Can Dogs Thrive On a Plant-Based Diet? Canine Nutrition Expert Tells All
There have been a lot of debates, skepticism, and concerns about raising dogs on a plant-based diet. Should vegans be raising dogs on a more compassionate diet? Is it ethical? Is it healthy? And most importantly, will your dog be thriving? We tried exploring the less traveled road and are thrilled to introduce you to an expert who has answers to all your questions. And if you’re interested in exploring canine nutrition more deeply, here’s your chance to be a part of Plant Powered Dog Food Summit. What’s more, you get to SAVE 20% when you use code RAISEVEGAN ! Grab your seat NOW!
Can Dogs Thrive On a Plant-Based Diet? Canine Nutrition Expert Tells All
I got an opportunity to chat with Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, an award-winning canine health writer, nutritionist and healthy pet food advocate from Florida. Diana’s passion for helping dog parents raise thriving dogs, through a plant-based diet, is evident when she speaks. She radiates joy when talking about her favorite companion, dogs and happens to raise one lovely pooch she fondly calls “Chase,” who sure can give you a run for your money with his fitness. As an ethical vegan, Diana created Plant-Powered Dog, a vegan canine nutrition and lifestyle brand, to unite her love of helping dogs live longer, healthier lives through diet with her dedication to animal welfare. Plant-Powered Dog gives dog guardians worldwide the tools and resources to raise healthy, thriving canine companions through a nutritious, compassionate plant-based diet that positively impacts the well-being of all animals and the planet.
We got a little chatty over our newfound common love for dogs and everything vegan. Here are the excerpts of the chat I had with her.
How did you come up with such a unique concept? What was the inspiration behind it?
I have been a canine nutritionist formulating fresh-food diets for dogs for more than a decade. I have also been an ethical vegetarian for about 15 years and a vegan for about two years. For a long time, I continued to formulate meat-based diets for dogs because, like many people, I believed the myth that dogs need meat to thrive. This did not feel right to me, though, and I made the decision that I could no longer contribute in any way to animal suffering, so I decided not to formulate any more diets with animal ingredients. I wondered if I would have to give up my canine nutrition profession, which I was willing to do, or if I could somehow marry my passion of helping dogs live longer, healthier lives through diet with my passion for animal welfare.
I did a ton of research and spoke with leading experts on the topic of plant-based dog nutrition from all over the world. And, I was delighted to find that dogs can THRIVE on nutritious, properly balanced plant-based diets! In fact, many of the veterinarians I spoke with enlightened me as to the toxicities of modern animal products and how they might be a large contributing factor to the skyrocketing incidences of chronic diseases in dogs, including cancer. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head and I had this real “aha!” moment. Not only are animal-based diets cruel, they are unnecessary and possibly even harmful for dogs! I decided that I had to take this knowledge and create a movement of positive change for dogs, for all animals and for the planet. That’s how Plant-Powered Dog was born!
Tell me more about it…
Plant-Powered Dog is a vegan lifestyle brand dedicated to helping dog guardians and their canine companions live a compassionate plant-based lifestyle. Our first major initiative is the Plant-Powered Dog Food Summit, streaming online for free March 12-19. The summit brings together 17 global leaders in the fields of plant-based veterinary nutrition, science and animal activism to show people why, and how, to raise thriving dogs on a plant-based diet. It’s going to be awesome!
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Coming up with such a maverick concept couldn’t have been easy. What were the initial challenges you faced?
Feeding a vegan diet to dogs is a revolutionary concept, and it’s human nature to resist change and cling to the “known”, even when the “known” is flawed or outdated. Given that, the major challenge continues to be convincing people of the fact that dogs are omnivores, not carnivores, and that they can thrive on a well-balanced plant-based diet; even that animal ingredients may be harming their dog.
For decades, special interest groups and even some popular holistic veterinarians have spent a lot of time and effort marketing the myth that dogs are household versions of wolves who need to eat meat to be healthy. Plant-Powered Dog is a new and alternative voice in this field, and as such we are striving to open people’s minds to new possibilities and perhaps to even turn their notion of what’s healthy food for dogs upside down. That’s a huge endeavor, but this is a revolution and we’re in it for the long haul!
Well, listening to this, am truly intrigued. I have a dog too but I guess I never thought this way. I’m wondering… dogs love treats. In fact, they live for it. Are they equally excited for plant-based treats? Is training them easy with such treats?
