Is it unnatural to feed dogs a vegan diet?
Written by Butterflies Katz
Created Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Some say that feeding dogs a plant-based diet is unnatural; that an animal-based diet is their natural diet. We have experimented for three decades, and have been successful in caring for canines and feeding them totally vegan. So now it is proven by us (and many others) that dogs CAN thrive from the plant kingdom. So I say to canines and humans in one breath, if you can survive without causing harm to other feeling animals, why choose to be a part of harming fellow sentient animals?
Beautiful, she was fed a vegan diet most of her life
To me, it feels like we’re taking our best friends along with us on our evolutionary journey. In the last three decades, we have fed them vegan meals consisting of well cooked legumes and grains as the main part of the meal. We've learned to add cooked carrot, butternut squash, or sweet potato (an orange colored vegetable for beta carotene which the dog forms into Vitamin A in their body). We also include a small amount of raw vegetables (grated carrot or beetroot, finely cut greens or cabbage, or sprouts). To this, we add a variety of supplements that may include: VegeDog powder, B-12 fortified nutritional yeast, (non-animal derived) Taurine, a dash of (non-animal derived) L-carnitine, vegan vitamin D powder (if lacking sunshine), kelp and sea vegetable flakes for mineral content, etc. Taurine is supplemented for the prevention of heart disease (in an herbivorous diet for dogs) and both Taurine and L-carnitine even sometimes replace drugs if the canine is already diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Some commercial vegan kibbles/treats now include Taurine and L-carnitine. Finally, the meal is topped with a bit of oil that makes it irresistible.
It's not well-known that canines are metabolically omnivores. However, their physical requirements are not that of humans. They require more protein than we do. They manufacture their own vitamin C when needed. Certain foods we commonly eat are toxic to them. Metabolically speaking, dogs have a few characteristics of an omnivore such as being able to convert carotene to Vitamin A (a feline can't do this), Tryptophan to Niacin, Cysteine to Taurine and Linoleic acid and Arachidonic acid.
To become vegan, regardless of species, so it seems, takes evolving out of the killer instinct. Kisses; our rescued dog in New Zealand, was abandoned in the surrounding woods. We bonded immediately when she came to me from out of the forest. When she was young, and shortly after we found each other, she killed a bird. I reacted very upset. She never has killed a bird or other animal again. I was just being honest that harming other animals upsets me. Dogs appreciate honesty. Kisses can run right back into the surrounding forest. She does not have a leash, rope or a collar; she can run away to live freely - easily. There are small animals as well as water for her to drink everywhere; she could sustain herself and live free of my imposing a plant-based diet on her. She chooses to live with us. Real life experience speaks louder than what you read on-line or in books.
Beautiful was a Golden Retriever who epitomized the word ‘beautiful’. As a young dog, some of us witnessed her killing a mongoose – before she came to live with us. She ‘veganized’ and her nature grew gentler on a plant diet. When Beautiful was introduced to our rescued rabbit friend, there were three of us in a calm and quiet space. I was in the middle to be sure the introduction went smoothly and it did. Beautiful soon began protecting our rescued rabbits from other dogs that came near. She would let them know with her body language and snarls - to “back off”. We have photos of Poof (the magic rabbit) (smile) jumping on her and playing. Beautiful went from a killer to a protector of rabbits.
Breaking the spirit of a horse is to me, unthinkable…to break their natural expression of freedom. But to break ‘the spirit to kill’ – is thinkable. We experimented in these realms with about 10 or so dogs that we shared life with, plus “rent-a-dogs” (wink), that were all fed a whole foods vegan diet, as well as some commercial vegan kibble. What animals have evolved to do that enabled them to survive in a particular environment is “natural”; but only for that environment. However, our canine companions are no longer in that free-living environment. Does the domesticated dog that has been heavily manipulated by years of selective breeding even resemble a "natural" dog such as a wolf or dingo? They are rescues from the 'system of domestication' and they're living with us. It has been one of my greatest joys to share life with dogs that evolved out of their “natural ancestral diet” to thrive from the plant kingdom.
The facts are in…the proof is in the plant-based pudding…our three decades of living with vegan dogs shows that we have taken our canine cousins along with us for the ride! To me, what seems "natural" is a reality where sentient beings show respect toward other animals who don’t want to be viewed as a commodity for human use. I speak for every animal - without question - nobody wants to be yours or anybody’s next meal; even if you say a blessing or prayer over them or thank them!
Every animal is ‘a somebody’ - a unique individual that should have the basic inherent right to freedom from harm by humans, and even to be helped by humans. It's a speciesist mindset to think that only humans deserves the basic right to freedom from being enslaved, assaulted and sexually assaulted, commodified, tortured, and murdered. Any animal that CAN suffer should have the birth-right not to be made to suffer by humans. This is really elementary stuff...stuff we probably felt as a child but were indoctrinated into believing animals are for human use, much like the thought pattern of women are for men and people of color are for Caucasians; a mentality that needs to be “risen above”.
We and our dogs feel like we rescued each other! Our dog friends are happy, healthy, and hurting no one...isn't that “natural”? So is it unnatural? No more unnatural than a dog eating a cow, or a dog eating cancerous animals, or a canine eating factory-farmed animals out of a tin can, or stealing the breath of life out of one animal to feed another animal. Commercial standard pet food contains slaughterhouse offal, grains considered 'unfit for human consumption' (moldy, for example), waste products including: intestines, udders, heads, hooves, condemned parts rejected for human consumption including 4-D animals (animals used for food that are picked up dead, dying, diseased or disabled) and sometimes cats and dogs that have been euthanized along with the drugs that killed these animals that doesn't cook out, (and turns companion animals into cannibals).
Our canine companions live as long as their counterparts or a bit longer, and they do that without participating in animal exploitation; so I really don't see the argument against it, that both non-vegans and vegans, maintain. The Pet Food Institute, the trade association of pet food manufacturers, has acknowledged the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers: “The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry, and other food industries which prepare food for human consumption.” - Pet Food Institute. (Fact Sheet 1994. Washington: Pet Food Institute, 1994.) In other words, when we purchase standard commercial pet food, we are aiding and helping those institutionalized exploiters of animals to increase their profits.
There IS an evolutionary process. Not that long ago cannibalism was “the way things are” in New Zealand (where I write to you from) and surrounding islands like Vanuatu. Yesterday’s “natural” is tomorrow’s “unnatural”.
For information on how to successfully feed dogs ‘vegan’, go here:
M Butterflies Katz is based in the USA and New Zealand and has been a vegan for over 3 decades. She runs the blog Veganism: A Truth Whose Time has Come, previously wrote for the now-retired Australian Vegan Voice magazine and is the Co-author of Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm by Gentle World