Ask The Vegan Vet: Do Dogs Decline on a Vegan Diet?
Thank you for your inquiry about vegan dog food. Please see my below responses.
1.) Because of the short GI tract of dogs, their jaws, and other physiological adaptations to consume meat, how do you rationalize feeding them in a vegan way? It seems their design is that of a facultative carnivore.
That is an excellent question. Dogs are part of the order Carnivora, however they are physiologically omnivores. This is largely because after thousands of years of evolution alongside humankind and eating our food, their bodies have adapted. Studies show that during early domestication, dogs developed key genetic changes that allowed increased starch digestion relative to wolves. Thus they now have the ability to digest carbohydrates better than their wild counterparts.
Dogs in India have largely been vegetarian for thousands of years and we have not seen any systemic illness as a result. Modern day canines often have obesity, food allergies or diabetes - most of which can be prevented and sometimes cured with vegan diets.
2.) I have heard that dogs on vegan diets do well for a while, but over time they do not do as well. It seems to be challenging in my mind to provide a species appropriate diet while honoring their genetics. How do you see this?
That is interesting. I'm not sure where you heard that but I have never seen a scientific report to that effect. It is challenging to provide the best species-appropriate diet that honors genetics as well. Let's take human diets for example. One year they told us avoid fat, yet the current dogma is to eat fat and avoid carbs. Unfortunately, we still don't know what the ideal diet is for humans nor do we know this for animals. What we do know is that most dogs can be maintained on a vegan diet and live normal, healthy lives.
I hope that has addressed your concerns. We certainly appreciate and welcome your thoughtful questions.
Lorelei Wakefield, VMD, for v-dog
[Learn more about Dr. Wakefield on our vegan vets page]
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