Note: This article has recently been reviewed for accuracy by veterinarian Armaiti May, DVM. (www.veganvet.net)
Her comments are included throughout the article in italics, and a summary from her is included at the end.
Dogs are honest about their feelings. Love is irresistible and dogs seem to easily feel someone's love for them. We've been fortunate to share life with a number of vegan dogs. Yes, Beautiful, Magic, Vegan, Miracles, Baba, Kisses, Valiant, etc. represent the pinnacle of their species and are at the helm of the 'vegan dog movement'. We would like to share the knowledge attained from our experience caring for vegan dogs.
A dog is by genus classified as a carnivore, but metabolically, they are omnivores. You can feel safe knowing that you can raise dogs on a vegan diet. In fact, with careful attention to their nutritional needs, (as you would give to your own), they actually thrive! They become gentler, cleaner, more lovable, and will abound with good health. The health of our dogs has surprised a few conventional vets.
A dog's protein requirements are greater than ours. To ensure that your dog gets enough protein, calcium, vitamin D and all other nutrients, feed them a varied diet of:
well-cooked whole grains
Seitan or wheat-meat
Along with certain supplements
Fruit in small amounts if they will eat it.
And take them on daily walks in the sunshine.
Approximately a third to a half of the meal will consist of a protein source (from the paragraph above). About half of the meal can be made up of a variety of whole grains, which are a source of carbohydrates and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. The Vegan Dog Nutrition Association recommends the base of the meal to be comprised of soybeans, lentils, rice, oats and sweet potatoes. They have published a downloadable recipe for a balanced vegan diet. See their link at the end of this article.
The remaining portion should be made up of raw and cooked vegetables, as well as supplemental items listed below. Meals should be served at room temperature or slightly warmed, along with a clean bowl of water.
Non-vegan dogs generally eat one meal a day, whereas vegan dogs should get smaller meals, twice daily, and snacks. A healthy snack would be several vegan dog biscuits (see below) or a handful or two (depending on the size of your dog) of vegan dry kibble produced by one of the companies listed below. Or a few bites of toast that your dog would appreciate sharing!
Oil requirements can be met with avocado; a rich source of vitamins. (There is some disagreement over the issue of including avocado in a dog's diet. See note below*) Most dogs will love it, but it might take a little getting used to, at first. Another source to include is 1-2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed butter), which is a rich source of calcium. Their calcium requirements can also be met by adding finely chopped raw dark greens to their meal, and also by mixing in some canned pure vegetarian dog food which they find irresistible! We mix some of the marketed moist food in with meals to help meet nutritional requirements. In the United States, quite a few companies (see below) produce a complete, plant-based, canned wet dog food which meets their nutritional needs. They are a superior quality than most commercial dog foods, which contain slaughterhouse by-products and other unimaginable ingredients. Our preference and practice is to mix the plant-based commercial food with wholesome homemade meals, similar to what you yourself would eat.
* Armaiti May says: "There seem to be mixed reports concerning the safety of avocados. I've heard of dogs eating avocados and being just fine, but there are some cases where cardiotoxicity (heart problems) has been associated with large quantities of avocado consumption (esp. if the pit of the avocado is consumed). It's not something that is fully understood, and as I said, I know there are lots of dogs who eat avocados and are just fine."
To ensure they receive the necessary essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, & 9), add 1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon of a vegan oil blend complete with total essential fatty acids. Some brands have a balanced blend of Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil and Certified Organic Flax Oil, such as Health From the Sun's 'Total EFA' or the brand called Veg'n EFA Oil Blend, www.myvega.com. Mustard seed oil contains all the essential fatty acids. An alternative (though it's not as complete), would be flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, or 1 teaspoon of ground or soaked flax seeds. (This is beneficial for vegan humans as well). ('Deva' and 'V-Pure' are now producing vegan DHA, long chain fatty-acids from seaweed in a capsule for humans, which you can share with your companion animals.) Flax or 'Total EFA' oil also serves other purposes such as helping joint function and coat health. There are many studies that confirm the powerful healing benefits of giving dogs flax seed oil. These oils are especially important for senior dogs.
