Vegan Dogs: Healing on Plant-Based Foods + Dog Food Recipe!
I was inspired to try a vegan diet for my two French Bulldogs, Sir Winston Crumb and Miss Gabby Kat, last year in July (2014) and it was the best thing I have ever done for my fur-babies. I used to think that dogs needed to eat meat to survive and be healthy. I also used to think that humans needed to eat meat to survive and be healthy. I've learned that neither dogs nor humans require animal protein to survive - in fact both myself and my dogs are thriving on a plant based diet, and we are healthier than ever before! -Cats on the other hand are true carnivores and studies I have read show that they still need to eat animal protein. Dogs are omnivores though, which means they can digest and gain nutrients from both animal and plant foods. What I've learned is - my dogs are loving the plant foods and they've never been healthier!
Both of my frenchies have healed their multiple health issues, are less stinky and shed less hair! A win win for everyone! Winston, 8 years old, has had health issues since he was born. I found out when he was young that he was very allergic to chemical cleaners and laundry detergent – he was constantly throwing up his food and getting sick. Changing to natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, and natural, unscented laundry detergent really helped a lot, but he still had allergies to food, skin problems, rashes, itchiness, and constant ear infections. He also had brown crusty tear-stains in the folds under his eyes, but I just thought it was natural for his breed since most smushy-faced dogs have them.
He wouldn't even let me cut his nails, his poor paws were so sore.
Over the years I have tried Winston on every diet under the sun. I bought him the fancy expensive foods from the store, gave him supplements, digestive enzymes and probiotics and thought that something would work but nothing ever did. He even went gluten-free. The vet told me that it was most likely the protein that he was having an allergic reaction to, so I kept switching the animal protein source trying to find something that worked. I tried chicken, beef, lamb, duck, salmon, and locally caught fish. I tried the vet recommended brands, and even a soy based food but it was so processed and gmo, Winston wouldn't even eat it. Some of the foods would seemingly work for a little while, but the allergies would always come back.
So I took it to the next level and tried a homemade diet when Winston was about 2 1/2 years old. I was getting into whole foods and eating healthier myself so it made sense to do the same for my dogs. It was a combination of rice, hamburger, eggs, carrots and a supplement pill with digestive enzymes. He did ok on it for a while, but started to get really low energy and his health issues persisted. He improved in energy when I put him back on kibble and I'm assuming it was because the food I was making lacked in some essential nutrients. It's very important to have a balanced diet when making your dogs homemade food, whether it's vegan or not.
After a few more years of struggling on the kibble, I decided to try Winston on a raw food diet. I had started eating a raw food diet and felt amazing benefits from it. I learned that humans are truly frugivores, meant to thrive on raw fruits, and believing that dogs were carnivores I put Winston on a raw meat diet. It was not fun having bloody meat packs in my fridge but I did it for my fur-bestie. I really thought that this one would work. I bought the best raw meats from the boutique pet store and drove an hour to get it. To my disappointment, it didn't seem to help much. I tried the dehydrated raw kibble next. He really liked that but again, no real long-term improvements. He'd always seem to do better for a little while, then get sick again.
I don't remember what inspired me to try a vegan diet for the dogs, but I think one of my friends on Facebook posted about their dog thriving on a vegan diet and it peaked my interest. I didn't know if it would work, but upon further research I decided to give it a try... I had tried everything else! I joined a group on Facebook called Vegan Dog Nutrition - lots of good info on there. I bought a bag of V-Dog vegan kibble and had it shipped to my house. The dogs liked it and I transitioned them slowly, mixing with their regular food over two weeks. This past winter I started making them homemade vegan food too and I mix half of the homemade food with ½ kibble.
"Dogs are classified in the order Carnivora, but, unlike cats they have evolved biologically as omnivores, meaning their systems can derive nutrients from a wide variety of sources, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and animal products. ‘The important thing is that you use a diet that has been shown to be nutritionally adequate for whatever stage of life you’re feeding, and it is absolutely possible to find a good quality commercial pet food that doesn’t have animal products in it,’ says veterinarian Kathryn E. Michel, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.”
I am not saying that a vegan diet is the best for all dogs nor am I claiming it's their natural diet - but I've seen a lot of evidence that it is safe if done properly. I put my dogs health first. I am going to stick with what is working and vegan diet is working a heck of a lot better than any animal based food has for both of them. I'm not just feeding them vegan because I am vegan - although I am really happy it works for all of us and I dont have meat in the house. I also fully understand the wolves are hunters and eat animals argument, but I've never seen my little frenchies kill and eat anything besides a few bugs. Gabby did catch and kill a bird once, but didn't eat it. I have yet to witness them exhibit the same instincts and capabilities as a wolf and if they did start killing and eating animals I'd honestly be shocked.
Regardless of the 'science' behind it- the proof is in the vegan pudding when it comes to my dogs results. Both of my dog’s health has improved greatly on a vegan homemade/kibble diet and I will keep them on it as long as they continue to thrive.
And I am happy too! My dog's health and well-being is number one, but that fact they can thrive on a vegan diet is a double-benefit because it means all three of us can live in a cruelty-free home! That makes my heart smile. The homemade diet only takes me an hour every week to prepare and it lasts about 6 days for 2 dogs. It's totally worth it. I add kibble to the mix for their teeth and to make extra sure that their diet is balanced with all the nutrients they need. I trust the brands I use. Plus it comes in handy when I'm travelling or forget to make food ahead of time.
*I noticed that they drink a little less water when I feed them the homemade diet, which makes sense as the kibble is so dry and devoid of moisture.
