The modern, domestic dog is an adaptable creature, happy living in a heated home, watching television and travelling by car. He is no longer the carnivorous hunter we made friends with 15,000 years ago. One thing that has kept our relationship with the dog so sweet, is the canine’s knack of fitting in. But how far can this go? Would he be prepared to join us on the road to vegetarianism or would his taste for meat prevent it? Suzanne Smith takes a look at going green with our dogs.
Homemade dog food is becoming a popular option amongst modern dog owners, although hardly a new one. Every dog alive today can be traced back to dogs that were raised on homemade natural diets. The dog food industry, in comparison to dogs themselves, is young - maybe 50 to 60 years - although canned meat was sold as dog food at the turn of the twentieth century. Originally, the commercial foods were meant to supplement homemade food.
When wild dogs and Wolves feed in the wild, the carcass would be that of a grass-eating animal - a herbivore. Along with the internal organs, dogs would eat the predigested grasses and plants of the carcass. Those grasses and plants would consist of no more than 20 to 25 percent of the dogs' total diet. They would raid nests from ground-breeding birds and eat the eggs, and they would catch the occasional insect. These dogs might forage on certain weeds and grasses.
With this in mind, we can see that canine diet does require some vegetation and greenery. So how does today’s dog owner go about making the switch from feeding a meaty diet to a veggie one?
Firstly, find out what vegetables and other non meat based foods can provide good nourishment for your dog. For example: Brown rice is a good source of B vitamins. It also contains high levels of, protein, calcium, fibre and zinc. Sea weed is an excellent source of phosphorus. Oats provide an aid to good digestion as well as containing anti septic properties. Sunflower oil is a good source of vitamin E, and is high in polyunsaturated fat. Parsley is rich in iron and vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Secondly, ensure that it is safe for your dog to begin a diet of this nature, check with your vet or a nutritionist. If your dog is suffering from any health problems, your vet may advise you not to pursue the vegetarian option whilst that is ongoing. As well as this, dogs at different stages in their life have varying dietary requirements. Young puppies need a lot of animal fat and protein, which is present in a meat based diet but not so much in a vegetarian diet.
Thirdly, find out exactly what life stage your dog is at and devise his diet to suit this. Older dogs require less fats and other energy sources than growing dogs because they are less active, so they may be able to enjoy a healthy diet with less meat. But the older dog may also require higher levels of calcium and vitamin E for mobility, these properties are present in brown rice, oats and some root vegetables.
Try to make a gradual transition. Don’t suddenly stop all meat and substitute it for vegetables. Take time to find out what vegetables and other vegetarian foods your dog enjoys. Perhaps add some in to his normal meal and use the process of trial and error. Things that are left in the bowl may not be to his liking, so consider finding other sources of nutrition that contain similar nutrients.
In the beginning of this process you will want to match your diet as closely as possible with your dogs. This obviously does not mean eating exactly the same food, but you can use the same ingredients, so that the preparation of the meals becomes simpler and cheaper. After a while, when you begin to learn what foods your dog enjoys and what foods make him happy, you can expand on these, using the favoured ingredients more and introducing new food items.
Use your judgement to assess whether your dog is benefiting from this type of lifestyle. Rapid weight loss, dull coat, low energy and any other abnormal reaction should be a warning that you need to speak to a vet or nutritionist about what you are doing. It may be worth reintroducing some meat back in to the diet.
If your dog is overweight or suffering from mobility problems of skin problems, a vegetarian diet can be a huge boon to his overall well being. Dogs are omnivorous animals, but even a temporary change to a vegetarian diet can be beneficial to both you and your dog, provided you do your research and monitor the results.
Have you ever gone green with your dog? Tell us how you got on!