Dogs and their diet

They say the way to a human’s heart is through their stomach and, by the excited way our dogs attack their dog bowls when their food is presented, I think we can safely say they feel the same way!

Some people choose to have vegetarian or vegan diets, and can want their dog to follow their dietary preference, whether for health or for ethical reasons.

In this article, we explore whether this is a healthy option for dogs, and we also cover other useful food-related reminders, including snacks, BBQs and a reminder of what to steer clear of.

Is a vegan or vegetarian diet suitable for a dog?


There is a lot of debate around this topic. Many feel that dogs can thrive on a meat-free diet, others feel that a vegan or vegetarian meal plan lacks the nutritional requirements for a healthy dog. 

Technically, dogs can survive and do well on a vegan or vegetarian diet, contrary to the folklore of dogs being carnivores like their wolf ancestors and needing meat to survive.

Actually, dogs are omnivores, which means that their digestive systems are perfectly capable of digesting and deriving nutrients from vegetables and fruits. For dogs who are allergic to animal proteins, or have other health problems, vets and licensed pet nutritionists will sometimes prescribe specially designed meat-free diets.

A word of caution though… it can be tricky to make sure that your dog receives the right nutrients from a vegan regimen.

Although dogs can get their nutrients from plant matter, it is much harder work for their digestive system to process than meat is. And, although fruit and vegetables contain excellent levels of many vitamins and antioxidants that are great for your dog’s health, they lack the necessary amounts of fat and protein that your dog needs to thrive. 

Proteins derived from animal products, like elastic, keratin and collagen, are all vital for your dog’s skin, joints and muscles. These proteins are practically impossible to get from a vegan diet.

If your dog doesn’t get the right nutrients, it could lead to severe health complications and malnutrition.

If you want your dog to follow a vegan diet for health reasons, it is important to note that the health benefits you might feel you gain from following a vegan diet are not the same for your dog.

However, if it is important to you that your dog follows a vegan diet for ethical reasons, and you are finding it hard to get the right balance between caring for your dog’s health and being true to your principles, you can talk to your vet about your concerns and get their advice.

You could also consult a licensed veterinary nutritionist to develop a nutritionally suitable vegan diet for your dog.

Your vet or nutritionist can also advise you on the effectiveness of various supplements that are on the market, specifically designed for dogs, to top up any deficiencies in their diet.

Tasty treats

Many fruits are fantastic, hydrating snacks for your dog. Apples are great, though it’s a good idea to cut pieces off for them, so they don’t eat the core. 

Pieces of orange are fine, in small amounts, as are bananas (minus the peel!). 

Blueberries are just as much a superfood for your dog as they are for humans, with their antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C being brilliant for their health. 

Your dog may also love melon, mango, peach, pear, pineapple and watermelon, which are all safe for your dog, so remove any rinds and seeds and give them a try!

Carrots, cucumber and celery are all excellent options, especially if your dog is overweight as they are all low calorie. They will love the crunch of the carrot and celery, and celery can help with bad breath too. Cucumber contains lots of vitamins and minerals with low carbohydrate and fat content.

Green beans, raw or cooked, are a popular snack for many dogs – cut them up into small pieces so your dog doesn’t choke on them.

Fish is fine for dogs, especially salmon or sardines, but they shouldn’t eat fish more than twice a week. Keep it plain, boneless and fully cooked. Plain, canned tuna (in water, not oil) is also safe if given in moderation to avoid excess salt and mercury.

Fully cooked eggs contain high protein, and scrambled eggs can help soothe an upset stomach.

Peanuts and cashew nuts are okay in small doses – not too many because of the high fat content, and unsalted peanut butter is a delicious high protein snack.

Honey, in moderation, is a safe snack that comes with lots of vitamins and minerals.

Did you know that unsalted, unbuttered popcorn is a safe and tasty treat for your dog? Check that you’ve first removed any unpopped kernels that could be a choking hazard.

Can dogs eat BBQ food?

Fatty meat can cause stomach upsets and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) so keep an eye on how much classic BBQ meat like burgers, sausages and chicken legs your dog may be eating.

Also, the bones in chicken legs could puncture your pet’s mouth or throat, or cause life-threatening blockages or perforations. Kebab skewers could cause the same problem.

Another classic BBQ food to keep far away from your dog is corn on the cob. This is, maybe surprisingly, particularly dangerous for dogs to eat because they can’t digest it. If they get past the choking hazard of this food, the fact that it will pass into their digestive tract without it breaking down means that it could cause a dangerous blockage or perforation.

If your dog is hanging out with you at a BBQ, keep them busy with their own suitable snacks, or give them some boneless, unseasoned, lean cooked meat to enjoy, feeding them well away from the BBQ area, and ask your family and friends not to leave their food where your opportunistic dog may snatch it.

Red flag foods for dogs

As a responsible, loving and clued up dog owner, you are probably very familiar with the list of foods that dogs must not eat, but let’s recap in case you see any surprises on this list. Please note that this list should not be relied upon as an all-inclusive, exhaustive list of unsuitable foods. 

Chocolate – one of the most common dangerous foods for dogs, its lethal component is theobromine and, the darker the chocolate, the more it contains. Even if your dog digests the smallest amount of chocolate, you need to call your vet immediately. Symptoms to look out for include hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhoea and seizures. 

Macadamia nuts – this is the most toxic nut for dogs, and eating just a few can cause severe poisoning, with painful symptoms like overheating, weakness and vomiting. Other nuts to avoid include almonds and pistachios, mostly because of their choking hazard.

Dairy – some dogs are fine with milk and dairy products, others may be lactose intolerant or allergic and may suffer diarrhoea and flatulence. Ice cream is also on the ‘no’ list because of its lactose, high fat and high sugar content, and cheese should only be given in small quantities, and ideally only the lower fat kind.

Nutmeg – this spice can cause hallucinations and severe vomiting.

Grapes and raisins – experts aren’t sure why these fruits are dangerous to dogs, but even a few bites can cause kidney failure in some dogs. 

Apple, apricot, cherry and plum seeds/pits – the cyanide content can be very dangerous, though the fleshy parts are safe.

Avocados – they might be a healthy food for humans, but they contain a substance called persin that can act as a dog poison.

Onion, garlic, chives and leeks – this family of foods contains sulfoxides and disulfides which can damage red blood cells and cause anaemia.

Salt – too much can change the fluid balance of cells in your dog, causing tremors, seizures or even a coma.

Spicy food – your dog’s stomach can’t handle spicy food and it could cause vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach ulcers.

Caffeine – the methylxanthines it contains can cause digestive problems and an irregular or racing heartbeat which could lead to seizures, tremors and breathing difficulties

If you are ever concerned that your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t, or if they are experiencing acute gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhoea, you must contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.

This article is brought to you by Cherish Studios, passionate dog lovers sharing helpful tips and advice with our fellow dog lovers. For medical advice, please speak to a trained vet.

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