Making Your Own Vegan Dog Food
I don’t think it’s a secret how much I adore my Yellow Lab, Keeva. I’m so lucky to have her in my life. Lately my thoughts have been steered toward her diet and how healthy her food actually is for her, the animals, and the planet. After doing a ton of research – I’ve decided to transition Keeva to a Vegan diet. I’ve tried feeding Keeva a vegan diet a couple of times before, but I was always so nervous as to whether or not she was getting all of the nutrients that her body needed. So after about a year and a half of researching I finally feel comfortable going forward. I know vegan dogs can be just as healthy as their meat-eating friends!
Check out Bramble, the Chocolate Lab from the U.K., who lived to the ripe old age of 27! She became one of the oldest living dogs on record by eating a diet of rice, lentils, and organic vegetables. She ate once a day and got plenty of exercise! Or check out the story of Piggy who was rescued from the streets of the Dominican Republic and nursed back to health by eating a vegan diet!
I know a lot of people may be shocked that someone would choose to feed their dog a vegan diet, but it’s actually not that extreme. Dogs are classified as a carnivore, but like humans, are technically omnivores. That means they can survive and thrive on a vegan diet just like we do! Although a dog’s protein requirements are greater than humans – with a little careful planning you can be assured that your dog’s diet will be healthy for them and gentle on the animals and the planet.
For the time being, I’ve decided to feed Keeva one homemade meal a day that includes the supplement Vegedog and have her other meal come from a high quality vegan dog kibble known as V-Dog. Vegedog is an amazing supplement that contains two essential nutrients that would be hard to find in a homemade vegan diet for you dog: taurine and vitamin B-12. Deficiencies in these nutrients could be potentially dangerous. These nutrients are also found in her V-Dog kibble! I couldn’t recommend these two products enough!
When switching your dog to a vegan diet, be sure to transition slowly. Any sudden change in diet may cause digestive upset in your furry friend. Make the transition gradually over 3-4 days.
Also – I’d like to state that I am not a veterinarian or a dog dietician. I’m only a concerned pet parent who has done their own research and came up with a way to feed my dog a vegan diet. If you have a question about your dog’s specific nutritional or medical needs- please consult a veterinarian or dog nutritionist.
How Much To Feed Your Dog
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes so no one meal could possibly fit all. The general rule of thumb is to feed your dog 2%-3% of their total body weight. Puppies and more active dogs may need more while senior and less active dogs may need less.
To calculate, multiply your pup’s weight, in pounds, by 16 to get his total body weight in ounces. Feed them 2-3% of that weight, daily. For example, Keeva weighs about 90 lbs…
90 lbs x 16oz = 1440 oz (her total body weight in ounces)
1440 oz x 2%= 28.8 oz or 3.6 cups (her total daily minimum food weight)
1440 oz x 3% = 43.2oz or 5.4 cups (her total maximum food weight)
Vegan food tends to be lower in calories than non-vegan food – so I feed Keeva 5 cups a day. That’s 2 1/2 cups of food for each meal. She’s a Yellow Lab with a voracious appetite and would probably eat 10 cups of food a day if I let her…Each dog is different so if you’re dog is a finicky eater or tends to pack on the pounds more easily – then try feeding them on the lower end of the scale. You can always increase the amount you give them if you notice they’re still hungry! Each meal should be comprised of beans/legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy oils. Save fruit for a mid-day snack!
Before creating a meal for your dog please take a moment to read up on foods for humans that may be toxic to dogs. Never feed your animal these foods!
When creating a meal for your dog you should always start with a protein base. One half of your dog’s meal should come from a high quality protein source. Beans and Legumes are the best source of protein you can find. When bought in bulk – they’re super affordable too. When cooking beans and legumes make sure they’re cooked well until very soft and then mash or puree them. Always be sure to alternate between different beans and legumes to make sure your dog is eating a varied diet and is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.
- Black Beans– Are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals. Black beans also contain a wide variety of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which combat cardiovascular disease.
- Chickpeas– Are high in fiber, protein, and important phytonutrients.
