By Emily Koelsch
There are several reasons that people opt to become vegetarians, from health considerations to political, environmental and religious beliefs. In recent years there has been a trend of pet owners wanting to not only remove meat from their diet but from their pet’s as well.
This relatively new trend leaves many dog owners wondering whether this is a healthy decision and one they too should consider. To help you think through your dog’s diet, here are some key pros and cons of a vegetarian diet to consider before making any dietary shifts.
While it might seem unlikely, it is possible for a dog to have a vegetarian diet and remain healthy. If changes are made carefully, slowly and with the consultation of a veterinarian, it can be safely done and even have some positive effects.
- Helps dogs with allergies. Food allergies are the second most common reason for skin allergies in dogs, with fleas being the first. A vegetarian diet often resolves the issue.
- Reduces liver and kidney issues. It reduces the risk of liver disease and kidney stones and can improve a dog’s overall health.
- Reduces your household’s carbon footprint.
- Reduces the demand for animal products.
- Gives pet owners an opportunity to ensure that their dog’s diet includes fresh ingredients.
That said, there are several challenges that come from switching a dog to a vegetarian diet. Most importantly, it might not give dogs the vitamins and nutrients that they need. Dogs have different dietary needs than people, and it’s not as easy to switch their diet.
Specifically, it can lead to inadequate protein intake, an imbalance of amino acids and vitamin deficiencies. If these nutritional deficits happen for extended periods it can lead to long-term health issues. Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist, warns that, “for dogs, certainly vegetarian and vegan diets can be done, but they need to be done very, very carefully. There is a lot of room for error, and these diets probably are not as appropriate as diets that contain at least some animal protein.”
In addition to the health risks, switching a dog to a vegetarian diet is time consuming for owners, as it requires ongoing monitoring and planning.
Deciding to switch a pet’s diet is a personal decision that owners should carefully consider. In addition to weighing the pros and cons, consider these expert tips before switching your dog to a vegetarian diet:
- A vegetarian diet is not appropriate for puppies or dogs that are going to be bred.
- Always consult with a veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet.
- If you do implement a vegetarian diet, schedule wellness visits for your pet at least twice a year, including blood tests.
- Only feed your dog foods that meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials compliance.