We’ve seen dramatic growth in the development, production, and marketing of vegan dog foods over the last few years. And, while these foods claim to provide all the nutrients necessary for to live long, healthy lives, are vegan dog food diets really appropriate for dogs?
The meat-free movement has long been a growing trend in the human sector. And, like other popular human trends, has trickled into the pet market as well. Vegan dog foods are becoming common enough that in 2017 Los Angeles City Commissioners proposed eliminating meat-based diets for the 33,000 dogs that enter the city’s shelter system each year. The proposal, though heavily supported by activists, was not passed after the California Veterinary Medical Association strongly opposed the change and threatened legal action if it moved forward.
While there are merits to going vegan – reduced environmental impact, sustainability, and the ethical dilemma passionate animal lovers face each time we bite into a steak – can a vegan diet really provide the protein, nutrients, and amino acids our best furry friends need to thrive? We spoke with veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause DVM, CVA, CCRT to get the dirt on vegan dog food.
Q: There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Can you clear up the common question – Are dogs carnivores or omnivores?
A: Dogs are omnivores. Their anatomy is designed to break down both animal and plant based foods.
Q: We know that dogs’ teeth and jaw structures are designed for tearing and chewing meat. Are there any other physical characteristics that support their genetic or evolutionary need for a meat-based diet?
A: Their dentition and digestive tract is designed to breakdown both meat and plant sources of food.
Q: In regards to vegan dog foods commercially available today, do any of them adequately provide for a dog’s nutritional needs?
A: Commercially available vegan diets for dogs often do not contain an adequate amount of nutrients needed for optimal health. When fed long term, these deficiencies may cause hormonal imbalances, brittle bones and other health problems.
Q: Are you aware of any long-term studies on vegan dog foods or do you know the long-term effects of feeding a plant-based dog food?
A: Currently, there is not an adequate amount of research to support the safety of feeding vegan diets to dogs in the long term.
Q: If humans can adapt and thrive on a vegan diet, could dogs do the same?
A: I have had a few patients in the past who have very extreme food allergies. While it is outside of my normal recommendations, I have seen a few dogs thrive on a plant-based diet. These cases are rare, but it has occurred.
Q: Any suggestions for pet parents hoping to provide the very best for their dogs while still addressing the environmental impact of meat-based diets?
A: There are several pet food companies that are going above and beyond to be sure they are giving back to our environment and are lowering their carbon footprint. For example, pet food brand “I and love and you” is a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition. The coalition was created to allow companies across the pet industry to collaborate and accelerate sustainability. Through this program, the “I and love and you” team and corporate office has allowed the company to lower its carbon footprint through things like a 100% wind powered office, using alternative means of transportation such as biking to work and through recycling and composting programs.
Q: Final thoughts about vegan dog food?
A: In order to be certain your pet is receiving proper nutrients including protein, it is best to stick to a meat-based diet that meets AAFCO minimums. I recommend foods that are free of corn, wheat and soy.
About Dr. Angie Kraus
Also I wanted to tell you a little more about me. I have a pug, two cats and two horses. I specialize in integrative or holistic medicine. I use both traditional and alternative modalities in my practice. I use Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, herbs, physical medicine and nutrition to help my patients heal. I have a house call practice in Boulder and treat dogs and cats.
“I and love and you” makes premium holistic pet food and treats that contain everything pets need to be happy and healthy, and none of what they don’t. All products are made with real meat and contain no grains, fillers, or anything artificial, and are approved by a holistic veterinarian for uncompromising quality. That’s why both the Naked Essentials™ and Nude Super Food™ Kibble hold the coveted 5-star rating from DogFoodAdvisor.com, Best in Class from Clean Label Project, and are among the top-rated natural pet food brands on the market. “I and love and you” symbolizes the deep bond of love between a pet and pet parent, and puts love into everything they do, which is why they put it right in their name. “I and love and you” is the fastest growing pet food brand in the natural channel.