What do you do when your vet doesn't support a vegan diet for your dog? There is growing acceptance in the veterinary community that vegan diets can be safe and healthy, but not all vets have experience or confidence with meat-free diets. Let's take a look at some of the top concerns that may come up at your vet appointment.
"Vegan diets are not nutritionally sufficient."
Are vegan diets inherently lacking in certain nutrients? According to the National Research Council, dogs require specific nutrients (such as protein), not specific feedstuffs (such as meat). This means that they can get their protein (and other nutrients) from meat-free sources and still satisfy their bodily needs for wellness.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes nutritional guidelines for dogs that must be satisfied in order for a diet to be considered nutritionally complete and balanced. Many vegan diets, like v-dog, meet AAFCO guidelines.
If your vet is worried about taurine, it's a good idea to check that your dog food company includes it in their formula. (Most commercially-prepared foods, including vegan and meat-based formulas, include supplemental taurine — which happens to be vegan.) You can learn more about taurine here.
"Your dog's health will gradually decline on a vegan diet."
If your vet is worried that vegan diets have long-term detrimental effects, you may want to clarify what they are concerned about. Are they concerned that your dog will be lacking certain nutrients? Are they concerned that they will develop a certain health condition? Nutritionally complete plant-based diets have been around since the 1980s and thousands of dogs around the world have thrived as vegans into their golden years, many of them recovering from symptoms related to allergies, digestion, and joint health. Learn more about vegan dog longevity here.
"Your dog should be on a hypoallergenic prescription diet."
Vets are familiar with prescription diets and may even carry them in their clinics. They may steer you towards them if they consider them a "tried and true" solution for issues like allergies.
If your dog has been having allergy symptoms on a meat-based diet, removing animal products may solve the problem. A 2016 study found that beef, dairy, and chicken were the top 3 most common food allergens for dogs (whereas grains typically get the bad rap in pet food marketing). Prescription hypoallergenic diets tend to use lower-quality ingredients, so we recommend trying a high-quality vegan food like v-dog first.
"Vegan diets are too high in carbohydrates. Dogs need a high-protein, low-carb diet."
Some vets are proponents of raw diets or high-protein diets, which is rooted in the notion that the optimal diet for a domestic dog is the diet of their wolf ancestors. While dogs do require protein, they have evolved to make excellent use of starchy, plant-based foods, thanks to their close evolutionary history alongside humans over the past several thousand years. Nutritionally complete plant-based foods can (and do) provide plenty of protein for dogs, as well as appropriate levels of other macronutrients.
"If you put your dog on a vegan diet, their health will need to be very closely monitored."
Dogs on nutritionally complete vegan diets won't need any additional monitoring on top of what is already recommended for nutritionally-complete meat-based diets. However, it never hurts to schedule extra health checkups if it makes you and your vet feel more comfortable.
Tips for dog parents
1. Not all diets are created equal. Be sure to look for a brand that is well-established and meets AAFCO standards. (This goes for any diet, not just vegan ones.)
2. Look for an open-minded vet. Many vets are not vegan themselves, but are happy to evaluate your dog's diet based on nutrition guidelines rather than dismissing certain categories of diets across the board.
3. No diet is one-size fits all. Bear in mind that puppies have slightly different nutritional guidelines than adults and may need additional supplementation if you are feeding them an adult food. Dogs are individuals, and any specific health conditions should be discussed with your vet, if applicable. There are many vegan options on the market, and one may be a better fit than another.
4. If you're still nervous about changing your dog's diet without your vet's approval, plan a follow-up visit to check your pup's bloodwork after you transition. Regular checkups are important, no matter what diet you choose.
More questions? Reach out to our plant-powered pooch experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
V-dog makes 100% vegan products for dogs that are packed with allergy-friendly, easily digestible ingredients. By removing meat from your dog's diet, you're taking a stance against animal cruelty and lowering their carbon pawprint, all while helping boost their overall health. Check out how v-dog has helped pups recover from allergy symptoms, tummy troubles, arthritis and more on our testimonials page.
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