October 17, 2009

My 35 Years of Experience Proves that DOGS CAN EAT VEGAN!

Kisses; she ate 100% vegan diet for 13.5 years of her 14.5-15 years
The rescued dogs I've shared life with have all made remarkable transformations eating a 100% vegan diet, both in physical health and in temperament. For the committed vegan, it's the way to ensure your dog's health without intentionally harming other animals to do so. A dog is by genus classified as a carnivore, but metabolically, they are omnivores. You can feel safe knowing that you can feed dogs a 100% plant-based diet. In fact, with careful attention to their nutritional needs, (as you would give to your own), they thrive! (I have even raised 8 stray puppies on a vegan diet, successfully.)

The health of our dogs has surprised a few conventional vets, who had no choice but to change their position when they saw that our dog friends lived healthier than their nonvegan dog counterparts. The vegan dogs I've cared for have lived to be 14-17 years of age. Pictured here is little Mighty who lives with us and others who don't feed him vegan, so he goes back and forth. When he arrives with us, at first he turns his nose up at the food offered to him, but then the next day, he eats with gusto and loves it, once he realizes that's his only option. The food is not making him unhealthy; but quite the opposite. (Update: Mighty has been with Gentle World and on a vegan diet now for many years now.)

So what does a dog eating a plant-based diet eat?  A varied diet consisting of:

Legumes: tempeh (the highest vegan source of L-carnitine and a whole food soy product; an excellent food), tofu (not a staple), well-cooked beans mashed, lentils, split peas, sprouted or cooked chick peas or hummus, or lentil sprouts. I like the small red lentils that cook in 15 minutes.
Well-cooked Whole Grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, corn grits, whole grain bread or pasta (preferably spelt, not wheat), buckwheat, oats, barley, amaranth, etc. (Buckwheat and Quinoa are both complete protein foods and the grain I give them most of the time.)
Orange Colored Vegetable: sweet potatoes and yams - seasoned and oiled to make them  palatable (in small pieces or mashed, to make them more digestible), butternut squash, pumpkin, cooked carrots. Butternut squash is a food source of omega 3 fats, so a good food for dogs on a vegan diet, as well as human vegans.
Seitan (wheat-meat) made of gluten flour (high in protein) - as a treat.
Vegetables (in small pieces or mashed, to make them more digestible) (grated raw carrot and beet mixed in with food). Sprouts mixed in with meal. Best vegetables are squashes, zucchini, small amount of broccoli, greens chopped into small pieces and mixed in with meal, but not greens that are high in oxalic acid such as Swiss chard. Spinach only sometimes.
Fruit in small amounts, if they will eat it. Cranberries are excellent.
Ground Seeds can be added in raw, and as a supplemental part of the meal. Ground sunflower, flax-seed, almond mixture is good. Some oil for making the food palatable and also for nutrition. The best oil is hemp seed oil for the omega 3 fats in the best ratio. The next best choice would be flax oil for dogs that don't poop a lot already. Or organic sunflower oil if you can't afford the premium. But many dogs won't eat their meal without some oil.

Supplements, some vegan marketed kibble, and daily sunshine baths! 

Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the meal will consist of a protein source (from the paragraph above). About 1/4 to 1/2 of the meal can be made up of a variety of whole grains and vegetables.

Meals should be served at room temperature or slightly warmed, along with a clean bowl of water. Dogs fed vegan should receive two meals daily, and snacks, (portions are dependent on amount of exercise, as well). Oil requirements can be met with hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil, etc. (There is some disagreement over the issue of including avocado in a dog's diet because of many vet reports of avocado being toxic to dogs. I used to feed it to dogs and have stopped after researching it and seeing that it might contribute to enlarged heart and pulmonary edema in dogs, though this is not widely known information. Avocados contain a substance called persin; toxic to dogs and other animals.) Another source to include is 1 teaspoon of tahini (sesame seed butter), which is a source of calcium. Their calcium requirements can also be met by adding finely chopped raw dark greens to their meal or steamed broccoli in bite-sized pieces (too much broccoli is toxic to dogs apparently.) You can supplement calcium or offer calcium-enriched soy milk as a treat. I mix some of the vegan marketed commercial food in with meals to help meet nutritional requirements, and vegedog powder (which contains taurine, B12, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins) and/or other supplements. Pregnant and elderly dogs require extra calcium supplementation.