- Lentils – Studies have found that those who eat high fiber legumes like lentils have a much reduced risk of heart disease. The high levels of folate and magnesium in lentils also go a long way in protecting the heart. Lentils are a great source of B vitamins, most notably folate and niacin (B3). B vitamins are important for the healthy functioning of the nervous, digestive, and immune systems.
- Other protein options include:Black Eyed Peas, Cannelini Beans, Great Northern Beans, Kidney Beans, Mung Beans, Pinto Beans, Split Peas
- Feed sparingly: soybeans, tempeh, seitan, tofu, edamame, TVP
Whole Grains are a healthy source of protein and complex carbohydrates. They’re also a great source of B-Vitamins. They also help with weight-maintenance for over-weight dogs. One quarter of your dog’s meal should consist of high quality grains. Always be sure to alternate between different grains to make sure your dog is eating a varied diet. Also – I tend to cook whole grains longer for Keeva so they’re easier for her to digest. Just add twice as much water and cook the grains twice as long! I also run them through my mini food processor once they’ve been cooked. Anything to help the digestion process along!
- Brown Rice– Is a great source of fiber, protein, manganese, selenium and other important phytonutrients. Brown rice is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that is essential to bone health. Just one cup of brown rice contains 21 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium.
- Oats– Contain a special type of fiber that amps up the immune system and helps fight bacterial infections. It also contains a special antioxidant that protects the heart from free radicals and helps reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
- Quinoa– Is one of the highest quality proteins on the planet. Technically a seed , it contains all nine essential amino acids and has a similar nutrient profile to milk. Quinoa is high in iron and calcium, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium and copper, as well as fiber.
- Other grain options include:Barley, Buckwheat, Kamut, Millet, Rye Berries/Flakes, Sorghum, Teff, Wild Rice
- Feed sparingly:Cornmeal/Polenta, Wheat Berries, Whole Grain Pasta, White rice
Not only do vegetables add healthy antioxidants to your dog’s diet, they also are a significant source of soluble fiber and roughage which can promote intestinal health in your dog. Dark, leafy green vegetables are the preferred choice, but almost all vegetables are super healthy for your dog. One quarter of your dog’s meal should consist of finely chopped, shredded, or blended vegetables that are part green vegetables and part red or yellow vegetables (listed below) Each vegetable contains a different set of special vitamins and minerals – so be sure to alternate between a wide variety of different vegetables.
- Asparagus– One of Keeva’s favorite vegetables! Asparagus is high in potassium which helps detoxify the body and is also high in folate, which helps fight against cancer and helps reduce pain and inflammation. Asparagus is also high in Vitamin K which aids in bone formation and repair.
- Broccoli– One cup of broccoli contains the recommended daily value of vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for fighting against free radicals. Like other leafy green vegetables – broccoli is high in calcium and Vitamin K which is important for bone health. Keeva can’t get enough of her broccoli!
- Green Beans– Technically a legume, green beans are high in protein and fiber and aid in digestion health. They also contain considerable amounts of folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Green beans are also known for helping overweight dogs shed some pounds. If your dog needs to lose a little bit of weight – try replacing green beans for some their kibble to help them feeling fuller while feeding them less of the high calorie foods.
- Kale– It’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities work together to prevent and even combat cancer. With over 192% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, one cup of kale is an effective antioxidant, boosts immunity, maintains healthy bones and teeth, and prevents urinary stones. Keeva loves to eat kale stems for a snack! Try adding them chopped to your dog’s dinner!
- Other options include: Beets, Bok Choy, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Lettuce, Parsnips, Fresh or Frozen Peas, Pea Pods, Rutabaga, Spinach, Turnips, Zuchini
- Feed Sparingly: Fresh or Frozen Corn, Potatoes
Orange or red colored fruits and veggies are excellent sources of different vitamins and minerals such as beta carotene. Beta carotene, a vitamin the body converts into vitamin A, is a powerful antioxidant that has been celebrated for its possible ability to fight cancer. Beta carotene is also thought to play a role in protecting cells and boosting the immune system. One quarter of your dog’s meal should be from vegetables – half of which should be from an orange or red veggie!