Dogs love plant-based treats! Who wouldn’t love a juicy, sweet piece of watermelon on a hot day? My dog Chase went bonkers for watermelon! Berries, either fresh or frozen, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans also make wonderful treats. Chase even went crazy for cucumber! He also loved dehydrated sweet potato chews. You just need to discover your dog’s favorite plant-based treats and have fun doing it. And don’t forget that every dog’s favorite treat, peanut butter, is plant-based! Just be sure it doesn’t contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic for dogs. Of course, be sure to never feed any toxic foods for dogs, including xylitol, grapes, raisins or onions. Always check first!
Is it healthy for dogs? What do you think would motivate dog owners to
consider diets for their pooches? plant based
Dog guardians must consider plant-based diets because it is a simple, compassionate and effective way to help save our planet and all life on it. We are now entering the world’s 6th mass extinction due to climate change, and meat consumption by companion animals is a major contributing factor. According to a study by Dr. Gregory Okin of UCLA, production of meat to feed companion dogs (and cats) in America produces about 64 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, equivalent to driving about 13 million cars. I also think that if most people really understood the inhumanity of what animals on factory farms endure, they would be turned off to eating meat. Feeding a plant-based diet to our companion dogs can help us spare these animals from horrible lives of torture and slaughter and in so doing foster more kindness and compassion in our own lives. Fortunately, dogs are omnivores who can thrive on a nutritious, well-balanced plant-based diet. In fact, some of the longest-lived dogs in the world have been vegan! And, in many instances, a plant-based diet can clear up issues such as animal-based food intolerance, irritable bowel disease, skin issues and it has even been reported to reduce aggression. The key is for the diet to be well-balanced for the individual dog’s specific situation, which is the case for any diet, whether it is plant-based or animal-based diet.
When the world is still warming up to the idea of cruelty free living, it must have been hard for you, initially, to advocate plant based diets for dogs. How do you deal with critics who emphasize that dog need meat based diets to meet their protein requirements?
I think it’s important to get a sense of whether you can open someone’s mind by presenting them with facts or if they are closed off emotionally to the concept. For those whose criticism I feel is based on misinformation, I will provide them with references or resources. For example, I can show them a wonderful book with a chart showing how many plant-based foods contain much higher percentages of protein per calorie than meat because meat is high in fat. I will never become entangled in debates with those who are close-minded based on blind emotion. The beauty is that in the U.S. alone, there has been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in just the past three years and this number will continue to grow based on the popularity of veganism among younger generations. So, there are plenty of people who are interested and receptive to the concept of feeding their dogs a plant-based diet. I understand that I can’t change everybody and I choose to focus on the people who I can positively impact.
Well, I sure am motivated! I am a little curious about how did you dabble into this field? There must have been some eureka moment when you realized plant-based lifestyle is the need of the hour.
I have been a writer for about 25 years. I have always loved language and the written word and the positive change that can be accomplished through its power. It wasn’t until I adopted my own dog, Chase, from the shelter back in January 2002 that I also became interested in canine nutrition. Chase came to me with a myriad of health conditions, including severe gastrointestinal and skin issues. After “experimenting” with a home-made, fresh-food diet, I was shocked to find how quickly he recovered. The results I had with Chase sparked an interest in me to help other dogs live longer, healthier lives through fresh-food nutrition. I earned my Masters in Animal Science and co-authored two leading books on dog health and nutrition with Dr. Jean Dodds, plus I have written award-winning articles for dog magazines.
But Chase taught me about a lot more than just canine nutrition. Since Chase was a rescue dog, he taught me about the plight of animal suffering. Understanding the suffering of dogs and cats expanded my consciousness to the suffering of all animals, especially the horrors endured by animals on factory farms. I couldn’t just love and protect one species while ignoring the suffering of others. So, I became vegetarian about 15 years ago and vegan about two years ago. And as I told you, most recently, I have dedicated myself to spearheading a vegan dog nutrition movement called Plant-Powered Dog to help people feed their dogs a compassionate plant-based diet that respects the lives of all animals and our planet.
It was indeed lovely talking to Diana. If you have unanswered questions or want to know more about raising dogs on a plant-based diet, do read her blogs. If you like her work and want to show support, follow her on Instagram.
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