Food For Thought: Feeding Your Dog Vegan/Vegetarian
I am probably going to offend some folks with this, and might even lose a couple potential clients. Please understand that I deeply, sincerely love you anyway as humans and do know that everyone is only doing the best they can with the knowledge, wisdom, and feelings that they have regarding our world.
That being said, I feel very strongly about the following, and have to speak up:
Unless your dog or cat has a medical issue that makes digesting animal protein difficult or impossible, they are designed primarily to eat meat. As in, actual animals..bones, fur, organs, and the like. And guess what? They enjoy doing it! Tearing it apart, gnawing on bones, crushing through cartilage, etc. And this does not make them evil! Animals do not know good or bad and only understand yes and no in the context of training. They do not have a moral compass. Just instinct! This does not mean they do not feel emotion, but simply that they would not lose sleep because they killed a thing to eat it.
They are domesticated and most have been bred to crave human companionship, but are still wild in many ways, and I struggle to come to terms with this daily. If I could let my pups hunt things naturally and in a controlled way, or course, that would be ideal and the most fair to them. Living in a city and having the lifestyle that I do makes this impossible, so I do the next best thing for them. Does not mean it's pretty and fun to handle blood and raw meat, but to deny that it is not a biological need of these animals because it's yucky, makes zero sense to me. Supplementing a dog's diet with veggies, etc, is great, and has tons of proven benefits- but I believe that the bulk of it should be animal. (Of course, giving your dog white rice if it has an upset stomach is fine, and not what I'm talking about here...)
After reading, researching, and discussing this dilemma with vegan friends who own pets, I now understand that if you add enough supplements, a vegan or vegetarian diet can in some cases sustain your naturally carnivorous pet. But that does not mean it is right, or what is best by them, and there are often enzyme deficiencies and improper ratios galore in these diets. Cats especially are not omnivores, and this practice can make them (and many dogs) seriously ill! Stop telling me about that vegan-fed collie named Bramble who lived to 27; that's nice, but not the norm. There are a million factors that could have contributed to that dog's impressive longevity. Diet may or may not have been the biggest factor, and there is no way to know with certainty in regards to that particular case. It also romanticizes and falsely perpetuates the idea that everyone should give only allow their dog to eat legumes, rice, and veggies. Absolute insanity...Or the argument that their dog "chose" veggies even when offered alongside meat...Are you serious? I do not like comparing dogs to children, but if your child was offered sautéed spinach and nutrient dense cashews or a bowl of plain white nearly nutrient-void rice for lunch every day, would them choosing the white rice mean that must be best for them? Hell no! Look kid, here's the deal, you're eating nuts and spinach.
We must do what is meant to fulfill the biological needs of creatures in our care. NOT what feels good to us. Yes, this can be hard if you do not like the idea of killing animals.
One example of a similar concept: if I have a dog with predatory aggression (meaning they attack to kill other dogs because it's fun) come in for rehab, there is going to be a point in the training process where I will choose to cause that dog extreme, momentary discomfort, and create a HUGE aversion to the dangerous behavior. It is very unpleasant. I do not enjoy it. But those dogs consistently go on to live social lives (with owners who know how to manage the environment and advocate for them), and do not attack dogs anymore. The point being, I do something that goes against my morals (causing pain to an animal) when nothing else worked, because I knew keeping this animal alive (with better social skills), in their home, and a safer member of society, was worth it, and the right thing to do.
I have had three client dogs in the past year come in for behavior modification who happened to be fed strictly vegan, and one, a vegetarian diet. They struggled across the board with serious dental disease and bad breath (did you know that your dog's mouth, unless they have just eaten, should not really smell like anything?), dull coats, itchy skin, excessive anxiety and inability to focus, and trouble keeping weight on and off, due to the high starch/carb diets they were being fed. I was honest with those clients, and gave them resources to books on canine nutrition based on actual scientific data, as well as the contact info of a brilliant local holistic vet (who is out of this world passionate and brilliant) AND sent them to check out content posted by expert pet nutritionist Rodney Habib. Three of them followed my advice, despite their "moral" hesitations, and I should have freaking taken before and after photos of their dogs. The difference in physical appearance and temperament has been unbelievable!!!! Adding raw bones into their diet literally removed years of plaque, and digestive issues were resolved, (without putting the animal under anesthesia to have their teeth manually cleaned.) Many of the pups' allergies went away, they achieved a healthy weight, etc. One client however was not open to this advice, despite their dog's condition, and I (politely) fired and refunded them. I will not work with people who refuse to do right by their animals.
If your moral, ethical issue with feeding your animal meat is the idea of contributing to the horrors of factory farming, I am with you! There are few things on this earth, aside from human rights atrocities, as horrific as the abuse creatures in those circumstances endure. Please know that there ARE affordable ways to find humanely raised, naturally fed and humanely killed animals. It is not as difficult as one might think, and it costs no more than even "good" kibble does in the long run. Message me, and I'll gladly give you resources!
However, if you feel that killing animals is mean and wrong even to feed your pet, and that there is no such thing as "humane killing" that's fine, too! You are entitled to your opinion completely, and I respect and can understand (at least to a certain extent) where you're coming from. There are plenty of pets available that are designed to eat a plant-based diet that aligns with your beliefs - go out and get one of those! Please do not get a dog or cat, and then force your dogma and dietary ethics upon them. You do not deserve the pleasure, gift, and honor of their companionship. To try to humanize them in this manner is abusive imho, and it makes me really angry and sad.
They rely COMPLETELY on you to do right by them, and are at your mercy. All we can do is love and do right by our dogs with the information that we have - and we owe it to them big time!
Happy New Year!
Peace and Paws from The Loyal Hound Household