Vegan Diets May Be Healthy—But for Dogs, Not So Much
More and more people are choosing a vegan lifestyle. While it has many health benefits (including lowering weight, cholesterol and blood sugar), being vegan can also affect other choices a person makes, including the clothes you wear, and even what you feed your pets. But is a vegan diet healthy for animals?
Dogs aren't predisposed to live exclusively off a diet of plant-based products. In fact, the healthiest diets for dogs require a balanced intake, including a substantial amount of animal protein.
Wolves, the ancestors of dogs, are classified as adaptive carnivores, according to the study, meaning that seasonal diets change based on what's available in their environment. While wild gray wolves certainly consume plants when necessary, the study suggest it doesn't mean that a meat-free diet is ideal for their health. The team behind the study does note that dogs are different from wolves in many ways—but the evolutionary ties between the two species is significant enough that studying the behavior of wild wolves can help us understand more about canine health.
"Unfortunately, most vegan diets are not safe and healthy for dogs," Dr. Carly Fox, a staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center located in New York City, told Bustle. "Since dogs process nutrients differently than people, they are at risk of not having a complete and balanced diet, which can lead to irreversible medical conditions."
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Fox says that a vegan diet lacks appropriate amounts of protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals inherently found in the most common meats, poultry, and fish used in pet food production, Bustle reports.
"There are some commercially available vegan canine diets that have gone through feeding trials," Fox said. "However, even these are at risk of not being complete. All commercial and especially home cooked vegan diets should be analyzed by a boarded veterinary nutritionist [to] help make your chosen vegan diet complete and safe for your dog."
Previously, The Independent reported that dogs might be able to subsist on a meat-free diet, if owners were willing to meticulously plan out each and every source of protein on a daily basis. But the experts and researchers identified in this report suggested that the risk of health side effects for your pet was very high.
Wanda McCormick, a senior lecturer in the department of science and technology at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, recently penned a report for The Conversation on the study as well. McCormick suggests that many common dog breeds have evolved thanks to human owners and could still enjoy fair health while on a omnivorous diet—but goes on to say that this lifestyle still carries risks, and should only be recommended if your pet faces an individual allergy or otherwise diet-related condition.
But for many vegans who abstain from meat and any animal byproduct, the thought of handling raw protein in their kitchens can be overwhelming—so searching for a healthy dog food can be tricky. While a veterinarian may suggest a particular blend or brand for your dog, there are a few manufacturers that incorporate proper amounts of protein into their food products that we recommend.
Orijen: This pet food manufacturer takes a holistic approach to making their products wholesome—ingredient lists are all immediately recognizable, which is something that more than 300 Amazon shoppers have indicated across their five-star reviews of Orijen's products. All of their products are naturally grain-free, which one reviewer says is a "godsend" for any pup with digestive issues. And while each Orijen product is made with up to 90 percent meat, poultry, or fish, the brand also incorporates a healthy intake of grain-free carbohydrates like lentils, pumpkin, and leafy greens. The only downside is that the brand doesn't currently produce wet meals.
Blue Buffalo: Another top choice for dog owners and shoppers online, Blue Buffalo's line of canned wet meals could supplement your pup's dry food from time to time. Online reviewers commend the brand for offering four different product lines that incorporate different formulas, just in case your pet suffers from an allergy or an otherwise dietary preference that they must follow. More than 200 reviews show that Blue Buffalo's "Blue's Stew" line of wet meals include a hearty serving of your choice of protein alongside vegetables.