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The first response I usually receive when I tell people my dogs are vegan is, “Aw, poor little things, do they miss meat?”
And in all honesty, I don’t believe my dogs miss meat. They live in the moment and I don’t think they reflect on their diet in that way. Although, I do think given the chance they would devour meat in an instant and thoroughly enjoy it, if it was put in front of them.
However, being vegan myself I cannot bear to think of other animals being killed so that I can feed my animals. Especially when there are plenty of alternative healthy, delicious, nutritious, compassionate options available.
When I see a picture of a rabbit, a chicken, a lamb or a cow and then I look at my dogs, as much as my dogs are part of my family, I do not see that one deserves to live a life of freedom and happiness, free from cruelty, while the other will likely suffer and have its life ended early to become another’s meal.
It truly bewilders me that it is deemed acceptable to kill animals to feed other animals. That we see the life of a dog as more important than the life of whatever gets diced up to fill their tins.
I must admit this is something that never really crossed my mind when I first had dogs as pets. I can only imagine that I had been conditioned from such a young age to believe that it was entirely normal to feed animals to pets, especially in the case of rabbits, which are a popular food source for many commercial pet food brands.
Although I have personally been adverse to eating meat from a young age, I didn’t immediately awaken to the fact that by giving my pets meat based products, I was going fully against my beliefs and preferences and also in many ways being hypocritical.
How can I really consider myself an animal-lover and defender and protector of the innocent, voiceless and vulnerable, if I buy into the meat-industry by feeding my dogs anything that I would not consider consuming myself?
So, although I know that it isn’t the most popular choice, and I have even been told that it is cruel to deny my dogs meat, it is my opinion that it is far crueler to feed them animals that have been bred and raised in often quite horrendous conditions, tortured and, finally, killed prematurely.
Another reason for omitting meat from their diet was due to finding out exactly what was in a lot of processed dog food products. Byproducts of meat such as beaks, placental, wool, horns, hoofs, brains, spinal cord tissue, bones, lungs, intestinal tracts, testicles, tails, ears and restaurant grease—which includes a number of toxins and chemicals—are all known to be including in certain types of dog food. Additionally, waste from slaughterhouses from dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals and baby chicks up to one day old ends up in store bought dog foods. I most definitely wouldn’t want to consume any of this, so I don’t see it fit to allow my dogs to eat any of these ingredients either.
Jonathan Self, a canine expert, believes that 9 out of 10 visits to the vet are due to feeding dogs the wrong type of food and that processed dog food is responsible for dramatically shortening a dog’s life.
There is still the option of a raw meat diet, however, that still brings me back to the ethics of taking a life to preserve a life.
While dogs are often considered carnivores, they are biologically omnivores, and canines have the ability to transform certain amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein. Fortunately beans, corn, soy and whole grains are all excellent sources of amino acid.
My dogs eat different foods everyday, and the best thing about it is that they enjoy most of the foods I buy and make for myself. I ensure that when choosing what to feed them, they are going to receive a balanced amount of vitamins D and B, calcium, iron and protein. If dogs aren’t keen on vitamin B12, which is generally only found in vegan foods, a supplement is often necessary, and nutritional yeast is one good supplement to consider.
Based on the highly recommended advice of the vet I take them to, I feed my dogs a mixture of rice, lentils, cabbage, brussell sprouts, pumpkin, squash, cauliflower, soybeans, oats, sweet potato, quinoa, celery, carrots and broccoli. All of these can be popped in the food processer to be lightly mixed so that they are easily digestible. I also put chopped up sweet potato into the freezer as it makes for a tasty chewy treat. There are also plenty of commercial ready-made vegan dog food products easily available.
The main difficulty I had with converting my dogs’ diet was getting them used to the new food tastes and smells. I didn’t make instant changes. Instead, I gradually reduced the amount of meat in their diet and slowly introduced the new choices. To make it a little more edible and tasty, I mix the food with a small amount of soy milk or coconut oil. Coconut oil is good for a dog’s digestion as well as their coats. My dogs find it delicious too. I find that adding coconut oil encourages them to eat anything they may initially be a little unsure about.
Many wild animals, and wolves especially, have a high intake of raw plant material.
Just in case there are still any questions over whether a vegan dog-diet is a healthy, sustainable one, Bramble, a 27-year-old Blue Merle Collie and vegetarian, earned a Guinness Book of World Record as the world’s oldest living dog in 2002.
There are some who have suggested that by feeding them a vegan diet I am forcing my beliefs onto my dogs, without their consent. I do not perceive it this way at all, as they trust me and they do not have the rational ability to decipher what is considered unnecessary or cruel. Therefore, as their caregiver I feel it is my responsibility to offer them a life that is as harm-free to the world as possible. My dogs are in their later years of life and they are active, attentive happy, healthy, thriving, well-behaved dogs. Their teeth are strong and clean, they have no allergies, their coats glow and they smell wonderful.
Before considering altering a dogs diet, it is advisable to carry out research, which is widely available on the internet, and if you have any concerns consult with a veterinary nutritionist and then monitor your dog closely throughout the transition.
Please click here for a healthy vegan recipe suitable for dogs.
Author: Alex Myles