As people have become increasingly environmentally conscious and more aware of the issues around animal agriculture and sustainability, vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets have become more popular. This has only been helped by the fantastic innovations and development in the plant-based food industry in recent decades. As a result of this, many dog owners nowadays would also like to provide their furry friends with a meat-free diet too. However, is meat a biological requirement for dogs or can canines thrive on vegetarian or vegan diets?
In this blog, we take a deep dive into alternative doggy diets. From answering whether or not dogs need meat in order to stay healthy to exploring potential vegan and entovegan replacement diets, read on for all the information you need to decide what classes as safe and healthy nourishment for your four legged friend.
Do dogs need meat to be healthy?
While it may come as a surprise to some, the simple answer is no - dogs do not need meat in order to remain healthy. Although canines are in the Order Carnivora - meaning they require meat as a primary food source in order to survive - they are in fact, physiologically-speaking, omnivores. This means that, like humans, dogs can eat plants, such as vegetables and some fruits, as well as meat, in order to survive. With this in mind, dogs can live a long and healthy life while being fed plant or insect-based dog food, so long as their nutritional needs are being met.
However, it is important to note that simply feeding your pup the same meat-free food you consume may not be enough to keep them fit and healthy. Dogs require a nutritious, protein-rich diet that includes certain nutrients like vitamin D3 which cannot be derived from just plant-based sources. That being said, dogs can absorb the levels of protein and nutrients they need to stay healthy from a range of traditional meat-free sources. For example, one form of meat-free food you could consider is entovegan, insect- plus plant based dog food.
At Percuro, for example, we offer a range of traditional meat-free dog and puppy food that is made using the very best insect protein. Aside from its environmental advantages, high-quality insect-based dog food of this kind tends to be rich in protein and iron, as well as being low in fat. For this reason, it is suggested that entovegan diets not only provide an environmentally sustainable model for pet owners going forward, but also one that ensures the body and minds of dogs are supported using all natural ingredients.
Can dogs be vegan?
As we touched upon above, technically no, dogs can be 99.9% vegan, but still need vitamin D3 which is commonly derived from an animal-based source only. With this exception in mind, if they are provided with the right levels of nutrition for their age, breed, size and general health, dogs can survive and even thrive on a fully plant based diet.
However, that being said, designing and maintaining a totally meat and insect-free vegan diet for dogs - one that contains all of the necessary nutrients needed for them to thrive - can be extremely tricky, time consuming and expensive, even for professional veterinary nutritionists. Indeed, while many vegetables and dog-safe fruits are great for providing your furry friend with a number of key vitamins and antioxidants that can help sustain them, this type of food typically lacks the required levels of protein and iron. This can cause health issues relating to a dog’s skin, muscles and joints. For this reason, it is advised you talk to your vet before switching your dog to a fully plant-based diet.
That being said, entovegan diets may provide you with a viable alternative option. This is because insect-based food can provide the full range of these protein building blocks (called amino acids) that are limited from some vegan diets and are traditionally derived from animal products.
Is giving vegan food to dogs legal?
Although there are currently no concrete laws around what you feed your dog - as long as your pet receives a ‘suitable diet' that 'meets all of your dog's nutritional needs' under the the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - the UK government recently suggested that amendments could be made to this law. These changes could see dog owners jailed or fined if they put their pets on a fully vegan/vegetarian diet that is deemed not to provide your pet with the nutritional requirements they need to remain healthy.
If you want to give your dog a meat-free diet but are concerned that a fully plant-based, vegan diet may not provide them with the full range of nutrition and protein they need, an entovegan diet, shaped around insect-based dog food, may be the perfect solution.