The short answer is that it can be healthy to a certain extent – however it will not be an easy or cheap diet for your pooch to be on.
There are many risks involved – and ensuring that your dog gets the right amount of all the vitamins and nutrients that it needs is not going to be easy.
A vegan, vegetarian, or even a fully raw diet for a dog is not something that should be embarked upon without thorough research, a consultation with your vet, and serious extra cash.
Most vets would also agree that these diets are absolutely not suitable for puppies under 6 months old – as physical development is at its most crucial, and also your puppies stomach will be extra sensitive.
A study recently showed that over 65% of pet owners who feed their pets vegetarian or vegan diets do not consult their vets about it – because they are worried about the reaction of their vets. This makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Who is this diet for? Are you actually thinking about what is best for your pet?
The physiology of cats and dogs is very different to humans, and although dogs are capable of being on a vegan or vegetarian diet (when it is closely monitored by experts) ; a cats physiology is not at all.
“Trying to feed a cat a vegan diet would be like me feeding my horses meat. You’re taking a whole species of animal and trying to force it to eat something that it isn’t designed to handle.” – Lew Olson, PhD, author of Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs
If you are considering feeding your dog a vegan or vegetarian diet please do not do so if the following apply to you:
- Your puppy is under 6 months old
- You are planning on breeding your dog
- The dogs breed is prone to genetic disorders or health complications such as dysplasia etc.
- You are not willing to spend more frequent visits at the vet that include wellness examinations and constant blood work
- You are not in a financial situation which would allow you such frequent visits to the vet, or purchasing extra supplements for your dog.
“Experimentally, there are ways to get around it,” Heinze says, “but you’re adding a lot of chemically synthesized nutrients to replace what would normally be in an appropriate diet.” – Lew Olson, PhD, author of Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs
I fed Zeus a raw diet for the first year of his life, against my vets wishes. It was recommended to me by a renowned dog behaviourist who was also the owner of three male Rottweilers. His dogs had been on a raw diet since they had come home to him at 8 weeks old, and he had apparently faced no issues.
Zeus however never properly got used to the raw diet – his stomach as a puppy could not handle it. He had loose bowels constantly. After I took him off the raw diet, his bowels became normal almost overnight.
This is probably one of the decisions that I regret and loose sleep over the most. All I wanted to do, was to do the best for Zeus, and I not only ended up spending a fortune in feeding him, providing him with extra nutrients etc., I am also not convinced that the reason that his dysplasia kicked in so early in life (he started limping at 6 months old) wasn’t because of his raw diet.
Pet ownership is just like every other kind of parenthood – we make the best decisions that we can based on all the opinions and options out there (and there are just so many). It is impossible to always know what the right thing to do is – because every dog is different and there just isn’t a one stop solution that suits every dog.
Personally, based on my experiences with Zeus, I would never revert back to a fully raw diet, not to mention a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Breeds that are prone to genetic conditions or health problems are extra sensitive – and it is so so so vital that your puppy and your adult dog get the right amount nutrients that it needs so that you can slow down the progress of these conditions.
To read more about how diet is KEY in slowing down genetic conditions in dogs you can read the following article Why your dog’s diet is key to managing dysplasia.
I absolutely respect and admire the determination of human vegans and vegetarians and the important causes that they support – however my personal belief is that your pet shouldn’t have to suffer for them.
If you are not comfortable feeding your dog any packaged foods – then rather look into a raw diet which includes animal proteins. Find animal proteins that are free range, locally sourced, and verified to meet all ethical and health standards.
Eat clean, stay healthy, and do whats the best for your dog 💜
Love, Zeus & Anna x