Can dogs be vegan?
Annual World Vegan Day is on Sunday, 1st November with the entire month of November dedicated to recognising how far the vegan movement has come and highlighting how accessible and beneficial a vegan lifestyle is - so we wanted to do our bit here at Paws in Work and expand our plant-based pup knowledge!
We had the privilege of interviewing Oscar (well, Oscar's human Charlotte) who has been a vegan dog for two years now. Have a read below to find out more about the reasons why he went plant-based, the research required to make this move, his vets opinion and much more!
by Olivia Kennaway, Paws in Work blogger.
hello! please could you introduce yourself a little bit...
Hey! I’m Charlotte – I live in the Cotswolds with my fiancée Phil and we have a little fluff ball dog called Oscar. Phil and I run Fire & Flow coffee roastery and Born Wild Tea along with our business partner and child-hood friend, Callum. We have a pretty fun job of supplying speciality coffee and tea to indie coffee shops all across the UK.
...and please can we meet oscar!
Occar is a 6 year old cavapoodle who has an unhealthy obsession with tennis balls and refuses to go for a walk, unless we are going directly to the park! He will always come to work with us when we are in the office, but Phil and I are lucky enough to be able to work from home most of the time.
let’s get straight to the nitty gritty, has oscar always been a vegan pup?
Oscar has been a vegan pup for a couple of years now, so he did grow up eating animal products but even then, I would always bake him vegan peanut butter biscuits as treats.
was the concept of veganism new to you before looking into it for oscar?
Phil and I have been vegan for a few years now so it was always something that we considered for Oscar. We didn’t move him to a vegetarian or vegan diet when we did as we wanted to make sure that we had done all the research first (as we did for ourselves).
how did you feel ethically when you were feeding oscar a meat diet?
It never really sat well with me that another animal had to be slaughtered for Oscar to be able to eat a meal, so I decided to look more into whether dogs can actually thrive on a vegetarian or a vegan diet.
how much dog-related vegan research did you do?
I did massive amounts of research before transitioning Oscar to a vegan diet. There is a lot of information for and against a vegan diet for dogs, so you really have to dive into the research, consider the source of the information and make up your own mind. At the same time, I also came across information about how much low quality animal by-products and unhealthy fillers, additives and preservatives are being used in traditional dog foods.
If you take a look at the Gov.co.uk website, you can see the different animal by-products that commercial pet foods are allowed to contain. For example, they are allowed to contain “heads of poultry” and “slaughterhouse by-products, like hides, skins, horns, feet, pig bristle, feather or blood”. You can find the full Government list here.
So because of all of this, we wanted to look into finding dog food with the highest quality ingredients whether vegan or not. When I learnt that dogs can thrive on a vegan diet, and they don’t actually need animal products to live well, I decided to give it a go. There are particular nutrients that you need to consider for example Taurine, L-carnitine and B12, and they need to maintain high amounts of protein in their diet (which they can get from a variety of plant-based sources). Usually the particular nutrients that they need are supplemented in complete vegan dog foods, but you do need to check. I also give Oscar additional supplements in his food now and then (we use Proflax natural supplements).
did you consult your vet before transitioning oscar to a vegan diet and what is your vets opinion of veganism for dogs in general?
Yes I did consult our vet - he was already aware that dogs can thrive without consuming animal products and was happy that I had done the research before transitioning Oscar over. I am sure there are many vets for and against a vegan diet for dogs, as there will be many doctors for and against a vegan diet for humans. So all in all, you have to do your own research (from considered sources) and go with your gut.
do you ever get any backlash from people?
I don’t get any backlash to be honest – it’s great that veganism is growing massively so I think people understand the reasons behind it. If someone asks about Oscar’s diet, I will explain the reasoning behind it and what the research shows, as often people didn’t realise that dogs actually don’t need meat to thrive.
is it more time consuming having to prepare his vegan dog food versus when he ate 'traditional' dog food?
If you buy vegan kibble or vegan wet food, it’s just as simple as conventional dog food. I personally feed Oscar a mix of vegan kibble (balanced and complete) and homemade meals. I will usually make a big cook-up for the week with a high protein base (e.g. lentils/chickpeas/beans/tofu) and mix this in with his vegan kibble for every meal.
If you decide to make homemade meals, you do need to make sure they are balanced and contain everything that they need in the right proportions. I did quite a lot of research about what different foods that dogs can and can’t eat so that I can make him tasty, but also really healthy meals.
how readily available are vegan dog food treats to buy at whim?
Now that I know all the different brands of vegan dog food and treats it’s really easy, and brands are starting to offer more and more vegan and vegetarian options. Oscar loves Soopa sticks, Benevo’s Pawtato chews, Pooch & Mutt Peanut Butter bones and Lilly’s Woofbrush chews. I also bake him different treats at home for example oat, banana and peanut butter biscuits. I buy most of Oscars food and treats online from Fetch, Ethical Pets, The Vegan Kind and Veggie Pets.
have you seen an improvement in oscars health since an all vegan diet was introduced?
Oscar has always been pretty healthy, but I have noticed that since moving to a vegan diet he has less problems with his allergies. He is also a really energetic dog and has a lovely, healthy coat. I honestly think that in regards to his health, the home cooking helps so that he is not only eating dried kibble, but also freshly made foods. His homemade meals are a mix of a high protein source with a smaller amount of wholegrains, veggies, herbs and spices.
are there any repercussions if someone else feeds him something non vegan, or if he eats something he finds outside?
Not for us, all of our family and friends know he is vegan and my mum’s pup is vegan too, so it’s pretty easy. If someone gave him anything non vegan without knowing, it’s not a big deal.
would you recommend more people put their dogs on a plant-based diet?
I would recommend if you are curious to look into the research online and come to your own conclusion about whether you would be happy to give it a go. If you do transition over, just do it slowly (start with a smaller percentage of vegan food/kibble and slowly increase it). There are tons of vegan dog food and treats options out there now, you just need to know where to look!