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Dogs Going Vegan

As a professional pet sitter, I see a wide variety of canine diets. A big part of my job is to maintain the established routine for the pets in my care as best I can, so whatever they eat on a regular basis is what they eat when I’m feeding them. I don’t judge–well, mostly I don’t. I see both high-quality and low-quality kibble, canned food, raw diets, dehydrated food, and homemade food. Regardless of what the pets in a family are eating, I have to believe that their owners are feeding them the best they can with the knowledge and finances available to them. I try to keep my clients educated about the benefits of feeding a high-quality diet. That being said, I am not an animal dietician, and I am constantly learning.

Eager faces as I'm scooping their homemade vegan food into their bowls. Follow Me on Pinterest

Eager faces as I’m scooping their homemade vegan food into their bowls.

As an aspiring vegan, I was particularly interested in the vegan diet my client, Karla, feeds her dogs. I may have just stepped in a pile of poop, because I understand that feeding a vegan diet to a carnivorous creature who is at your mercy for, well, everything, could be quite controversial. To me, it’s less controversial than feeding your pooch a bag of low-quality kibble composed mostly of fillers, artificial colors, and preservatives, which doesn’t have much meat in it, anyway, but most people don’t bat an eye at the person in the big box discount store throwing a 50-pound bag of complete garbage in their cart, then feeding it to their dog for the next month. So I decided to learn more about the vegan diet for dogs, and Karla helped me understand her story. She has fed her Papillon, Chi-chi, and Yorkshire Terrier, Abby, a vegan diet for almost one year.

WM: Can you tell me a bit about your journey to becoming vegan?

Karla: I’ve been vegan for a few years, and I was vegetarian for a while before that. My reason is a combination of my love for animals and for a healthy, happy, lifestyle. There’s so much information about living vegan, and once I started opening myself up to it, this lifestyle just fell into place.

Karla has two school-aged sons.

WM: Is your whole household vegan?

Karla: I only cook vegan at home, however, my boys live with their father part time, and they do eat meat there.

WM: So what made you decide to feed your dogs a vegan diet?

Abby and Chi-chi absolutely love their vegan meals. Follow Me on Pinterest

Abby and Chi-chi absolutely love their vegan meals.

Karla: Being vegan, I would encourage anyone to eat this way. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of switching my pups to a vegan diet until a friend suggested it. I started researching what they can eat and made the switch. I had been under the same impression as many others, that they needed meat to be healthy.

WM: What were your dogs eating before?

Karla: I previously had them eating organic dog food that was free of fillers, etc. The expensive stuff!

WM: Have you noticed any changes in them, health-wise, since you started feeding them a vegan diet?

Karla: Chi-chi has had the most noticeable change. He was a little on the heavy side before, and now he’s very healthy. I’ve also noticed that his coat is healthier, now. As a hair stylist, I believe you can tell a lot about someone’s health by their hair and skin. The same goes for our pups!

WM: What research did you do before embarking on this diet for them, and how do you know that they are getting all of the nutrients they need?

Karla: It helped that I’d been eating this way already. i know what I need to be eating in order to get all of my essential amino acids, etc. All I’ve done is transfer that to Abby and Chi-chi.

WM: There is a growing trend to feed dogs a raw diet, and many people will say that dogs are carnivores, so they need meat. They will likely say you’re not feeding them what they need. What do you say to that?

Karla: This is also said about us, but the truth is that we and our pups do not need to eat meat to be healthy, and, in fact, we are healthier with a plant-based diet. My dogs love their plant-based lifestyle. They did not get as excited as they do now when they were eating the old stuff!

WM: They do get excited. I have the videos to prove it.

Check this one out with Abby: http://videos.videopress.com/htVX1R9Z/img_1479_fmt1.ogv

And this one with Chi-Chi: http://videos.videopress.com/CoWK4Mn9/img_1478_fmt1.ogv

WM: I notice a huge difference in a dog’s poop depending on the diet, and I see a lot of dog poop. With few exceptions, the lower the quality of dog food, the softer and stinkier the poop. I notice that Chi-chi and Abby’s poop is reflective of what you are feeding them. It’s a bit seedy, and is firm, and not very stinky. I noticed a change in my own poop when I transitioned to a vegan-based diet, too. Sorry to have to go there, but poop is a big deal for dog owners. What do you notice about their poop?

