More and more people in the UK are choosing to follow a vegan diet and lifestyle where they do not consume or use any products which have come from animals in anyway. The reasons for choosing this path include concerns for animal welfare, personal beliefs such as the opinion that we do not have the right to use animals in this way through to wanting a healthier diet and lifestyle which puts less pressure on our planets dwindling resources. While most will agree that if a person wants to make this choice for themselves then they should have the right to do so but what about dogs? Can a vegan diet meet their needs and do we have the right to choose this for them?
Firstly I have to say I am not a pet nutritionist, there are certainly others who can give more information about the nutritional values of certain foods and discussing veganism stirs up strong opinions on both side of the debate. My view point comes from being a dog owner who with an interest in what is best for the dogs we share our lives with.
If it were left to dogs to decide what they ate then a natural diet would be one containing a variety of meat and vegetable matter and this would vary according to the dog’s needs, the season and the availability of certain food sources. However very few domesticated dogs have the luxury of choice and instead have their diets decided for them by their carers. Over the years a number of vegetarian diets have come on the market for our dogs and as demand has increased we have started to see vegan options also becoming available. These vegan diets in many cases are complete foods which have all the necessary vitamins and amino acids added by introducing synthetically produced supplements.
While these diets are designed to provide everything a dog needs to maintain their bodies and health all dogs, indeed all mammals, need to consume protein in some form or another. With many vegan diets one of the main sources of this protein is plant or soy based products and this raises some concerns for some vets and pet nutritionists. In a recent article featured in Dogs Naturally Dr Jean Dodds, a respected veterinarian and author, is quoted as saying soy can interfere with the production of thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine two hormones which are required for normal thyroid function. There are also worries about the amount of carbohydrates which can be found in vegan and vegetarian diets although it is fair to say this can also be a problem in some meat based kibbles as well. On the other side of the fence there are some dogs who simply cannot tolerate meat based protein and their owners find that they thrive on a plant based diet.
The way we feed our dogs without a doubt is changing with the appearance of vegan foods for dogs being part of this. With more information being available through the internet and other sources people are now in a position where they can make an informed decision about what is best for their dogs rather than relying on a vet or pet food retailer recommending a certain brand and ultimately deciding what you feed your dog will often come down three factors:
- Your personal preference.
- Whether your dog eats it.
I can understand why some would consider a vegan diet for their dog if they are vegan themselves but it is something that should be thoroughly researched to ensure it is going to be the best option for the dog and will meet all of their nutritional requirements.
You can read the full Dogs Naturally article here: http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/veagn-diet-for-carnivores