It is possible that many people would think vegetarian dog food is a wrong choice to feed a dog, based on the premise that it is a proven DNA fact that our domestic dog is a descendant of the Gray Wolf, who is definitely a meat eater! But what needs to be remembered is that it is very likely that the prey of the Gray Wolf could well have vegetation within the content of the stomach and intestines, which means vegetation is eaten by default.
Providing the right nutritional balances are in place, there seems no reason that a dog cannot be fed a vegetarian dog food diet and be perfectly healthy, just as it is for us humans. In fact, two of the oldest surviving dogs in the world were vegetarian! “Tykie” made it to 25 years of age whilst “Brambles” reached the ripe old age of over 27 years of age.
Jump to Section
Caution here though because, if you do fully research this subject, you will find that some dogs must have meat protein in their diet to be truly healthy, and it is not breed specific or gene pool related, it is just for no other reason other than it is the individual dog. So if you choose to feed vegetarian dog food, do so with the mindset that it is the interests of the dog that is paramount and that should never ever be overridden by the food regime preferences of the owner. If there is a conflict of ideals then it may well mean that the vegetarian owner would need to release the dog to a non–vegetarian owner.
Manufacturers of some vegetarian dog food replace the meat content with grains which in turn are one of the prime suspects in dog allergies so maybe add into your thoughts that a vegetarian grain free dog food is a better choice. Select a specialist dog food manufacturer that uses only quality ingredients and you should be getting the right mix in the recipe of all the essentials required by the dog as their nutritional requirements are not the same as for humans.
Make sure the vegetarian food includes all of the food groups that your dog needs and Is free of additives. This is often possible without meat, but it is important to take into account.
Proteins: Just like humans, dogs need Proteins too. These would usually be included as part of the meat content of the dog food but can be found from other sources and is arguably the most necessary.
Fats and Oils: These are essential for skin and coat health and aid brain development. These should be properly named and should be extremely nutritious. Vegetarian oils can easily replace animal fats and fish oils and are equally if not more beneficial for your dog. For example, flax oil rather than herring oil or generic animal fat.
Carbohydrates: These need to be properly cooked to be of benefit to your dog since they will be highly digestible and a valuable source of energy. Each dog is different, so it is important to consult your veterinarian as to what type of diet your dog should be on and some carbohydrates will be better for your dog than others. Try to avoid high-gluten carbs such as barley, wheat, and rye and go for rice, millet, and quinoa. As with non-vegetarian food, ensure that you get the right balance of carbohydrates to protein.
Additives: Some dog foods have been found to contain a liquid called Propylene Glycol which is used in semi-moist to kibble to keep it from drying out. If consumed in large amounts this can be toxic and should be avoided since it does not serve a purpose for a dog’s health.
Coloring Agents: There are a lot of coloring agents out there, but one of great concern to avoid is Yellow 6. Studies have shown that this agent can cause tumors and allergic reactions. Definitely one to avoid and not needed in your pet’s food.
If you are going to prepare the food yourself then it may well be prudent to purchase a copy of a reference book from the American Organization National Academies. They have a 400 page hardbound must have on the nutrition aspect. That book does not come cheap but it can be read online for free if you have the time available.
In the beginning, you may consider seeking help and advice from a specialist dog food nutritionist as to what to feed in your vegetarian dog food recipe, or even a holistic vet may be of assistance. This way the focus is on the needs of your own particular dog and is not a one size fits all scenario. You also have the benefit of professional help in monitoring the well- being of your dog.
Dog allergies may well be another reason that consideration is given to a meat-free diet for dogs because just as some dogs cannot tolerate a menu without meat protein it is that very same meat protein which may be the cause of am an allergy or an intolerance. As it is less likely that there would be any allergic reaction to vegetables then a good starting point would be a vegetarian dog food to which the owner may wish to add single meat proteins to, on a one at a time rate, to see if there is any allergic reaction.
So Is there any reason that a vegetarian diet should not be the sole food for your dog? The answer to that is only if it is done properly, ensuring the dog is getting all nutritional essentials and that the well- being of the dog is the only consideration, plus bearing in mind that there may be a possibility that your dog might not be able to tolerate a diet without meat protein, in which case the best action has to be taken in the interests of the dog.
Without doubt, there are plenty of dogs living a happy healthy life on vegetarian dog food – and as you read earlier some of them have had many, many years with their owners.
When not writing about himself in the third person, Andy spends much of his time walking his dog Mr Wox, aka Soxy Woxy. A leading authority on dog-related topics, Andy is highly respected, deeply appreciated and widely admired.