If you are feeding your dog commercial dog food, you may be jeopardising their health. Often, commercial pet foods are composed of ground up animals which are deemed unfit for human consumption. Most of them contain hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, all of which can be harmful to your pet. Visit the Truth About The Pet Food Industry post to find out more about what could be in your dogs’ commercial pet food.
Some people who have decided to put their dogs on a diet free of animal products may be concerned about their dogs’ nutritional requirements. Below is a list of required nutrients for dogs.
Taurine and L-Carnitine
These amino acids deserve special attention. They are not considered essential because dogs can synthesize them in their livers. However, some dogs may have trouble synthesizing enough taurine and L-carnitine to meet their nutritional needs. These amino acids are not found naturally in vegan foods. It is recommended that you supplement your dog with these amino acids, or be sure to choose a vegan dog food brand which contains them. Deficiency can lead to heart problems.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and can also provide fiber, minerals like iron, and antioxidants. Note that starches need to be thoroughly cooked in order for the dog to utilize them. Otherwise the starches can start to ferment in the large intestine and cause health issues. Any starches you give your dog (such as lentils) need to be cooked until very soft and ideally mashed.
If making your own vegan dog food, you will need to supplement your dog’s feed with vitamin D. Make sure any commercial vegan dog food you choose contains vitamin D. Note that too much vitamin D is toxic to dogs.
The 10 essential amino acids are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. All of these essential amino acids for dogs can be found in vegan foods. However, some aren’t as readily available as others. If making your own vegan dog food, you will likely need to combine proteins to make sure your dog is getting enough of each type of essential amino acid. Commercial vegan dog foods are usually formulated to provide the right amino acids.
The AAFCO has set the minimum protein requirement per dry weight at 18% (and 22% for puppy food). Some low-active dogs might be find with 18% protein, but experts generally recommend around 25-30% protein for active and growing dogs. When choosing vegan dog food, choose options with higher protein percentages to compensate for the lower assimilation of vegetable proteins. About 30% of protein goes towards maintaining skin and coat, so the first sign of protein deficiency will probably be a poor coat. To ensure that your dog gets enough, make sure that approximately a third to a half of their meal consists of a high-quality protein source (such as well-cooked legumes – pintos, chick peas, soy beans, lentils, and split peas are all good). Other high-protein foods include tempeh, tofu, TVP, hummus, sprouted lentils/garbanzo beans (ground/blended).
Oils & Essential Fatty Acids
Dogs need a certain amount of oil in their diets, and if they’re lacking it, their coat will be a clear sign. A lusterless coat can transform after a few days of including a nutritious oil in the diet, such as flax. A dog’s oil requirements can also be met with 1-2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed butter), flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, or ground flax seeds. A teaspoon or two of organic sunflower, olive, or other food oil poured over their food will get them to eat anything! Flax and hemp have the added benefit of being Omega-rich.
Enzymes & Beta-carotene
Sweet potatoes, carrots and other orange-colored root vegetables are important sources of beta-carotene, and should be included on a regular basis (cut finely and/or mashed). Regular potatoes (in small pieces or mashed) are also fine to include on occasion, but they do not include this important nutrient. Dogs convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is a necessary nutrient that is hard for them to get elsewhere in a plant-based diet. Other vegetables (also cut finely and/or mashed) are good to include whenever possible, for the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber. The best choices are pumpkin, squash, yams, carrots, and also other small bits of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cooked cabbage, etc. Raw, grated carrot and/or beetroot is good, as well as sprouts, and/or raw, dark leafy greens, finely chopped and mixed in well with their meals.
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-The Vegan Lily