With anything that’s ‘not the norm’ myths arise and vegan dog myths are wild! Vegan diets have been enjoying a surge of popularity in the human world, with many people opting for plant-based food on a regular basis, even if they don’t completely convert 100%.
Consuming meat can be detrimental to health and well-being, as well as taking its toll on the environment. The rise of veganism has been as a result of both of these factors with people trying to become healthier while also protecting the planet around them.
These principles aren’t just relevant to us humans; they also apply to our four-legged companions too. When provided with a complete vegan diet that’s been properly balanced, dogs can thrive and enjoy excellent health. And of course, there’s the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly as well.
Although it was initially a controversial concept, the idea of a vegan dog diet is now widely accepted. It’s not yet the norm, but many studies have been carried out which demonstrate the benefits of making the change, and as a result, the number of vegan dogs is rocketing.
Despite the rising canine vegan population, there are still lots of misunderstandings about a doggy vegan diet. Here are five of the most common vegan dog myths, and the facts that any owner should know.
Myth 1: Dogs Can Only Be Healthy If They Eat Meat
This first of five vegan dog myths is the belief that underpins almost all of the myths and misconceptions around a canine vegan diet – but it’s fundamentally wrong. Dogs who are fed a balanced vegan diet receive all the nutrients they need and don’t miss out on anything by not eating meat.
Part of the problem is that rumours persist about a “wolf diet” being the most natural way for a dog to eat. This normally means eating raw food and a lot of protein. However, although dogs are descended from wolves, they have evolved very differently over the years and no longer have the same genetic make-up.
Dogs aren’t carnivores like their wolf ancestors; they are omnivores. This means they are properly equipped to eat and digest starchy foods such as plants, fruit and vegetables. This can be seen in their small intestine which comprises a quarter of the total gastrointestinal volume, similar to other omnivores – including humans. By contrast, true carnivores’ gastrointestinal volumes are much lower, around 15% maximum.
Over centuries of evolution, and in part due to their close contact with humans, dogs have evolved to become omnivores and are perfectly able to get good nutrition without resorting to meat.
Myth 2: Dogs Can Only Get Protein from Meat
Protein is essential for canine health and it’s readily obtained from meat. But what many people don’t realise is that there are also a number of good quality plant-based sources too. Your dog doesn’t need to eat meat to have a balanced and nutritious diet.
Between 19-29% of your pooch’s diet should be made up of good quality protein. It doesn’t need to be higher than this unless they are a very active, working dog. Feeding a dog too much protein can be detrimental to their health as the kidneys will have to work harder to excrete the surplus from the body.
Soybean is the best source of non-meat protein, followed by chickpeas, lentils, peas and grains, such as rice, wheat and corn. Whether you make your own vegan dog food or buy a complete branded vegan dog food, there’s no reason why protein should be lacking.
Myth 3: Your Dog’s Health Will Suffer If Fed a Vegan Diet
As a dedicated pet owner, you care about your dog’s health and you just want to give them the best. That’s absolutely how it should be, but before you make a final decision about vegan food it’s a good idea to delve into the science.
Lots of assumptions are made based on the fact that dogs are descended from wolves. However, as we’ve already seen above, the evolutionary changes which have occurred over the centuries mean that a dog’s digestive system is now very different from a wolf’s.
Many studies have been carried out to look at the canine digestive system, and the differences are very clear. Dogs are 28 times better at digesting starch than their wolf cousins, and this is due to changes in the genes known as genes AMY2B and MGAM. These regulate amylase and maltase enzymes, both of which are responsible for digesting starch. These enzymes are found in high amounts in herbivores and omnivores – and also dogs, but not wolves.
If you still need a bit more convincing a 2020 study took a long-term look at vegan and meat-based diets for dogs. After taking blood chemistry for analysis, it was found that dogs who ate a plant-based diet had fewer deficiencies than those who ate meat. A smaller, follow-up study also found that dogs who had deficiencies before switching to a vegan diet improved once they stopped eating meat and exclusively ate plant-based food. You may also be interested to read the latest 2022 study.
Therefore, research seems to indicate that not only will your dog’s health not suffer on a vegan diet, but it will also actively improve.
Myth 4: You Are Abusing Your Dog If You Feed It a Vegan Diet
Animal abuse is something that every dog owner should take seriously, and deliberately failing to provide your pet with proper nutrition would fall into this category.
In the past, there have been allegations that a vegan diet is tantamount to animal abuse, but this is simply not the case.
The nutritional needs of a dog are complex and it’s vital to ensure that their food gives them everything that’s required for health and well-being. You can’t simply pile a heap of kale and spinach into your pooch’s bowl and hope for the best!
There are excellent complete vegan dog foods available such as Fleetfull, V-Dog, Omni, dogood and THE PACK. Alternatively, you can create your own complete vegan dog food with the help of a canine nutritionist.
Your pet will be well-fed, healthy and bouncing with good health – and you’ll see just how happy they are when you call them in for dinner!
Myth 5: All Vets Hate Plant Based Diets
All vets agree that dogs are not carnivores, but omnivores, and there’s no denying the fact that canine bodies are equipped to digest starch-based food. This means that – barring an allergy – there’s no reason why your dog can’t eat and enjoy a plant-based diet.
Vets are not canine nutritionists, and some may prefer a more traditional approach. However, the British Veterinary Association has indicated that it’s “theoretically possible” for dogs to get all the nutrition they need without eating meat. The concern is that pet owners may not seek nutritional advice or feed a vegan diet that is not complete.
Many vets do advocate for a plant-based diet for dogs, pointing to the better health outcomes for dogs that don’t eat meat. Veterinary Professor Andrew Knight conducted research that demonstrated that even without eating animal-based products, dogs could enjoy excellent health.
It’s understandable that some vets may have concerns about the quality of the vegan food being provided by well-meaning owners, but there’s no disputing the science which shows that meat isn’t essential for the good health of a dog.