We are all being urged to reduce the amount of meat we consume to help the planet but is vegetarianism for dogs an idea we should be exploring? Every year, agricultural land roughly double the size of the UK is used to produce enough dry pet food for the global market, producing 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Many experts believe this is not sustainable and are looking to other ways of feedings pets.
When the first dogs were taken in by early man they were fed on leftover scraps, which led to them evolving into omnivores. This means that they can eat both animal and plant matter unlike their wild ancestors who were strictly carnivores.
If a dog’s nutritional requirements are met with regards to percentages of protein and the addition of necessary nutrients, a dog can thrive on a meat-free diet. In recent years, dog-owning vegetarians have increasingly turned to meat-free diets for their pets, which has led to the production of commercial vegetarian dog foods.
Importance of balance
Canine nutrition is a tricky field to navigate because not getting the balance right can lead to serious health consequences. This is why vets recommend that you feed your pet on a complete food rather than attempt a homemade diet. Expert pet food manufacturers using years of research now produce nutritionally-complete vegetarian diets for dogs, saving owners from needing to formulate their own meal, and there are also vegetarian dog treats available.
When looking for a vegetarian food for your dog it is important to ensure it meets the safety and nutritional standards required for other types of food. Look for food produced by a reputable company and ensure it is a member of UK Pet Food (formerly known as the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association).
What are vegetarian dog foods made from?
Vegetarian diets for dogs generally contain egg and/or dairy as a source of protein but there are some vegan foods available that are completely plant based. Other ingredients commonly found in vegetarian dog food include rice, potatoes, quinoa, oats, lentils, beans, chickpeas, seeds, spinach, kale, carrots, broccoli, peas and soya, along with added vitamins and minerals.
Is a vegetarian diet healthier?
As vegetarian diets for dogs are a relatively new invention, there isn’t extensive data yet on the long term effects of a meat-free diet. However, to date there is little evidence of adverse effects and studies are currently being carried out looking at the long term health of vegetarian pets.
In the largest study to date, the University of Winchester monitored 2,500 dogs over the course of a year to track their health. Researchers found that almost half of the dogs fed conventional meat-based diets required non-routine medication but only a third of the dogs fed vegan diets did so. It has been suggested that one of the reasons for this is because commercial meat-based diets are higher in calories and obesity is the source of many health issues in our pets.
Always consult your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet and when introducing a new food, you should do so gradually over a week or two to avoid stomach upsets.