As dogs age and degenerative disc diseases occur, an anti-inflammatory such as ginger rhizome in a non-gelatin capsule can be included in their meals (or stuck into a vegan meat analog, disguising the potent taste). When using nutritional supplements or nutraceuticals to reverse or treat disorders, allow 30 days or more to see improvements. We learned this from experience as well as from veterinary advice. (One exception: we once noticed an incredible change in a dog's coat in just ONE WEEK of adding flax oil to the meal.) A bad-tasting supplement, in tab or V-cap form, can be given to a dog by sticking it inside of a piece of a vegan hot dog or Tofurky vegan sausage or the like. This makes it fun for them to take their supplements. It works with most dogs. (Baba got sick of taking supplements after a while, and figured out how to eat the meat analog and spit out the supplement, every time!) I will sometimes stick a vitamin B-12 sublingual dot (vegetarian formula) under the tongue or in the mouth of senior dogs.
Note from Armaiti May: "I'm not aware of studies on the efficacy of vegan glucosamine and sublingual B12 in dogs. It makes intuitive sense that they would be safe and effective to give, and I take both myself, but I [can not make] a blanket recommendation about it without some prior knowledge of its effectiveness."
Grated raw carrots, beetroot, sprouted lentils and other sprouts and/or barley grass powder are necessary for enzymes and fiber. The raw food additions are essential for vitality (for them and for us). Some authorities recommend adding digestive enzymes to a dog's diet and the particular kind that dogs need are: Amylase, Protease, Lipase, Cellulase and Lactase. Harbinger's of a New Age sells Prozyme; an enzyme supplement for dogs containing these enzymes. Also, another enzyme that may be included is vegan acidophilus.
Wheat germ is an important addition for a healthy coat. One teaspoon of bran aids in elimination, if necessary. Dogs manufacture their own vitamin C, but you can supplement the meal with 1/2-1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder (It MUST be Ester-C, non-acidic or buffered, to be gentle on the stomach). Holistic vets have recommended 1,000 milligrams twice daily for healing purposes. If your dog will eat bits of fruit and/or salad with dressing, that is wonderful! Some dogs will and some will turn their nose at such foods.
Taurine is an amino acid (naturally found in meat) that should be supplemented in a vegan dog's diet. Most dogs can live healthy lives without it, but there are some breeds or older, challenged dogs, that without taurine supplementation, can develop cardiomyopathy (disorders of the heart). (Vegetarian dog specialists and most companies that sell vegan dog food advise adding taurine to the diet of a vegan dog. It is inexpensive and a preventative measure. L-carnitine, also an amino acid naturally found in meat, can be supplemented. A deficiency of this nutrient can also cause dilated cardiomyopathy, a serious illness in which the heart becomes large and flabby and can no longer function. This illness generally strikes middle-aged dogs who are deficient in L-carnitine or taurine because of breed, size, individual genetic makeup, or diet. L-carnitine is expensive and can be bought at your local health food store.
There has been research that recognizes MSM to be helpful in animals for joint function. For senior dogs showing signs of arthritis or degenerative disc disease, you can try supplementing with vegan glucosamine (see above note from Armaiti May), which is produced by several companies. Bone support vitamins could also be beneficial for these senior dogs. Prescription 2000, Inc., a vegan company in the United States, has both a vegan bone support and vegan glucosamine powder (the powdered form is better).
Another supplement that we have included in a vegan dog's diet is Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast (for our U.S. readers). Alternatively, you can supplement with a savory nutritional yeast rich in B vitamins and a separate source of Vitamin B12 (either in fortified plant milks or meat analogs) or simply a supplement (this is not something I have read in a study, just something I do because it is safe and may be beneficial). Although a sprinkle of spirulina is a very good addition to your dog's meals, I don't rely on it as a source of B12 because, in humans, it can be a B12 analog and can actually interfere with real B12 (Cyanocobalamin) absorption. Dogs enjoy nori, kelp, and other sea vegetable flakes. They are a good replacement for salt in their diets and rich in trace minerals (or try nori sheets in bite-size pieces added to the meal).