Karla: Just like with humans, poo is a huge indicator of the health of our pet. Initially, they were going more than normal, and so did I when I switched to a vegan diet. This is due to our bodies’ ridding of everything that has built up. Once this adjustment was made, I noticed that they go pretty quickly after a meal, and there’s not much of a smell to it. I’ve also noticed that their urine is odorless, now (I have pee pad pups).

WM: I noticed that about their urine, too. I take care of a few “pee pad pups,” and your place isn’t as stinky. I hardly notice it. How did you figure out how to make your own food for them?

Karla: Initially, I started following recipes online. There’s a great one on the PETA web site.

WM: Do you always feed them the same recipe, or do you switch things up?

Karla: I switch it up, now, because they eat pretty much what we eat (other than what’s toxic or poison for them). Even when I switch up their food, there are no issues with their bowel. Switching it up is a wonderful treat for them and for us. They’re much happier.

WM: Will you share their favorite recipe with us?

Karla: I’d love to!

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WM: How large are the batches you make, and how long does it keep?

Sometimes Abby and Chi-chi's homemade vegan food makes me hungry! I can't say that about canned food or kibble. Follow Me on Pinterest

Sometimes Abby and Chi-chi’s homemade vegan food makes me hungry! I can’t say that about canned food or kibble.

Karla: I make a mixture of quinoa and beans at the beginning of the week and typically just add the rest to it as I feed them. They’re eating the majority of their fruits and veggies raw, at this point, so I just cut those up nice and small and mix them in. If I’m heading out of town, I’ll make a decent batch of everything for my amazing pet sitter to give them, and that can last in the fridge for up to a week.

WM: Thanks for the compliment! So what about cost? How does this vegan dog food compare to feeding a high-quality kibble?

Karla: Oh, it’s cheap! I get a large amount of fruits and veggies at the local farmers’ market weekly, spending around $30 for the whole family. Hemp protein is $15 for a few-months supply, and quinoa–the most expensive out of it all–costs me about $5 per week. They live a healthier life, costing me less, as well.

WM: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

I know Karla to be a loving, responsible pet owner, and Abby and Chi-Chi are happy and healthy. Their breath doesn’t stink, and I know, because I’m all about pooch kisses! Their coats are some of the softest I’ve felt. They are full of energy, a healthy weight, and always eager for meal time. From what I’ve observed, the vegan diet is working well for them and definitely deserves further exploration. I plan to try Abby & Chi-chi’s Vegan Dog Food recipe and see if my picky pooch will go for it.

There is such a wide variety of diet choices for our dogs, and pet owners have very strong opinions about the diet they choose to feed their pet. Have you tried feeding your dog a vegan diet? What do you think about dogs going vegan?

Kristen Carr is a professional pet sitter, freelance writer, and wellness consultant. She owns Well Minded, a pet sitting service in Phoenix, AZ and blogs at Well Minded Word about family wellness as it relates to animals. Her days consist mostly of happily juggling her children, her pet sitting visits, her writing, and the laundry. She lives in the Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband, three children, dog, sulcata tortoise, and fish.

Kristen is working very hard to become an official vegan, but, for now, she\’s making more vegan choices and calls herself a flexitarian. She does really well most of the time, but about once a month, the devil in her begs her husband to fetch her a giant In-N-Out extravaganza-of-a-meal, which she devours, licks her lips like a deprived wolf, and then gets back on the wagon, her denial allowing her to live with herself.

Kristen believes in holistic health care and pet care, natural cleaning, and tries her best to keep toxins out of her home and out of her family. She is always looking for better ways to protect her loved ones by natural means. Kristen is an advocate of preventative care through healthy living for humans and animals alike.

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Comments

  1. I’m not here to start an argument so please don’t take it that way – I’m merely stating my own personal opinion, for the $0.02 that it’s worth.