In the United States, quite a few companies (see below) produce a complete, plant-based, canned moist dog food. They are a superior in quality to most commercial dog foods, which contain slaughterhouse by-products and other unimaginable ingredients. My practice is to offer both commercial vegan dog food, but mostly offer wholesome homemade meals. To ensure they receive the necessary essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6,and 9), you can add 1 t. - 1 T. of a vegan oil blend that is balanced with Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil and Certified Organic Flax Oil. 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/chia seeds. The ALA short chain fatty acids are really important. I now believe in supplementing dogs with algae-derived DHA/EPA unless they are receiving natural plant sources of omega 3's on a daily basis (chia seeds, purslane, ground flaxseed, hemp oil and raw hemp seeds, walnut oil, but walnuts themselves are toxic to dogs.) Flax or 'Total EFA' oil also helps 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.

For enzymes and fiber add: grated raw carrots, beets, sprouted lentils and other sprouts. Also add chlorella, green mush, or barley grass powder. Raw hemp seeds contain complete protein. Both soy and hemp seeds have more protein than animal "foods" and are complete proteins. (soy is a popular allergen, though.) Hemp seeds and hemp oil are high in omega 3 fats in good proportions for dogs. Some sources say hemp seeds are a food source of taurine; but I don't see any scientific studies to back this up, as of yet. The raw food additions are essential for vitality. 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. (This is optional and can be purchased from the makers of VegeDog.) Also, vegan acidophilus or probiotics can be included. 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. But if you supplement too much they could lose their ability to manufacture their own. 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 animal flesh) that SHOULD be supplemented in a vegan dog's diet. Without taurine supplementation, dogs can develop a fatal disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). (Vegetarian dog specialists and most companies that sell vegan dog food recommend adding taurine (an amino acid) to the diet of a dog eating 100% plant-based. It is inexpensive and a preventative measure. L-carnitine, also an amino acid naturally found in animal flesh, and a vegan version can be supplemented. (It is also naturally found in high quantities in tempeh; so you can get a vegan food source if you don't want to use synthetic supplements.) A deficiency of this nutrient in dogs fed vegan can lead to 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 lack of it in diet. L-carnitine is expensive and can be bought at your local health food store. Include taurine and in a meal every day, but only a small amount as I've found it can upset the stomach. Include l-carnitine 4-5 times a week. Too much l-carnitine is linked with negative consequences, but not so much for vegans and vegetarians, who may have different gut flora than those who eat meat. (Many vegan commercial kibble brands include both - or one or the other - but I have learned from experience to supplement a bit more in addition to what is in the kibble.)

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. Also toxic to dogs are nutmeg, raisins, walnuts and macadamia nuts. Because there are reports of avocado being toxic to dogs (even though many love them), I don't give them to dogs anymore. (The persin in them is the toxic substance.) Dogs cannot process excess salt so avoid too much salt.

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! Keep dog's teeth brushed and clean. I recommend vegan dental chews for this, too. You can feel confident that on a balanced cruelty-free diet, dogs can have a sleek body, a healthy and shiny coat, and plenty of energy to join you for tail-wagging walks in the country!

