We are the proud parents of one 9 year old German Shepherd Dog. He is the best dog one could hope for. He’s gorgeous, he’s obedient, he’s a lover and a protector. He has brought so much joy to our family. He is also getting old. He’s not as active as he once was and it takes him a little longer to get up on the bed than it used to.
One day at the pet food store, I noticed a bag of dry food marked as vegetarian. Hmmm. I had never really thought about a vegetarian option for dogs. Could that be an avenue for my dog to explore? Should my dog be plant-strong? I bought his usual food, a high-end lamb and rice blend and went home to research alternative diet lifestyles for dogs.
I started reading articles about crude protein intake, dogs being carnivores, dogs with allergies, older dogs and the like. Each article I read was an opposing opinion of the last. I had no idea there was so much information on whether or not dogs could be or should be plant-based. I found myself asking…where will he get his protein? What about omega-3′s? What if he didn’t like it? What if his health were to suffer because he wasn’t eating meat? What about B-12? Do dogs need B-12?
I was worried now more than ever. Then I had a little moment of clarity…haven’t I been down this road before? Worried about where I’d get my protein? What if it doesn’t work for me? Ha! I had asked the same questions when I was thinking about starting a plant-based lifestyle myself. I laughed a little then, because I know what I have learned since those early days. People thrive eating this way! I was also reading that many dogs are switched over to a no meat diet by their vet to help correct health problems. Hmm.. that sounds familiar too! If eating this way can help a dog who has health issues to fix…wouldn’t it seem logical that a dog might be able to prevent some health problems by eating this way to begin with? …I even found an article about vegan dogs that mentioned Dr. Esselstyn:
I read more articles, talked to some people who have switched their dogs to a plant-based diet, called and chatted with his vet for a bit too. I then started looking at the ingredients in dog food across the board. The food he was eating had several vegetables and fruit like blueberries in the ingredients list already. Though we had researched the food he had been eating, he’s been on it for a few years, so I never really noticed all the great stuff that was in his food to begin with. It didn’t seem like that big of a leap to switch him over for a while and see how it goes.
So I bought a small bag of the food I had decided to try with him. It has very similar ratios of protein and fat compared to the food he had been eating for a few years, just a little less protein and a little less fat. Mixing it in little by little with his lamb and rice blend until he was switched over to the veggies, grains, fruit and potatoes variety entirely. He LOVED it!
The transition went well and for the past two months he has been doing great! Everything was fine until I picked up some peanut butter biscuits for him recently. I was in a hurry and grabbed a box that looked healthy. The next day, my poor dog had some intestinal distress. I had not read the label. I had completely forgotten the FIRST rule of label reading! NEVER EVER BELIEVE ANYTHING ON THE FRONT OF THE BOX! Jeff Novick’s words echoed in my head as I read the ingredients. Chicken byproduct, egg powder and a few other less than optimal ingredients for my now plant-based pup. Ugh. In the trash they went!
So I went back to the store and spent a half hour reading dog biscuit ingredients. Wow. It took me forever to find one without animal products but I did! It felt like my first shopping trip during my first 28 days following Engine 2. His food had been easier to find, because there aren’t that many options. Have you seen the treat aisle at the pet store lately? It’s starting to resemble the snack aisle at the grocery store for people.
I am happy to report that I have a happy, healthy plant-based dog, who will hopefully be with us for a long time to come.
NOTE: this is my personal experience with my dog and only my dog. I am not a Veterinarian, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. :) I just love my dog.