- Carrots– Are the richest source of beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, especially night vision and helps prevent macular degeneration. They’re also an excellent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients that help protect the heart and prevent cancer.
- Canned or Fresh Pumpkin – The oils in pumpkin’s flesh and seeds are believed to support urinary health. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron, and may even reduce the likelihood your pet will develop cancer. Not only is pumpkin full of vitamins and minerals, but can also help your furry friend with constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and an upset stomach.
- Sweet Potatoes– One of nature’s most perfect foods – it’s super high in vitamins A, C, and B6 as well as a potent antioxidant that helps fight degenerative diseases like cancer and fights against the effects of aging.
- Other Options Include: Red/Orange/Yellow Bell Peppers, Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, etc.), Yams, Yellow Summer Squash
Dogs can enjoy Fruit in small amounts – preferably as a small snack. Just make sure that you don’t feed your dog fruit too close to a high-protein meal. The enzymes are different and can cause digestive discomfort. One thing to be very careful of when feeding your dogs fruit is to make sure they are never fed seeds from fruit. Many of them contain cyanide and when fed over a long period of time will have harmful side effects. Some dogs may not take to every fruit you give them to try, but keep experimenting to find ones they like.
- Apples– Many dogs enjoy the crunchy texture of apples, but that’s not the only good thing about them. They’re loaded with phytonutrients that help boost the immune system and aid in preventing certain forms of cancer.
- Blueberries– Blueberries are rich in natural antioxidants which play a role fighting the effects of aging on the brain! Not only do antioxidants help slow the aging process they protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic degenerative conditions and aid in combating skin allergies.
- Cranberries– Cranberries are a special addition to any dog’s diet. They’re rich in cancer fighting antioxidants like other berries, but they also help promote urinary tract health. Since a vegan diet alkalizes the body – cranberries (or a cranberry supplement) will help maintain a healthy urinary pH. Recent research also suggests that cranberries may also help by removing harmful bacteria from the teeth, slowing the formation of plaque and reducing the incidence of gum disease.
- Watermelon– Watermelon is filled with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-1 and B-6, potassium and magnesium and is also a source of the potent carotenoid antioxidant, lycopene. Watermelon is actually packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature!
- Other Options Include:Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, Mangoes, Peaches, Pears, Raspberries, Strawberries
Adding Healthy Oils to a dog’s diet will ensure they’re getting all the required fats in their daily meals. The basis of each meal should be beans/legumes, grains, and vegetables, but oil plays just as important of a role. Keeva gets 1 tablespoon of oil at each meal. For dogs smaller than Keeva (90 lbs) try giving them 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon at every meal. Without healthy fats – your dog’s skin and coat will become dry and flaky. Some oils also contain high levels of healthy Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids that aid in heart and joint health.
- Unrefined Coconut Oil– The lauric acid found in coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. Coconut oil also improves the look of dog’s skin and coat, improves digestion, and reduces allergic reactions.
- Flax seed Oil – Low levels of Omega-3s can lead to skin and coat problems related to allergies, which are common in many dog breeds. Flax seed’s Omega-3s not only improve skin health in dogs, they help promote a shiny, soft coat. A more concentrated form of flaxseed without the fiber, flaxseed oil is especially recommended for dogs’ skin and coat health. It also aids inimproved immunity, increased bone strength, and joint health.
- Hemp seed Oil– Hemp Seed Oil is a balanced source of Essential Fatty Acids that are required for optimum health. Omega-6 and Omega-3 and Gamma Linolenic Acid are often lacking in animal diets, resulting in a deficiency of these important nutrients. Hemp seed oil helps reduce inflammation and promotes joint function, cardiovascular health, digestive health, and will give your dog healthy coat!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – One of the more affordable options for your dog – olive oil is just as healthy for dogs as it is for humans. Not only will it give your dog a healthy skin and coat, but it also supports a healthy heart.
- Other Options Include: Pumpkin Seed Oil, Safflower Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sesame Oil
- Feed Sparingly:Canola Oil
Seeds are a great source of healthy fats for both humans and dogs. They’re a great substitute for oils or are a great addition to any meal. Too much fat in the diet will cause your dog to gain weight and may cause an upset stomach – so don’t give them too much oils and seeds together. Some seeds have better or different nutritional values than others – so make sure you’re rotating seeds in their diet for optimum nutrition.
- Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are a true super food. Not only do they contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, they’re also high in protein, calcium, and boron, which aids in absorbing calcium into the bones.
- Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin Seeds are a natural source of unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, carbohydrates, amino acids and vitamins C, D, E, K and most Vitamin-B’s. They also contain calcium, phosphorous and potassium.
- Unhulled Sesame Seeds– Always buy unhulled sesame seeds! They’re an amazing source of calcium and also offer manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber.
- Other Options Include: Flax Seed Meal, Hemp Seeds, Peanut Butter, Sunflower Seeds, Sunflower Butter, Tahini
People choose to consume different Herbs and Spices for taste or for medicinal purposes and dogs are no different. When creating recipes for your canine friend, try adding small amounts of herbs and spices to enhance flavor or to add special nutrients.
- Cinnamon– Not only does cinnamon smell and taste great, it has many health benefits, as well. An anti-inflammatory, cinnamon is great for senior dogs struggling with arthritis. Don’t feed them too much though. Excess consumption of cinnamon can cause liver damage in both dogs and humans.
- Mint – Mint is effective for indigestion, dog bad breath, canine flatulence and dog motion sickness. Never use extracts though. Only the fresh herb.
- Parsley – Parsley freshens dog breath in addition to providing some great phytochemicals. It also contains Vitamin C, Vitamin K, B vitamins, iron and something called limonene (an oil that kills bad mouth bacteria).
- Other Options Include: Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage, Turmeric
- NEVER Feed: Ground Pepper, Chives, Cocoa, Mace, Nutmeg, Onions/Onion Powder, Paprika, Added Salt
These next few things are fun Extras to occasionally add to a dog’s meal to boost flavor and nutritional value.
- Ginger– In small amounts, ginger can help prevent heart disease, colitis, bronchitis, and can also help your dog with motion sickness (car sickness), nausea, and inflammation problems like arthritis.
- Kelp– an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iodine, selenium, and iron. Kelp helps strengthen the immune system, reduce arthritis pain, and fight infections.
- Nutritional Yeast– adds a cheesy taste to meals and treats while adding additional B-vitamins.
- Unsweetened Plain Vegan Yogurt– Active cultures known as probiotics help keep the bad bacteria away! Fortified vegan yogurt may improve gut function and contains a number of nutrients including calcium.
- Wheat Germ– Wheat germ contains high levels of B complex, which can boosts a dog’s immunity. It is also high in vitamin E, which can help prevent against heart disease and cancer.
- Wheat Grass– Wheatgrass contains enzymes that help digestion in dogs. These enzymes also help to metabolize nutrients. In addition, wheatgrass can also help prevent tumors from forming in dogs’ digestive tract.
Some people choose to give their dogs certain Supplements to ensure they’re receive all the vitamins and minerals they need. While the only supplement I give Keeva is Vegedog – I’ve listed some other great options that you might be interested in trying for your dogs.
- Vegedog– Vegedog is an amazing supplement that contains three essential nutrients that would be hard to find in a homemade vegan diet for you dog: taurine, L-carnatine, and vitamin B-12. I would never make homemade food without this supplement!
- Cranimals– Cranimals is a whole-food anti-oxidant supplement for dogs that’s made from organic cranberries, which contain proanthocyanidins which inhibit the bacteria Escherichia coli that is responsible for 80-90% of urinary tract infections. PAC’s may also support dental health by discouraging the growth of plaque on teeth and gums as well.
- Digestive Enzyemes– Digestive enzymes increase the absorption of vital nutrients, including essential fatty acids, by up to 71%. This increased absorption provides natural relief for skin problems, digestive disorders, joint difficulties, allergies, bloating, lethargy, flatulence, coprophagia, immune disorders, dry or scaly hair and coat, excessive shedding, hairballs, and wound healing.
- Green Mush– Green Mush is unlike traditional multi-vitamin/mineral products as it is exceptionally absorbable and contains thousands of phytonutrients, protein, and amino acids.