Related contacts for vegan pet food:

Link: Vegan Dog Marketed Products sorted by country

V-Dog – vegan dog food now in Sacramento, CA. They ONLY sell vegan dog food, so I like to support them. They also have breath bones.
Evolution Diet offers ONLY vegan food for dogs, cats, and ferrets.
Vegan Pet - Australia's own all-vegan pet food company, especially knowledgeable on feeding cats vegan. They have superior vegan dog and cat kibble. All ingredients are human-grade.
VeganPet N.Z. - distributors in New Zealand of Vegan Pet.
All natural Pet Care - New Zealand, plant-based
Pet Guard - is a U.S. based company that offers two vegan moist dog foods: Vegetarian Feast and Organic Vegetarian Vegan Entrée with the word VEGAN on the label! They also offer Mr. Barkey's and Mr. Pugsley's vegan dog biscuits (and many non-vegan products)
Natural Balance Pet Food – highly recommended plant-based kibble called Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula which contains no soy products.
Harbingers of a New Age - H.O.A.N.A. (compassioncircle.com) - offers supplementation products to add to your home-cooked whole food meals for vegan cats and dogs and is a source of information. Owner, James Peden, was the first to sell vegan pet food products and has authored a book: Vegetarian Dogs and Cats. This link also sells Green Much; another great supplement to add to home cooked meals for dogs; rich in enzymes, etc.
Ami Vegan Dog Food  - veterinarian designed diet that is all plant-based.
Whimzees - All natural dental chews - sold internationally - vegan - my review
www.vegancats.com/ - offers a range of vegan pet products.
BiOPet -100% vegan formula sourced within Australia (they have a non-vegan formula also). The Vitamin D3 in their recipe is synthetic and not sourced from animals.
Vegan Essentials offers a variety of vegan pet products
Eco Dogs and Cats (all vegan)
Halo Vegan Garden Medley  
Video on Ami Vegan cat/dog food.
EcoEars for Dogs by Vet-organics.com
A book entitled: Vegetarian Dogs: Toward a World Without Exploitation. The book offers recipes for vegan dog food and information about nutrition, ethics, supplements, exercise, and care for dogs.

Please note that there are a number of nearly vegan dog foods marketed internationally (Wysong Vegan), but they contain one or two ingredients that are not strictly vegan. For example, they include non-vegan Vitamin D3. Purina HA (hypoallergenic) is an example of a nearly vegan except for the Vitamin D3 and maybe some of the other vitamins. (Update: Wysong may have fixed this issue after decades.)

3 vegan vets included in this post of Plant-powered doctors, vets, RD's

Join Vegan Dog Nutrition group on Facebook


Anonymous said...

I don't know how much stock I'd put into Dr. May's advice. When I went to her for help with my dog, she just pushed drugs on her instead of helping me figure out how to keep her vegan & healthy. Not helpful at all & definitely not vegan, especially finding out after researching the drugs that the medication has killed several dogs. This was after I specifically asked for a holistic approach from her, but I got absolutely no help from her with that. While it's great that she's vegan, she still seems to have just a little more knowledge about dog nutrition, in general, than most vets (which is basically none). I'd recommend the Vegan Dog Nutrition Association as a resource first.

Crystal Edwards said...

I will rescue a couple dogs when I'm older, and I will feed them a vegan diet. :) Thank you for the article.
(Crystal Conservation)

nancy horyza said...

Also no grapes for dogs! Never thought of sprouts as a live source. Are the sources for vegan dog food cruelty-free? Great article. Coconut oil is also very good. recent article in WHOLE DOG JOURNAL- states dogs have a difficult time processing it. WDJ is in usa.

John Harris said...

The blog is absolutely fantastic. Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need. Thanks.
Hemp Food for dogs

Unknown said...

How much tempeh per pound of dog (daily dose) should we aim for to adequately meet the L-carnitine requirement?

M. (known as) "Butterflies" Katz said...

The last comment asked about amount of tempeh required. I really don't know exact amount, but if you give a small amount daily to your dog, you'd be fine. I only give them tempeh 1-2 times a week, but I also supplement L-carnitine a little bit, and it's also fortified in the kibble I give my dog friend.