There are many reasons to consider switching your dog to a vegan diet! Bramble, the longest living dog on Earth who lived to be 27 years old, was a vegan! Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores, canines are more like humans in that they’re naturally omnivorous. They can survive and thrive on a diet of meat and plant foods, or just plant foods alone. Whether you’re vegan yourself, or you’re looking to improve your dog’s health or reduce his carbon “paw print”, here’s a guide to everything to consider when switching your pooch over to a vegan diet.
1. Consult a veterinarian.
This should always be your first step. But first, be sure to find a vet who is open to the idea and maybe knows a little bit about vegan diets with dogs. Truth be told, vegan canines are few and far between and this may not be a subject your vet is well versed on. Then make sure your dog has a thorough check-up (physical exam and blood work, to cover all your bases) before consulting with your vet about your furry friend’s needs. You might find that your dog is in perfect shape to adjust to a new plant-based diet, or that even they might benefit from the change, but there’s always the chance that the switch might be difficult for them. In any case, make sure you get the okay from your vet before moving on.
2. Come up with a plan.
Once you get your vet’s permission, try to formulate a new plan for what your dog’s new diet might end up looking like. Find a vegan dog kibble (like V-dog) and figure out whether you’ll be able to find it in a store near you, or whether you’ll have to order it ahead of time to have it delivered. Find vegan canned food (most often simply labeled “vegetarian”) at your local pet store or grocery. It’s also recommended that you supplement your vegan dog’s kibble and canned food diet with fresh, “human” food. It may take some time to figure out what your dog likes, so start preparing foods for him and take note of his preferences. You can feed him tofu cooked with leafy greens, carrots, and peas, or brown rice cooked in vegetable broth, or make him a stew with things like lentils, quinoa, peanut butter, kale, and other veggies. Just make sure to keep it on the bland side with low sodium and little or no added spice. Know other foods to avoid (for example, most nuts, grapes, onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs). Your dog might also enjoy the occasional snack, like fresh sliced bananas with peanut butter, or dried sweet potatoes.
3. Out with the old, in with the new.
When switching your dog over to a new vegan kibble (or any kibble for that matter), it is best to slowly phase out their old food to help them adjust. Start with 3/4 of their old kibble and 1/4 of the new, then after a week move to half and half, then 3/4 new, and finally, all new kibble. Monitor your pet for any changes in energy level, potty habits, etc.
4. Go in for a check-up.
4 to 6 weeks after you’ve begun your pet’s transition, bring him back to your vet for another check-up. Have the physical and blood work done again and have your vet explain to you any differences, good or bad, in your pet’s results. You’ll want to ask your vet to help you make decisions on changes to be made in your dog’s diet or lifestyle if needed. Sometimes switching to a vegan diet can lead to weight gain so that might be something you want to discuss. If there are any serious issues, ask your vet whether they think the changes can be amended while still pertaining to a vegan diet. If not, it may be best to switch your pet back to an omnivorous diet plan. If you do get the go-ahead to continue on the vegan food, just make sure to keep up with your vet, especially for the first 6 months. Bring your dog in for regular check-ups and don’t be afraid to give her a call if you notice anything “off” about his behavior.
A vegan diet can be especially beneficial to your pet, and rewarding for the both of you. Just remember that your pet’s health should be the priority before any other factors in choosing his diet.