If you are a vegan or vegetarian because of your personal beliefs or for health reasons, chances are that you would like to convert your family members too – and that includes your pets. Don’t worry – you are not alone. Millions of vegans and vegetarians actually wonder if it is safe, healthy, and appropriate to convert their Labrador to a plant-based diet as well.
Can Labradors be vegan or vegetarian? Yes, they can. Of course, Labrador owners must carefully plan their dog’s diet to ensure that it gets all the protein and nutrients required for a happy and healthy lifestyle.
If done correctly, a vegan or vegetarian diet may also boost your pet’s health and lengthen their expected lifespan.
The truth is out there! Yes, a vegan or vegetarian diet is trickier to piece together in the beginning stages of transition, but once you have it figured out, feeding your pet a vegan/vegetarian diet will be just as convenient as feeding it store-bought meat-based pet foods. Let’s find out more about helping your Labrador to transition from a meat eater to an earth-friendly plant appreciator, below.
Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet Safe for My Dog?
Many vegetarians and vegans know that finding balance in their diet is tricky in the beginning. This often leads them to wonder if a similar diet would be safe for their dog. If you are wondering the same thing then we have some answers for you.
A vegan or vegetarian diet is 100% safe for your dog if it is done right. Most people believe that dogs are carnivores (meat eaters), but they are actually omnivores (plant and meat eaters). This leaves room for some tinkering in the diet.
Much like when humans transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet; one simply needs to ensure that they receive the correct amount of protein, calcium, and of course, a variety of nutrients and vitamins that are required by the body for energy and good health. If you cannot provide sufficient protein from the intended vegan or vegetarian diet, then it is indeed not safe for your dog.
Related: What about eating grass? Despite being plant-based, you should avoid letting your Labrador eat grass. To learn more about the reasons why some dogs love to eat grass, as well as the dangers related to that behavior, check out our article, Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
How Much Protein Does a Labrador Need?
Whether you feed your Labrador store-bought meat products or plant-based foods, you will need to pay attention to the protein content. Most pet food manufacturers will get away with including only 17% protein content, but this is actually a little too low for the average dog of a Labrador’s size.
Labradors tend to do better on high protein and low carb diets. Most Lab owners aim to get a 30% protein food. With this type of food, a fully grown dog will get around 2.25 to 2.5 cups per day. If you are able to get food with 35% to 40% protein, you can reduce the amount of food per day to around 2 cups.
A Vegetarian Diet for Labradors: Pros & Cons
|Pros of a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet||Cons of a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet|
As you can see, a vegan or vegetarian diet will only be good for your pet if you plan meals carefully and do not drop the ball. Make sure that your pet is getting everything it requires from its new diet. If it is not, you may put your pet at serious health risk and even shorten its lifespan.
Why Can Labradors Be Vegetarian?
What most people do not understand is that the canine body is designed to convert certain amino acids, which are derived from protein, into other types of amino acids. Simply put, your Labrador’s body can quite easily get all the amino acids it needs without touching meat.
Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diets (diets that include some dairy and eggs) can actually be quite healthy for humans and for pets too. Most pet foods get all their protein value from eggs. This means that there is no real need for any other meat to be included in pet food. The value of a protein is dependent on whether or not it can deliver the amino acids required by the animal or human eating it.
That being said, vegans might not want to even allow their pet to eat eggs for their required protein. Does this mean that Labradors can’t be vegan? No, it does not. In a vegan pet diet, the dog will acquire the protein and amino acids required from alternative high-protein based plant sources such as beans, whole grains, soy, and even corn.
If you want to ensure that your Labrador is getting the best possible nutrition on a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is first and foremost best to plan a diet that provides all the nutrients required without supplementing. You do not want to be feeding your pet synthesized chemicals.
Store-Bought vs. Homemade Vegetarian/Vegan Pet Food: Which Is Best?
There is no hard and fast rule that dictates whether store-bought or homemade vegetarian or vegan pet food is better. You will find that some store-bought foods lack the required vitamins and nutrients, while others are perfectly balanced and healthy. Always check the label.
A decent vegetarian or vegan dog food ingredients list should include at least 25% protein content and the following notable ingredients.
- Dried peas
- Dried carrots
- Pea protein
- Brown rice
- Canola oil
- Potato protein
- Sun-cured alfalfa meal
- Calcium carbonate
It is also a plus if the dog food packaging notes that the food is easily digestible and human-grade.
A good word of advice is only to invest in commercial pet foods that meet with regulations set in place by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and have gone through feeding trials. Alternatively, better control what your pet eats by making your own vegetarian and vegan pet food.
If you want to try a good homemade recipe, consider combining ingredients such as whole-grain rice, black or white quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, pumpkin squash (great source of fiber), natural peanut butter, apple cider vinegar (this is said to help with dog gas problems), flaxseed oil, cranberry extract (for urinary PH health) and a multivitamin powder if you see fit. All of this should be boiled until soft, or steamed and then mashed.
Related: It’s important to know that there are some plant-based foods that are actually unhealthy for dogs to eat (grapes, for example!). For a more exhaustive look into which people-foods that can harm your dog, check out our article, 19 People-Foods You Had No Idea Could Harm Your Dog.
Homemade Vegetarian Dog Food Ideas/Recipes
Below are 2 well-balanced recipes (1 vegan and 1 vegetarian) for you to consider for your pet.
1. Chickpea Hot Pot (Homemade Vegan Dog Food Recipe)
- 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (these must be boiled or steamed until soft)
- 3 tablespoons of your choice of organic oil
- 3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (no sugar or sodium added)
- 2 cups water or you can use salt-free or low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 carrot chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 small sweet potato chopped up
- 1 stalk of celery chopped into small chunks
- 1 medium-sized sliced or chopped up
Boil or steam the carrot, celery, sweet potato and beet. Use a large bowl for mashing the chickpeas. When they form a semi-pulp, add the peanut butter, oil, and one cup of water/veggie stock. Mash the rest of the ingredients and add it to the mixture. Mix it all up and serve warm.
2. Veggie Stew (Homemade Vegetarian Dog Food Recipe)
- 2 cups of lentils (soaked) and cooked,
- 2 cups of brown rice (cooked till light and fluffy)
- 1 eggplant cooked and sliced
- 1 squash cooked and chopped
- 1 zucchini cooked and chopped
- 1 medium-sized potato cooked and chopped
- 8 ounces of cubed tofu
- 3 raw eggs
- 1 cup of cottage cheese
- Wheat germ
- Olive oil
- 1 cup ground flax seed
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mash or roughly chop. You can also grind the eggshells with a pestle and mortar and include it in the mix (this must be very finely ground). Serve the dish to your dog – he/she should absolutely love it.
Labradors can be quite successfully converted to a meat-free diet if you take the time to carefully plan meals or buy a very good quality vegan or vegetarian dog food. If you are lazy with your dog’s nutritional needs, you will negatively impact his/her health. Be responsible with your pet’s nutritional needs and you can convert the entire family to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle with relative ease.