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Dog owners have different sets of values depending on what they can and can’t stomach in pursuit of what society thinks is right. These values serve as the foundation for our lifestyles, and manifest through the practices we support, the food we eat, and the food we feed. For example, dog owners who believe that killing animals and using their products is part of how the ecosystem works will have no qualms when it comes to feeding meaty mass produced dog food to their pets. On the other hand, dog owners who believe that killing live animals for food and clothing will be Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians and will most probably boycott butcher shops and fur companies. Because of studies that inform dog owners about the health implications on pet dogs of a strictly commercial food diet, and the harsh conditions that pigs and cows go through just to end up in our dogs’ food bowls, many dog owners re-evaluated what we’re okay with and what we’re not okay with.
The way we live and the choices we make, whether consciously or subconsciously, affect how our dogs live theirs. What we believe in and the practices we support trickle down to what we feed our dogs. The best meaty mass produced dog food options for dog owners who believe that it’s okay to kill animals for their pets’ consumption include in its ingredients a mineral that can cause cancer, destruction of cells, and inability to develop and conceive puppies. On top of personal beliefs, having our dogs’ diet based solely on commercial products that contain minerals like this may have adverse effects on our dogs’ health.
As good dog owners, we must seek to feed our dogs the best and most balanced diets; and if we want to do this without the guilt of using meat products, then our best bet is to prepare our dogs’ food ourselves. The kind of food that we should aspire to feed our dogs every meal of the day are those that are rich in ingredients that our dogs need, free of meat products that are commonly in factory intensive mass produced dog food, and free of minerals and artificial preservatives that will damage our dogs’ internal organs in the long run.
Dogs belong to the order Carnivora, but unlike cats and other animals belonging to this order, they’re actually omnivores. As result of tens of thousands of years of evolution dogs have developed the ability to digest and use up protein from soy, peas, and other beans. This means that although there are limits to what plant-based products their bodies can use up it is not entirely impossible for them to minimize, if not avoid, the consumption of meat. This, however, does not mean that dogs no longer need the nutrients that can be found in meat. This just means that whatever nutrients are present in meat, dog owners can find in other sources as well.
Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is one of the most important nutrients that should be in our pets’ diets. There are many sources of proteins to choose from for dogs, but it is best for dogs to have food that incorporate diverse sources, both plant-based and animal-based. This way, our dogs would be able to immediately absorb and use up the easiest ones to digest, and use up the rest, usually plant-based, to satisfy their bodies’ needs later on. Avoiding factory-made dog food, avoiding meat, and diversifying what’s in our dogs’ food bowl by including more plant-based ingredients and fishes will make sure that the our pets get high quality proteins, vitamins, and nutrients. It will also give us dog owners the relief of knowing what we feed our dogs exactly.
Now that we are open to minimizing feeding meaty factory intensive mass produced food to our dogs, where do we start? The first thing we must consider is what we can stomach. Does minimizing meat in our dogs’ diets and our own include cutting back on all animals products, making us vegan? Can we stomach at least including eggs in our lifestyles, making us Ovo-Vegetarian? Maybe we can make an exception for fish too; making us pescetarians, since obtaining their meat is not as cruel as butchering cows for beef? These questions entail dietary restrictions for both us and our pet dogs.
The best diet that for dogs with owners who want to minimize the consumption of meat and isn’t factory intensive mass produced is pescetarianism; this means that the dogs’ diets will consist of vegetables and plant-based protein while being supplemented by fish and egg, totally eliminating chicken, pork, beef, and other meat.
Since eggs and fishes have the greatest ability to satisfy the protein and other nutritional needs of dogs’ bodies among other ingredients commonly used in commercial dog food, being a Pescetarian will not present many nutritional challenges. The challenge of enforcing this diet lies in our ability to balance different plant-based sources of vitamins and protein like beans, soy, and whole grains, with various kinds of fishes to still provide the needed nutrients to manage heart diseases and blood pressure. Using mainly plant-based sources of protein and some animal products makes perfect sense because these are enough for dogs to live long and healthy lives. If dogs can thrive in a diet that is made from only plant-based sources of protein and fish, we dog owners can go beyond our pets and care for animals that are traditionally used for their meat.
The vegan industry has developed substitutes to meat in their diet. Learning how to minimize the consumption of our pet dogs of factory intensive mass produced meat boils down to our ability to know what vegan substitutes are safe for our dogs, and which among those have the nutrients in meats that allow our dogs to stay healthy. Our dogs’ tummies cannot digest and use up plant-based proteins as well as they can with animal-based proteins; since they are omnivores like us humans, they have very adaptive digestive systems, and could therefore learn to absorb the necessary nutrients if we gradually start introducing more plant-based ingredients, decrease the animal meat, and then switch them with egg and fish.
The most important nutrients that dog owners have to find alternative sources for are protein. Mass produced pet foods contain animal protein, but these products are processed and cooked at very high temperatures; this process reduces their nutritional value or the rate of dogs’ bodies to be able to use up these factory intensive meats. Although other dog owners consider raw or dehydrated meat in replacement to factory intensive mass produced meats, others consider going all the way by switching their dogs’ diets to ones that minimize the use of meats while still keeping their dogs well-fed.
The key to effectively and safely minimize the consumption of our dogs of meat, especially ones that are intensive mass produced, is to prepare their food ourselves. Preparing their food from scratch using food-grade ingredients will allow us to control and monitor what goes into our dogs’ bodies. For example, owners who want their dogs to be meat free can simply prepare food without using meat by including other sources of protein and nutrients that can normally be found in pork, chicken, and beef. Non-meat sources of protein include fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, tofu, grain, and cereal-based products. These alternative ingredients do not contain the same amount and types of protein, and the types of protein that these products have are not absorbed by dogs’ bodies at the same rate. Therefore, these ingredients do not have the same nutritional value as each other. It is completely okay that these ingredients do not have the same nutritional value because the idea is not to make our pet dogs stick to only one kind of food at a time. Including various ingredients that offer different types of protein is what will work best for our dogs. We can keep feeding our dogs some staple food, while rotating from time to time the ingredients that are in the lower range in terms of nutritional value or protein content.
These non-meat alternative ingredients with the highest nutritional value are excellent for our dogs’ diets, and can serve as their staple sources of protein:
Whole Eggs - 100 Nutritional Value
Since whole eggs are derived from animals, the types of protein it contains are digestible. On top of how inexpensive eggs are, they also contain lots of nutrients that help in managing heart health. This makes them a common ingredient in mass produced dog food. They are excellent alternative to meat.
Soy and other legumes - 74 Nutritional Value
Soy is an inexpensive legume that contains high amounts of all proteins that are needed by our dogs. It has high nutritional value but is not rated higher because soy it is not as effectively digested, absorbed, and used up by dogs. Other legumes such as lentils and chickpeas are also good sources of protein. They will, however, also fall under this rating because they are plant-based. Plant-based protein may not be as digestible as animal-based protein, but their high fiber content can fill in the other dietary needs of our dogs.
Salmon and other fishes - 70 Nutritional Value
Fish are a great source of animal-based protein for dogs. Their proteins are packed with other nutrients such as oils and fatty acids that can improve heart, eyes, and brain health of dogs.
Other healthy ingredients that have relatively lower protein and nutritional value can be rotated in our dogs’ diets because their other nutrients and health benefits complement the protein staples. Any added protein source is also good for dogs that are following a pescetarian diet. These other sources of protein include potatoes, peas, and grains such as oatmeal, rice, quinoa, barley, and flaxseed.
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