.

If you are still thinking whether you should choose your canine’s diet and eliminate meat from her daily menu, here the main advantages of vegetarianism for dogs:

·         It helps to avoid and cure allergies

It has been proven already that the food that dogs eat is the most common reason of allergies, and the most common allergens is meat, especially chicken, lamb or beef.

Thus, switching to a plant-based diet might help your dog to get rid of an allergy and clear up other health problems, including kidney stones or liver diseases.

·         Plant-based products are easily digestible

Vegetarianism is very helpful for those pooches that suffer from the variety of digestive issues. As opposite, meat-based diets are often too hard for the dog’s digestive system due to the inflammatory effects of the animal protein.

The ingredients of plant-based diet are very gentle on digestive, do not contain any allergens and therefore are very good for the dogs with sensitive digestive tract.

·         Plant-based food is anti-inflammatory

A non-meat diet is known as anti-inflammatory, which means it is really helpful for dogs suffering from arthritis and joint pains.

Such problems are especially common among aging dogs, so it might be wise to change the diet of your beloved canine while she gets older.  

It has been already proven that after switching to vegetarianism dogs experience improved mobility, have more energy, get stronger muscle and become more active in general.

·         Vegetarianism helps to control weight

If your dog is overweight and struggles with maintaining a proper weight, a vegetarian diet might be a great solution due to its easily digestible and lean ingredients.

Despite the numerous benefits of vegetarian diet for pooches, there are also some disadvantages that you as a pet owner should be aware of:

·         It is difficult to keep a vegetarian diet nutritionally complete

Switching to vegetarianism does not just mean eliminating meat.  It means providing your dog with nutritionally sufficient and balanced diet that is the source of key micro-nutrients necessary for a canine’s healthy life, including  vitamins K2, D, E, B12, omega-3,  quality fats and amino acids. 

It might be not easy in the beginning, so it is recommended to conduct deep research and to prepare for such nutritional changes in advance.

·         Vegetarian dog food might be expensive

Unfortunately, there is no such high demand for vegan dog food yet, so it might be quite expensive compared to regular pet food.

If you have tight budget, you might consider a home-made dog food for your fur baby.

·         Switching takes time and effort

The transition process is not always easy and might take a couple weeks. Moreover, it might demand a lot of patience from you because you are changing not just your dog’s nutrition, but the entire lifestyle of your four legged friend.

Also, be ready for this switch being time-consuming for you too: it might take you some time to choose proper ingredients and cook vegetarian meals for your dog.

How to put your dog on a vegetarian diet?

As it has been mentioned above, the transition to a vegetarian lifestyle might take some time and effort both you and your dog. 

It is a gradual process that includes the following steps:

·         Step 1. Talk to your veterinarian in order to figure out what ingredients should be included into a new diet for your dog.  If your dog has certain health issues, do not forget to discuss them with the doctor in order to make sure that a meat-free diet is a good and healthy choice for your canine

·         Step 2.  By choosing a vegetarian food for your fur friend, make sure that a new diet is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). If you decide to purchase ready-made vegetarian food in a store, ask the retailer if it is approved by  AAFCO.

·         Step 3. Start introducing new food slowly to your canine over the period of 2 week to a month.  In order to avoid any stomach upset, it is recommended to mix ¼ of a portion of new food with ¾ of a portion of a regular food. Also keep in mind that transition to a dry vegetarian food might take more time than switching to a canned vegetarian diet.

·         Step 4.  Encourage your dog to try new food by adding such ingredients as grated cheese or eggs. They are full in protein and add some familiar taste to new vegetarian meals. This will help your dog to get used to a new diet and fall in love with vegetarian ingredients.

·         Step 5. After couple months on new vegetarian diet, take your pooch to the vet in order to perform a complete blood panel.  The results of the tests will show whether your canine is getting all the necessary nutrients and vitamins.  Also, a veterinarian will examine your dog to make sure that she did not lose any weight and does not have any signs of distress.  It is recommended to continue do check-up visits to the vet every six months after switching to a new diet. 

As you see, despite the fact that dogs are believed to be predators and meat lovers, they can easily become vegans by staying healthy and active. 

Furthermore, in some cases a vegetarian diet might be even healthier than a meat-based nutrition for your dog.

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