More people are giving up meat in their diets for a wide variety of reasons, from environmental to philosophical, and now vegetarians are also taking a second look at their dogs' meat-based diets. As a result, more owners are putting their dogs on a vegetarian or even vegan diet to avoid the ethical and health dilemmas that come with a side of beef, pork, or chicken on their pet's kibble.
“I've been a vegan for over two years, and I don't want to contribute to the slaughterhouse or factory farm industry for my own food or that of my dogs,” explains Debra Benfer, who along with her husband owns three vegan Dogs. "If people actually read what ingredients go into dog food, I think they would understand why a vegetarian diet is the way to go."
Some of those ingredients include meat from animals deemed unfit for human consumption, known in the pet food industry as the 4 D's - dead, dying, sick, or disabled animals. Additionally, many commercial pet foods contain “meat meal” or “by-products,” which can include various animal parts and slaughterhouse waste that don't exactly match the idyllic images of juicy chunks of meat often seen in a bag. or can of dog food. Like commercial meat for humans, meat used in pet food can contain hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, a concern that has led many dog owners to seek alternative diets.
"If someone says it's okay to give my dog these things, I'd add a fifth 'D' to that equation and say 'no,' says Jill Howard Church, president of the Georgia Vegetarian Society. "As a vegetarian, I know what's in human meat and since meat that falls below human standard is what's included in pet food, I am concerned."
Church's two dogs were on a vegetarian diet their entire lives and lived to be between 15 and 19 years old. Church currently has a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever who also thrives on a vegetarian diet.
Church and Benfer's positive experience with vegetarian dog diets is reflected in hundreds of testimonials found on the internet from owners who have successfully switched their dogs to a vegetarian diet. Some owners have bypassed the dog food industry when cooking their own healthy vegetarian dog food.
"People are taking control of their animals' diet into their own hands rather than relying so heavily on the pet food industry," says Greg Martinez, author of "Diet for Dog Dishes: Sensitive Nutrition for the Health of your dog". "The industry has taken us all hostage a bit."
In addition to lowering a dog's carbon footprint (meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions), owners say that putting their dogs on a vegetarian diet has resulted in everything from lifetimes longer and brighter coats up to less aggression.
"It's really unnatural for them."
However, there are those who worry that vegetarian dogs cannot get adequate nutrition from a plant-based diet. Dogs, like humans, are omnivores, which means they can survive on a diet of plant or animal origin, but owners must take care to make sure their dogs get the proper nutrients from plant-based ingredients. (Cats, on the other hand, are strictly carnivores.)
According to the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO), a non-regulatory industry group that sets standards for pet food, dog food for the average adult dog should contain approximately 18% protein, an amount that is considered necessary for good health and proper growth and development. But because each protein source contains different levels of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, not all proteins are created equal. Some proteins are better for pets than others. For example, egg and cottage cheese are considered quality protein sources for dogs.
"Vegetarian proteins tend not to have all of the amino acids, so you have to do multiple combinations of different types of protein sources to get the right amino acids, which can be a bit difficult to handle," says Dr. Jessica Waldman, a veterinarian who operates a full-time pet rehab clinic in Santa Monica, California. Waldman says that he turns his clients away from vegetarian diets because he believes they are unnatural.
"Although I think it would be possible to put a dog on a vegetarian diet, it is really unnatural for them," says Waldman. "There are still dogs in the wild and they eat a vast majority of animal protein, so I think keeping your pet's diet as natural as possible is limiting disease and promoting health."
Other vets disagree, arguing that dogs can be successful vegetarians as long as their diet is balanced and they are able to obtain protein from various sources.
Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of California-Davis, says that commercial and homemade vegetarian diets "can be used safely and can provide adequate nutrition if carefully and properly formulated" and provided that owners pay special attention. to provide your dogs with adequate proteins and amino acids.
Veterinarians prescribe commercial vegetarian diets and homemade options for dogs with specific diseases, but there is currently not much comprehensive research to prove or disprove their health. A survey by PETA found that 82% of dogs that had been vegan for five years or more were in good or excellent health and that the longer a dog stayed on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the greater the likelihood that the dog was generally in good to excellent health.
However, the study also found that vegetarian dogs may be more prone to urinary tract infections, as well as a form of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by a deficiency of the amino acids L-carnitine or taurine. . But as the researchers pointed out, DCM is not just a problem for vegetarian dogs, as L-carnitine and taurine can also be removed in the processing of meat in commercial dog food.
To help avoid this problem, some commercial dog food companies like V-dog, a high-protein vegan food, have added taurine and L-carnitine to their formulas to ensure quality health that "exceeds established nutrient profiles. for the AAFCO, ”says V-dog President David Middlesworth.
Although putting dogs on a vegetarian diet may remain controversial until further study is done, veterinarians and vegetarian dog owners may agree that people considering putting their dog on a vegetarian diet should first do their own research to determine what is best for the needs of your individual dogs or consult your veterinarian.
Jennifer Adolphe, an animal nutritionist at the University of Saskatchewan, told The Washington Post that pet owners should do their research. She advises pet owners to do "some homework to find out who is behind the business, if they employ a full-time qualified nutritionist, what kind of quality control measures they use."
"It just takes research and the willingness to stick to your reasons for your dogs to follow a vegetarian diet," says Benfer, who often makes homemade dog food for his three vegan dogs. "I get strange looks when I let people know that my dogs are vegan, but it's just because they aren't educated about dogs being vegetarian and they don't realize how easy and possible it is to do so."
Jessica Knoblauch, article in English