Do dogs need to eat meat to survive? The quick answer is no. Dogs are omnivores and can eat both animals and plants to satisfy their dietary needs. However, we continue to feed our pets meat-based petfood, considering 50% of dogs develop terminal diseases because of this meat. On top of that the livestock used to produce this meat suffers inhumanly and has a significant impact our climate. So, why not nudge our pets to the greener side and switch to a (partial) plant-based diet?
1. the evolution from wolf to dog
It can be quite tricky to decide what food is the healthiest to feed your dog. To find clarity between all the contradicting opinions, it might be reassuring to base your conclusions on what your dogs ancestors ate. After all; the wolf's eating patterns should be closest to their natural roots, right? Well, not quite, because they split from wolves in their evolution about 30 thousand (!) years ago and developed alongside humans for the past 10 thousand years. This resulted in their metabolism developing similar to ours, allowing them to digest plant-derived starches into fuel for their body. A neat trick that wolves can't do!
2. dogs have omnivorous teeth
Another indication that dogs are omnivores are their teeth. Carnivores typically have sharp teeth for tearing apart meat. Like omnivores, dogs have flat (pre)molars for crushing plant foods, and sharp front teeth. So, they can eat both plants and meat.
3. Dogs have longer intestines than carnivores
Their teeth are not the only thing that changed overtime, also their intestines. Dogs have longer intestines than carnivores. This is because plant-based material require more time to digest. Like with humans, a trait consistent with omnivores. Many argue that dogs still need to eat meat to get certain nutrients only available in meat, but funny enough dogs themselves can synthesise these nutrients (arginine, taurine, niacin and arachidonic acid) like any other omnivore. Something that carnivores can not do.
4. Wolves also eat plant-based
If you really want to stick to what wolfs eat as a guidance for what your dog should eat, consider this: depending on the type of wolf and area they live in wolves naturally eat up to 50% plant-based material. When they catch their pray, the first thing they eat are their intestines. Guess what? These stomachs are also filled with plant-based feed, plot twist...
5. traditional pet food not natural
The "meat" in pet food is usually made from slaughter remains and not suitable for human consumption such as; flesh, feathers and bones. This is highly processed at high temperatures into a paste and then preserved with artificial additives. In the process, nutrients are literally "burned-away" and need to be added again using mostly artificial vitamins and minerals. This is followed by another intensive heating process (extrusion, pressing, or baking) to force the mixture into a kibble form. So, what is natural about that?
6. Raw meat is risky
Not only is their a serious risk of contracting diseases from feeding raw meat to your pets, it also contains many dangerous substances such as:
- microplastics (e.g., from processed ear tags)
- illegal grow hormones
- rat poison (pest-prevention in factory farms)
- anti-biotics (prevent diseases from spreading)
This ultimately causes 50% of dogs to develop cancer and other diseases. This is infuriating, but frankly out of our control to prevent (unless you want to farm your own cattle in your backyard).
Many worried pet parents consort to organically farmed meat to prevent the above from occurring. However, the majority of organic livestock is still slaughtered in the same places, so not resolving the many issues with farming practices. Finally, there's the ethical question whether or not organic farmed livestock could feed the 200 million pet dogs worldwide. Thoughts?
7. vegan dogs live longer
Did you know that wolves in the wild only live up to 5-12 years old and dogs live up to 12-16 years old depending on the breed? What if I told you that the oldest dog that ever lived (Bramble) became 25 by eating 100% plant-based? Bramble also had 5 siblings who made it to 19-21 years by doing the same! Considering recent studies showed that dogs eating solely plant-based live up to 1,5 years longer than conventional meat-fed dogs, this raises the question whether or not eating a meat-oriented diet is prolonging their lives at all.
In the end of the day, a dog needs to eat all the necessary nutrients to thrive. Luckily, these nutrients can be entirely derived from plant-based ingredients such as vegetables, fruits and seeds. And the best part is that you entirely remove the the risk of eating polluted meat causing long-term diseases (alongside other great animal welfare and climate positivity impact benefits).
So why not nudge our pets to the greener side, switching to a partial or full plant-based diet? Let us know what you think about this topic in the comments!