Raising vegan dogs is about as heavily debated as vaccines, so we ask that you holster your weapons until you read this blog entry in full before commenting.
THE SHORT OF IT
The truth is always somewhere in the middle. Dogs are designed to primarily eat meat but they can live long and healthy lives on a vegan diet. This is not necessarily what we promote but it is scientifically accurate. All species eat for nutrients rather than for meat, dairy or vegetables.
Having an all-or-nothing approach to any diet may negatively impact the health of dogs and people alike. There are many dogs that react to every meat their carers can find, so even if it is just for short-term relief and to stabilise a dog, there is merit to a vegan diet.
Humans are the only species that consume cooked foods. The wild ancestors of our dogs would have been lucky enough to have eaten once every 3-4 days and they benefited from constant fasting between large meals (fasting being one of, if not the most powerful forms of healing). Wild dogs would eat until full and their stomach acid would be at its strongest, releasing digestive acids from glands that only activate when their stomachs at the greatest expansion – acids powerful enough to destroy parasites.
These days many of us not only over-feed our dogs, but we feed them the wrong foods.
A LITTLE CONUNDRUM
If the key to health was to follow the advice of veterinarians, then why are so many dogs sick?
You will notice that most dogs today do not live to a ripe old age or die of natural causes. Most of us vaccinate our dogs as often as annually, use the government approved chemical parasite products, feed a good brand of commercial pet food (even vet-recommended), give them the ‘safe’ water that comes out of our taps... yet they are still sick!
CAN DOGS BE VEGAN
Purely scientifically speaking, yes. Providing the food is made-up of the correct nutrients needed to sustain life.
But what about Taurine and L-carnatine that dogs can’t get from veggies?
Speaking ONLY in relation to the Augustine’s SuperFood - Vegan recipes that I have produced and verified using a qualified nutritionist:
Taurine is an amino acid. It is not essential in the diets of dogs as they can manufacture their own from methionine and cysteine (two more amino acids that are essential) and Vitamin B, assuming the diet is not deficient in either of these and our Augustine’s SuperFood - Vegan recipes recipes are not (more so methionine than cysteine, as methionine can cover for cysteine). With the versions of Augustine's SuperFood - Original that is to be mixed with meat, the dog will naturally get even higher sources of taurine as it is readily available in meat, especially meats like kangaroo (naturally we have no control over what meat people decide to feed their dogs).
L-Carnitine is a derivative of lysine (an essential amino acid) that is metabolised in the liver and kidneys. Carnitine is involved in the Vitamin B complex and has influence on healthy cardiovascular metabolism. For meat eating dogs generally supplementation is not required as red meat is one of the best sources followed by fish and poultry. Vegetables sources include asparagus and avocados (and we wouldn't recommend the nut of the latter for dogs). Vegetarian products like dairy also contain L-carnitine, particularly milk and cheese but as you may know we do not use any of these. Augustine's SuperFood - Vegan contains ample amounts of green lentils which are very rich in Lysine and dogs can convert this into Carnitine.
WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE TO FEED A DOG A VEGAN DIET?
Personally if I had no choice but to choose between a ‘premium kibble’ and a fresh and balanced vegan food, I’d choose the latter. Most people will argue that they would prefer the kibble because it contains meat, but I don’t consider it to be real meat or quality food given that it is heavily processed and most likely full of synthetic supplements. Also, a well balanced vegan diet contains the correct fiber needed to help dogs express their anal glands naturally (a common problem caused by commercial pet foods).
If you have a dog that is appearing to react to a number of meats, then a vegan diet may be a logical and viable short-term or even long- term solution.
Doing vegan dog food right can be very expensive and extremely time consuming if you have large dog. IF you can produce fresh and truly balanced vegan food for your dogs and your dog is happy to be vegan then power to you!
IS IT MORAL OR CRUEL TO RAISE A VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN DOG?
Well that depends on how you define morality and cruelty.
Wether we lead a vegan lifestyle or not, we all live within our own paradigms and we can't keep pets without moral contradictions.
If a person takes on the responsibility of caring for dogs, then their primary loyalty and energy must go into meeting their dietary and emotional needs as close to nature intended as possible.
We’ve seen cases of elderly dogs being forced onto a vegan diet overnight and they won’t have a bar of it. That is a form of cruelty and we must respect the nature of the dog.
My pups are not vegan but they do eat less meat than other dogs on a meat-based diet and I am continuing to see the benefits.
I suggest that you don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself by having an all-or- nothing approach. Even feeding vegan as little as 1-2 meals a week is better for their health (than none at all, and you are helping to reduce the consumption of animal products while improving their ability to expel toxins).
You can go all out if you wish to if puppy is happy with to be vegan and if you can do it right, but any reduction in the consumption of animal products is better than no reduction – after all, we have a moral responsibility to reduce the suffering of others.
We must do the best we can, as often as we can.