The two brands of kibble I use are V-Dog and Natural Balance Vegan Formula. Both are 100% complete & balanced nutrition. V-dog proudly meets or exceeds AAFCO adult dog food nutritional standards and is veterinarian approved. I like that V-dog delivers to my house, but you can’t find it in stores. They just brought in Natural Balance Vegan Formula to Pet Smart here in Canada and I’m happy to have two options for vegan dog food. It really comes in handy when I’m travelling and can’t make my dogs food from scratch.
Natural Balance Vegan/Vegetarian Formula - http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/dog-formulas/dry/vegetarian/
The homemade recipe I use is below. It's high in protein, as dogs require more protein than humans do. At least half of the ingredients I use are organic - just do the best you can with that one.
The original recipe I used and adapted is from The Veggie Nut.
The changes I made to the original:
I substituted lentils and organic hemp protein powder for the soy tofu.
I blend the beans, lentils and peas before adding them to the mixture.
I exchanged peanut butter for sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butter.
Homemade Vegan Dog Food Recipe
Time: About an Hour
1 very big pot
1 medium saucepan
Freezable glass containers
(In the large pot- grains and veggies)
9 cups of water
2 cups of rice (short grain brown or basmati) I buy in the big sacks to save money
2 cups of organic oats
2 cups chopped organic celery
2 cups chopped organic carrots
1 cup chopped organic broccoli, kale or spinach
2 chopped and peeled sweet potatoes (medium size)
½ cup ground organic flax
½ cup organic sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seed butter, almond butter or tahini (sesame seed butter)
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup pure organic hemp protein powder
1/3 cup organic coconut oil -or hemp/flax oil
(In the medium pot- beans, lentils and peas)
6 cups water
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups soaked beans- black beans/pinto beans (You can use 1 can of black beans)
1 cups lentils
Chop and prep your veggies – the celery, carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. I chop mine into really small pieces as my dogs are small. In a very large pot, boil 9 cups of water. While you are waiting for the water to boil, measure out 2 cups of rice, and 2 cups of oatmeal. When the water boils, add all the chopped veggies (except the peas), the rice, and the oatmeal. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes if using white rice or quinoa, and 45 minutes if using brown rice.
This is where my recipe differs from the original- my dogs weren’t digesting the peas, lentils and beans (they came out the other end still whole) so I cook them in a separate pot and blend them, to make it easier to digest. I cook my beans from scratch – I make sure to remember to soak them overnight in water. *You can just use a can of black or pinto beans if you like. To cook the beans and lentils, I add them to a medium saucepan and cover with water, about 6 cups. I bring the beans and lentils to a boil; watch carefully as the water can get foamy and overflow quickly with beans! Reduce heat and simmer as per package instructions – about an hour for soaked black beans, 45 minutes for the pinto. At the end I stir in 2 cups of frozen peas to defrost them. Let them sit for a minute or two then drain the water rinsing with cool water. Add the beans and peas to a food processor and blend until smooth – if using a Vitamix blender, do this in two smaller batches using the tamper. Add water or almond milk if you need to get things moving.
Blended beans, lentils and peas
The big pot of rice and veggies will be cooked by now and you can add the blended beans, lentils and peas to the mixture along with the rest of the ingredients – the nutritional yeast, molasses, ground flax, hemp protein powder (optional), coconut oil, sunflower seed butter. Stir well with a sturdy spoon- it’s thick!
I keep enough in a bowl to last 3 days for both dogs and freeze the rest in glass containers. *Let it cool before putting in the freezer. I feed my dogs a little more volume than I would with just the kibble as it’s not compressed and baked down. It works out to about 1 cup of kibble plus 1 ½ cups of homemade food each per day. I feed them twice a day.
Kibble mixed with homemade food
This is just a base recipe – I change things out once and a while to vary nutrients and taste, and depending on what I have on hand. Sometime they get pumpkin, sometimes I throw in chia seeds, sometimes I run out of oatmeal and they just get rice that week or I add quinoa! If I make zucchini noodles, I save the peels, chop them up and throw them in there too. Nothing goes to waste in my house (unless it's not safe for dogs to consume).
My dogs get raw fruits and veggies. They love fruit! But I try to only give them fruit on an empty tummy - and NO grapes! Bananas are their favorite..they will jump up on the counter to eat the peels! Most of the time I'm just sharing my food with them - scraps from my dinner veggies, they love zucchini and lettuce…anything really – they aren’t picky. I even share my green juice with them! You can find vegan dog treat recipes online if you want to get creative.
Foods that should NOT be given to dogs are:
The obvious ones like chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. Other bad ones include grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, nutmeg, macadamia nuts, seeds and pits from fruit, corn cobs, bones, raw eggs, and fatty or processed meats - or no meats/animal products at all if you want to try the vegan diet! I also avoid sticky dried fruits for healthy teeth. http://www.healthypets.com/toxicdog.html
Thanks for reading! Please share! [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]*Always do your research, communicate with your vet and keep up on blood work to make sure this diet is right for your dog. Some dogs may need supplementation, and you can look into taurine and carnitine supplements if need be.
Lots of Love and Fresh Squeezed Hugs,
Ashley Clark is a Holistic Health Coach, artist, photographer and the owner/operator of Naturally Ashley Nutrition. This prairie girl from Saskatchewan Canada loves to nourish her body positive thoughts and ripe seasonal fruits! She wants to share everything she knows about holistic living to inspire others on their journey to create a happy, healthy lifestyle naturally.
Ashley received holistic health coach training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has been following a raw vegan diet for three years. She has healed many health issues such as candida, gallbladder inflammation, chronic hives and allergies, sinus problems, digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic urinary tract infections and more. She now feels lighter and brighter with abundant energy to pursue her dreams!