Personally, I choose to live a vegan(ish) lifestyle. I really enjoy an organic, mostly plant-based diet and haven’t eaten meat in over 25 years. However, I’ve been struggling lately. After my senior dog, Sanchez, was diagnosed with E. coli, I started cooking his meals. The site and smell of meat makes me nauseous. I’ve been known to beg friends to come over for a healthy, vegan meal made by me in exchange for them cooking ground turkey for Sanchez. I started researching whether it would be a good idea to put him on a vegan diet. It would certainly align with my values.
I’ve been closely following the work of pet nutritionist Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Becker lately. Rodney recommends a combination of home cooked or raw meat combined with veggies for our pups. Watch his Planet Paws video with great detail here.
Dr. Karen Becker also finds evidence on why it’s dangerous to feed dogs a vegan diet. In Healthy Pets, she writes,
“As scavenging carnivores, dogs can survive on plant material but they can’t thrive on it alone. To thrive means to grow vigorously – to flourish. Carnivores, including dogs, fed a diet of plant material will not live a long, healthy life, and will have medical and degenerative conditions along the way. When a carnivore is fed a vegetarian diet, or an herbivore like a rabbit is fed a meat-based diet, health problems are the inevitable result.”
While there are a number of organic, vegan kibble options on the market today, they all have one problem in common. Kibble is processed food with a short shelf life. No matter what the ingredients, the carbs in kibble (even grain-free) is starch turned into sugar, which supports cancer growth and weight gain. Habib states, “A diet high in carbohydrates has definite relevance to a dog’s rate of getting cancer.”
On the other hand, some pet owners say their dogs thrive on a plant-based diet — for example a blue merle collie named Bramble lived 27 years on a vegan diet. The average life span for collies is about 10 to 17 years. According to a CNN article that interviewed six pet experts, most dogs can live on a vegan diet, but it may require careful attention to making sure the meals are balanced. Care2 has published a guide for transitioning dogs to a nutritious vegan diet. As always, when you make a change to your pet’s diet, monitor changes and talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns.
Regarding my senior Lab, I choose to cook him ground turkey combined with The Honest Kitchen and a variety of veggies and sardines. Sometimes I cook up a batch of dog food from Rodney’s recipe. My other dog, Gina, gets the raw version, and Sanchez’s meat is cooked. While I don’t like smelling or looking at meat, I personally have found that it has helped me nurse Sanchez back to full health. While he’s 13 1/2, he’s been acting like a middle-aged 8-year-old lately. No complaints.
I combine their with meals with fresh veggies and fruit and also use some as treats. Gina will eat anything green, including kale, green beans, spinach, zucchini, bell peppers and grass. Sanchez also loves carrots, bananas and apples.
Do you feed your dog a plant-based diet? Add your experiences below.