Friday, December 28, 2007

Questions and Answers

Why is Sable a vegan? Well, once I went vegan, I couldn't justify continuing to feed my dog the carcasses of other animals. I couldn't say to the cows, pigs, fish, chickens, turkeys, lambs, etc. "Sorry, but I like my dog better than you. She lives, you die!" So, I did some research, found that dogs could successfully be fed a vegetarian or even vegan diet and made the switch.

Okay, but why homemade instead of commercial veg food? Two different answers for this one.
In General
: I did feed Sable commercial food in the beginning. Making her food myself was an option that didn't even cross my mind! But the more I researched dog nutrition, the less impressed I was with the foods available. Almost all the veg dog foods contained common canine food allergens, such as corn, wheat and soy. In addition, many of them used corn or wheat gluten meal as a cheap protein source. "Corn gluten meal" is defined as "The dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm." Yum. Some foods contained other troubling ingredients, such as grain "middlings" (which can literally be the sweepings off of the grain mill floor), and menadione sodium disulfate, a Vitmain K supplement which is currently causing much controversy. The last straw for me was the large pet food recall in March of 2007. Did I really trust the pet food companies and their suppliers with my dog's life? Wouldn't I feel safer knowing the quality of ingredients, and indeed even getting my hands into the food as I mixed it up myself?

Specifically Sable:
Sable exhibited some troubling problems on commercial food. One was vomiting bile several times a day. The other was coprophagia (eating of stool). The vomiting lessened once she was switched to veg kibble and canned food, but she still did it at least once daily, and the stool eating continued. Both stopped completely when she was switched to a 100% home cooked diet. Even now if I get lazy and feed her canned veg food for a couple of days, these problems reoccur. Obviously she does best on a diet made with wholesome, fresh foods.

But how do you know she's healthy? Sable gets a physical exam every year. This past year, I had a complete blood profile done on her, which confirmed her good health. Her weight is good, and her coat is soft and shiny. Her eyes are bright, with no trace of the "bluing" that most dogs begin to get at the age of 7. Her teeth are clean, with no tartar (I do brush her teeth a couple of times a week, with peanut butter or vanilla flavored dog toothpaste.) She spends her days chasing and wrestling with my dad's German Shepherd, who is half her age.

Does your vet know she is vegan? Yes. My vet does, as well as the vet at my work (I work at an animal shelter.) Both were understanding, although I have heard from many people whose vets told them that they "couldn't" feed dogs a veg diet. Please remember, vets do not have an extensive background in nutrition . In fact, most only attend a day seminar which is sponsored by one of the big pet food companies. Ever wonder why most vets sell a certain brand of pet food at their offices? Why, that would be like your own doctor selling a certain brand of "complete and balanced" cereal and convincing you that it is the best thing for you to eat every day (and in doing so, turning a tidy profit!)

Don't vegan dogs need special supplements? The only difference with dogs on a vegan diet is you need to make sure they are getting Vit B12, taurine, and L-carnitine. B12 can be supplied in fortified nutritional yeast, or in a vitamin form. Taurine and L-carnitine can be purchased at health food stores, or here, in a convenient powder form. According to the Vegan Dog Health Survey, the dosages for prevention of problems are 250 mg taurine and 500 mg L-carnitine for a 45 lb dog daily (Vegetarian Dogs gives the equation of 6 mg taurine and 11mg L-carnitine per lb of body weight). Like meat-eating dogs, vegan dogs need protein, fats, and a balanced calcium/phosphorus ratio. These are easy to obtain with a vegan diet.

I'm scared I'll mess something up! Don't worry! You don't sit around planning each of your meals and snacks, making sure they are all "100% complete and balanced" do you? Like with human meals, you just want to strive for balance over time. If you're still nervous, VegeDog Supplement is a powdered vitamin/mineral supplement that comes with recipes, so you don't have to worry about your dog "missing" something. (*Note-VegeDog contains taurine, but not l-carnitine as far as I know, so you'll still want to add that.) And the book Vegetarian Dogs contains many balanced recipes, along with basic nutrition information.

Sable Says "Vegan diets mean clean plates!"