    Dogs are indeed carnivores. A carnivore’s whole make up, from their digestive system to how their overall body processes nutrients, is very different from that of an omnivore (humans). I’m not one of these militant “raw meat only” types, as I do believe that dogs can digest vegetables to a certain degree. They need help however – vegetables and grains have to be pre-processed (macerated, cooked, etc.) for the dog to absorb most of the nutrients that these foods contain.

    I can appreciate that this lady’s dogs appear healthier on their vegan diet, and kudos to her for caring enough to be knowledgeable enough to not feed them crap-in-a-bag. I’m curious though, about the long-term health of vegan-fed dogs. Do they live longer? Do they have fewer health problems as they age? How about when they become old? What about dogs with allergies to certain foods? One of my dogs is allergic to corn and soy. In my quest to learn what “alternative foods” she could eat rather than kibble (I can’t afford grain free kibble for a dog her size), I tried a cooked diet first. The cooked recipes I tried included ingredients such as brown rice and beans, lentils, peas, carrots, greens of various types, etc. with only small amounts of meat. She lost weight at first, which was okay since she was a tad overweight to start with. But she continued to lose weight, so I increased her portions. Eventually she had lost so much weight that she looked like I was starving her, despite feeding her huge portions of food each day (we’re talking a gallon ice cream container of food for a 45lb dog). By then I had researched enough to finally be comfortable with feeding her raw (I now know that it’s not as complicated as it seems at first), so we tried that. Her health improved so drastically after the switch to raw that I’ve been an advocate of it ever since – I even switched our cats to a raw diet.

    I realize raw is not for everybody. When someone asks me for dog food advice, I always say if you can’t do raw (for whatever reason, be it finances or psychological reasons), then feed the best food you can afford. Some dogs thrive on a cooked diet – mine wasted away. Some dogs digest vegetables easier than others. Each dog is different so you do the best you can with the cards you are dealt. But I question whether a vegan diet is healthy LONG TERM for an animal that nature has designated as a carnivore – complete with a biological make-up designed to digest primarily meat.

    • These are all really great questions and I will make sure that Kristen sees this and does her best to address your concerns.

    • Dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. They eat anything and everything they can find, great scavengers when they’re on their own. My dogs were put on a vegetarian diet by my veterinarian because of digestion issues with meat for our Kelpie. They’re very healthy, proper weight for their size/age, and love their food. I don’t cook their food for them as there is veggie dog food out there. And my dogs have been vegetarians for six years

    • Kristen, the post author, was having trouble replying due to a glitch in my system here. Here is her comment:

      Hi, Nicole,

      I don’t take your comment as argumentative. I thank you for taking the time to formulate such a thoughtful response. We could probably research and debate forever, but the bottom line is that dogs are as individual as we are, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for all. I’m happy to hear that you have found that feeding your dog a raw diet works for both you and for her. That is most important.

      Though often believed to be carnivores, dogs are actually omnivores. “In the wild” is almost a mute point, now, since they have been domesticated for so many generations, but if in the wild, they would eat a diet of mostly meat and some plants.

      Dogs do not require meat. They require protien. Though meat-based foods are the most common source of that protein, it is not the only source. Dogs can get their protein from beans, quinoa, etc. We often become so focused on the source of the nutrients that we forget about the nutrients themselves. The key factor in any diet is that it provides the needed nutrients. Dogs can have their nutritional needs met through a vegegarian or vegan diet.

      As far as longevity goes, we know that vegetarian and vegan dogs live as long or longer than their meat-eating counterparts, as long as the diet is meeting their nutritional needs. They benefit from good health, and typically don’t ingest as many preservatives and contaminants, so they are usually quite healthy. Most resarrch says that a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet is a good long term choice for dogs. Dogs with certain ailments such as allergies can often find relief in a vegetarian diet, so those dogs definitely see their quality and lenghth of life improve.

      I’m not advocating that everyone should switch their dog to a vegan diet, but I am finding that it is a viable option, if dog owners wish to go that route.

      I found the following articles to be informative and fair, if you”d like to learn more:
      http://gentleworld.org/good-nutrition-for-healthy-vegan-dogs/
      http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/03/10/vegan.dog.diet/index.html?hpt=C2

      Again, thank you for taking the time to respond, and thank you for caring so much. I’m thrilled that you have had success with the diet you choose to feed your dog.

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