In the past I have experimented with vegan dog food for my baby girl. Both V-Dog and Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula were enjoyed thoroughly by my pup, Dori. If the idea of raising a vegan dog startles you, fear not: dogs can both survive and thrive on a vegan diet, as long as their nutritional needs are being met. Cats, who are obligate carnivores, are a different story.
My pooch thrived on each food we tried, keeping her athletic physique – mandatory for dachshunds and their delicate spines – yet developed some enigmatic allergy shortly after we moved into a new apartment. To this day the reason her eyelid puffs up into a stye is still unknown, yet after many rounds of steroids and warm compresses our vet convinced me to switch her to a hypoallergenic food, suspecting she may have a food allergy. The food consisted of a protein source unfamiliar to her system: venison. For a few years, I begrudgingly (and lazily) bought her the non-vegan kibble and silenced my internal battle against cognitive dissonance.
By the way, guess what? Even on the hypoallergenic food, styes still would pop up on her eye from time to time and she could simply care less. A warm compress and a few days later, she would be as good as new. I strongly suspect dust or some other environmental allergen may be the culprit, but we may never know.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I whipped up some basic, wholesome, plant-based ingredients for her first batch of homemade vegan dog food. I had made the decision to give it a try a few months prior, yet decided to wait until we reached the bottom of her last bag of kibble. Research provided tons of information about creating a balanced meal, complete with supplements to enhance her health and fill in any nutritional gaps.
I followed the following guidelines: her meals should consist of 1/2 high-protein source, 1/4 whole grain, 1/4 vegetable (half of which should be an orange veggie), and a sprinkle of healthy oils. Supplementing with Vegedog is recommended, as it provides all of the essential vitamins and nutrients which may be lacking, including taurine, Vitamin B12, and dried kelp for iodine. I also chose to sprinkle on some Prozyme, a vegan enzyme supplement for pets which allows them to absorb up to 71% more nutrients from their food. Since dogs may have some trouble digesting cooked foods (since their ancestors didn’t slave over a stove to prepare their meals), this enzyme blend helps their bodies get the most out of the food without bloating.
The first round of food preparation went well and was easier than imagined. My first batch lasted for two weeks of serving her 1/2 cup, twice a day. My second go-around produced, um, quite a bit more! Additionally, I decided to mash up the lentils in a food processor before mixing together all of the ingredients after seeing some undigested lentils in her stool. The lentil mash was an interesting sight, but a powerhouse of nutrients!
The verdict? She LOSES HER DAMN MIND when it’s mealtime. With the same enthusiasm as the rare treat when she gets to slobber her way through a peanut-butter-stuffed Kong toy, she inhales her meals and has, on a few occasions, bounced and toppled over her water dish in anticipation as I lower her bowl to the ground. It’s just nuts. Considering she had spinal surgery less than two months ago, this is extra ridiculous behavior.
It’s been a little over two weeks and I’m monitoring how she looks to see if I need to increase how much she gets at mealtime, yet so far she is staying slim, but not too thin. Her poops are absurd, though. She poops as much as a vegan human – at least three times a day. Healthy, solid poops, that is. And her energy is off the charts. We’re wondering if something about her new food is making her extra sassy, because she will demand toys, snuggles, and playtime with ear-piercing, tail-wagging yips now. Like a bona fide brat. (But, damn, do we love her.)
Here is the recipe we currently follow for our 10 lb fireball:
2 parts cooked, mashed green lentils
1 part cooked brown rice
1 part chopped green beans and canned pumpkin (both organic)
equivalent of a small splash of olive oil per serving
1/2 tsp Vegedog
1/4 tsp Prozyme enzymes (both supplements are mixed in right before feeding)
As with any new food for your pup, it’s best to check with your vet first and to do your own extensive research to make sure your fur baby is getting adequate nutrition and portions. If you feel confident you can provide consistent and wholesome meals, then go get started! And let me know if you have any other tips on maintaining a healthy menu for your vegan pup!