Healthy dog diet can save your pet's life

Vegan and other diets can endanger beloved pets. Do this instead.

Written by Annalise May
Posted August 30, 2018

Remember when there were only two types of dog food to choose from?

Table scraps or kibble from the grocery store?

Things have changed.

The average pet store carries about 38 different brands and over 2,000 formulations in the form of dry food, wet food, refrigerated food, freeze-dried food, and more.1

Numerous choices are meant to overwhelm the consumer. 

In the pet store, the foods aisles are arranged in the order of “highest quality” (most expensive) to “lowest quality” (does Kibbles 'n Bits ring a bell?). The pet owner is meant to be attracted to the first brand display they see, with that ever-so-promising packaging:


Meat... fruit... vegetables... grains... proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon?

Sounds like something you’d see at the dinner table.

We treat our pets like family, so shouldn't we feed them like family?

Beyond Big Brands

Commercial dry food was originally manufactured for the purpose of being “shelf stable” during World War II, when there was a shortage of aluminum used in canned food packaging.2

As soon as news of the first major contamination episode of pet food reached the public, people started questioning what was really going into it.

The dog food recalls of 2007 revealed that imports of protein sources from China for the brand Menu Foods contained the chemical melamine, a toxic compound similar to cyanide. This contamination resulted in nearly 500 veterinary cases of kidney failure and 3,600 pet deaths.3

This outbreak resulted in a call for change from the public.

In response, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) published the requirements for minimum nutritional profile in pet food. If a pet food claims to be “complete and balanced,” it must follow these guidelines:4

  • Approximately 18–25% protein
  • Approximately 10–15% fat
  • Approximately 30–70% carbohydrates5

Customers have endless brand loyalty when it comes to their dog food. But less than 10% of pet owners actually know the proportions of nutrients to look for on the package.

In regard to the epidemic of pet food recalls, the closest AAFCO has approached the subject of dangerous chemicals in commercial food is in the code §63.7 Drugs and Pet Food Additives:

Prior to registration of a pet food which contains additives (including drugs, other special purpose additives, or nonnutritive additives), the distributor may be required to submit evidence to prove the safety and efficacy of the pet food.6

Suffice it to say, as recently as this year, lethal traces of the euthanasia drug phenobarbital were found in canned dog food.

So, does the industry really know what’s best for our pets? Or are they pushing their products?

For example, canines are not biologically built to digest carbohydrates, but these are used as cheap fillers to make dry food shelf stable and are the number one ingredient in commercial dog food. The cheaper the price, the more carbs your dog will... eliminate.

Some veterinarians and dog owners have taken notice of the health risks, such as renal failure, cancer, and premature death, as well as appalling ingredients.

There are too many to list here, but notably, appropriate “meats” or “meat by-products” as sources of protein in commercial food include carcasses from animal control and pet shelters (yes, your dog is a cannibal).

Pet lovers decided to come up with their own meals for their best friends.  

Dogs Are Born to Be… Vegan? 

The vegan diet trend has caught on in the human world.

Now, there is an entire community dedicated to promoting vegan diets for dogs.

Vegan is defined as “using or containing no animal products.”7

That’s right. A 100% plant-based diet for dogs.

Although you won’t readily see a vet advertising this lifestyle or legitimate scientific studies backing its effectiveness, supporters post testimonials about their own pets that convince others to get on the bandwagon:

We feed her some [commercial] vegan dog food... for breakfast. For lunch she gets Indian flatbread (organic wheat roti) with any vegetable that we cook, in the evening we give her homemade sticks which are made of all assorted veggies, legumes and wheat and baked... At night, again, its roti and cooked vegetable... a little inconvenience in taste for my doggy isn’t really a big deal. She reversed, as in, cured her heart disease and arthritis after going vegan!8

The biggest health concern regarding these vegan dog diets is the lack of an animal protein source. Supporters point out that dogs are omnivores; therefore, they should be able to supplement meat for plant protein.

However, during plant digestion, a large burden is placed on the dog’s pancreas to cope with the starch, cellulose, and carbs in plants. By the time it reaches the intestine, it irritates the bowel lining. The undigested sugars and starches in the gut are a breeding ground for bacteria, ultimately shortening the pet’s life in the long run.9

Other Alternative Dog Foods

Pet owners who have done their research realize meat is the most important nutritional source for their dog’s food, but they don’t trust the protein sources from commercial kibble.

Those with the time, money, and dedication have decided to cook their dog homemade meals following the appropriate protocol for a dog’s nutritional standards.

Here is an example recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 zucchini
  • ½ cup peas

Cook rice, set aside. Heat olive oil and add ground turkey, cook until browned. Stir in spinach, carrots, zucchini, peas, and brown rice. Let cool.10

The truth is, this kind of meal, although comforting because we are closely familiar with all of the ingredients, does not provide all of the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins a dog needs. These must be supplemented with commercial products.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this diet, but some criticize the danger of using and cooking cheap grocery store meats due to the bacteria risk.

There’s food not even fit for a dog!

Raw Revolution

Feeding dogs a raw diet has become increasingly popular. The benefits are recognized by some dog trainers and veterinarians.

The basic premise is that dogs should eat the same diet as wolves, consisting of muscle meat on the bone, organ meats, raw eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

However, the FDA and some veterinarians believe raw diets are too risky due to bacterial contamination and nutritional deficiency, similar to homemade diets.11

There are commercial raw dog foods available, but there is currently no industry standard for the contents. Owners must be diligent in their research to make sure their dogs are getting adequate nutrition and supplement for anything missing in their diet.

With so many options, all with their own risk, how should you feed your pet?

The takeaway from the diet world of dogs is that, simply, no one seems to know exactly what dogs should be eating. Consulting with a veterinarian is your best bet, although some disagree on this subject.

Whether the source is closer to your dinner table or wildly scavenged, the next time you’re in the market for new pet food, make sure to read the ingredient list and not just the shiny packaging.

To your health,


Annalise May
Contributing Editor, Clear Health Now













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