Other supplements that can be included in our canine companion's meals are a teaspoon of soy lecithin for heart function, and The Ultimate Meal (www.TheUltimateLife.com). Co-Enzyme Q10 has been recognized by the holistic veterinary world as quite beneficial for canines, for heart function and for healthy gums. Keep your companion animal's teeth brushed and clean.
Also please note that it is reported that onions and raw garlic are toxic to dogs. Onions can cause the oxidization of red blood cells and lead to anemia. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and can even be fatal if consumed in large portions. Many animals love the taste of chocolate, however, chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which causes over-stimulation of an animal's body. All body systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and nervous system, are affected by theobromine. The more concentrated the chocolate, the larger the amount of theobromine present and the greater the risk to pets.
Also toxic to dogs are nutmeg, raisins and macadamia nuts. Armaiti May explains:
"Macadamia nuts and raisins are also considered toxic to dogs. The toxic principles are unknown, but raisin consumption (especially large quantities) has been correlated with kidney failure in dogs."
Dogs cannot process excess salt so avoid too much salt.
Cats are often more finicky than dogs, and their nutritional requirements are more complicated. Cats have very specific metabolic requirements for several nutrients found naturally in animal products, such as taurine, (an amino acid-like nutrient), the amino-acid L-Arginine, (a protein amino acid present in the proteins of all life forms), arachidonic acid, (an essential fatty acid), according to CVM research. These are found in appreciable levels only in animal tissues. Additionally, cats cannot convert the beta-carotene in plants into vitamin A. Instead, they require "pre-formed" vitamin A. Synthetic versions of these nutrients are available, and it is up to you, the care-giver, to ensure that a cat being fed a vegan diet is receiving the necessary nutrition. Insufficient amounts of vitamin A may cause loss of hearing, as well as problems with skin, bones and the intestinal and reproductive systems. A feline lacking taurine can lose eyesight and could develop cardiomyopathy.
We've read and heard claims of thousands of healthy vegan cats, but have not personally experienced this. The cats that have wandered into our lives (we did not choose to bring them into our lives as they are hunters) eat the vegan food supplemented with nutrients designed for vegan cats, but also hunt and eat lizards, spiders, mice, etc. (At least they are eating some vegan food and therefore saving some animals' lives and evolving towards a more gentle diet). Unless a cat is kept confined inside a home, it will, most likely, have the instinctual need to hunt. The issue of raising cats vegan remains unclear at this stage of our evolution.
On the other hand, you can feel confident that on a balanced cruelty-free diet, your dog will have a sleek and clean body, a healthy coat, and plenty of energy to join you for walks in the country! Our little Magic lived a long healthy life to age 16. Beautiful, a Golden Retriever, lived to age 14, and healthy until the last year of her life. We were told by a top holistic vet that because of inbreeding, Golden Retrievers usually don't live beyond age 14. Baba lived to age 17 and his face didn't look a day over 7! Miracles, born with many birth defects, lived many many years beyond his life expectancy given by vets. He was vegan since birth and thrived. His demise was from a cause having nothing to do with nutrition or physical health. Kisses is 10 years young; energetic and athletic like a young dog.
Be gentle when switching dogs from an animal-based diet to a vegan diet. Any switch in diet can cause digestive disorders. It may take a few days for some dogs to even want to try this new cuisine and others will take to it right away. We've watched our dogs evolve from killing small animals to protecting and cuddling our pet rabbits! Vegan dogs are a wonderful species to get to know. Enjoy!
Author: M. Butterflies Katz.
Article first published at Vegan Poet website.
Insert date: 2010-02-01 Last update: 2010-02-01