Verona Rebow is a dog lover, and vegetarian who has written a book about dogs living on vegetarian diets. Many people may simply assume dogs are strictly meat eaters, because of various notions floating around in our culture, but she says that is not entirely true. Below is an interview
with her on feeding dogs vegetarian food. (If you believe dogs eating vegetarian food is absurd, consider the fact black bears are mainly vegetarian, though they are perceived by many as being dangerous carnivores.)
What are the best non-animal protein sources for dogs?
Cooked tofu, beans, and lentils. A dog will eat raw tofu right out of the container.
How much protein does the average dog need daily?
We have a book with recipes and they are balanced with the protein requirement. We followed some guidelines like the weight and age of the dog. Older dogs require less. They require more protein than people.
What are the biggest misconceptions about dogs having to eat meat constantly?
That people think dogs are carnivores, but they are omnivores. They actually can eat plants as well as meat.
Is vegetarianism healthier for dogs?
Yes, it can change the dopamine levels which is linked to the fight and flight reaction.
Do vegetarian dogs live longer?
There might be some studies, but I don’t know. All my dogs lived thirteen years and longer. The oldest lived to 17, it was a lab. It can reduce strokes, cancer and heart disease. The diet must be balanced.
As with people in modern, affluent societies more dogs are becoming overweight, can a vegetarian diet help keep dogs at their normal weight?
Yes, definitely. Even with vegetarian food it must be portioned carefully so they don’t overeat, and they must exercise regularly.
Could a vegetarian diet help a dog diagnosed with heart disease?
Yes. Reduce greatly risk of heart disease such as heart attacks and stroke. I have a Golden Retriever, and some of them are prone to enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy) and a doctor said there is nothing you can do. I started him on carnitine and taurine and that strengthened the heart. We suggest highly to supplement with those.
What are the most important nutrients for dogs, and what vegetarian foods have them?
We recommend b-12, taurine and carnitine supplements.
Can puppies also be fed vegetarian food and still be healthy?
Yes. I did a lot of rescue work, including for dogs with malnutrition and they experienced a rejuvenation of their health.
Can older dogs also be vegetarian?
Yes. All our dogs have been vegetarian.
What vegetarian foods have you seen dogs seem to like more than others?
Just to make the food enticing. It varies by dog. My Great Dane will eat anything, including apples and cucumbers. Pineapple, squash, kale. Some like bananas, mashed into oatmeal. Another dog of mine would eat a whole head of lettuce, but grated. Carrots also. Any fruits and vegetables.
Many chew toys for dogs are made of animal parts like pig ears and cow bones. Are there vegetarian chew toys, and are they as beneficial?
There are nylon bones, but some dogs don’t like them. You can buy baked sweet potatoes for chew toys, but they can be expensive.
Example: Sam’s Yams
You can make them yourself also. Here is one recipe for a sweet potato chew toy.
You could try Himalayan chew sticks from yak milk, which is not vegetarian but no animals die from making it.
Image Credit: Edward from Boston