Of all the subjects surrounding canine care, diet and food are arguably the most heatedly debated. Many different people hold many different views on what the best diet for a dog is, and of course, every situation is different.
Just like humans, our tail-wagging chums are subject to food sensitivities, allergies and preferences. Different dog breeds will also have different food requirements, too. Clearly a working Collie will need a bigger meal than a Chihuahua, no matter how much the latter yaps at you and insists that they are still hungry.
Most people would insist that dogs must be fed a carnivorous diet, but there is a growing school of thought that a Lacto-Ovo diet can benefit dogs. Let’s take a look at whether this is really safe, or if you will be placing your dog in danger by denying them access to meat.
A Lacto-Ovo diet is a vegetarian eating plan that involves some animal products, but no meat or fish. Some of the core components of a Lacto-Ovo diet include:
Humans follow this diet as it boasts a range of health benefits. These include weight management, lowering the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, lowering blood pressure, strengthening the heart and even reducing the risk of cancer. Perhaps best of all, by preparing a veggie meal yourself you’ll know for certain that you’re feeding your pet with fresh, quality ingredients. No offcuts or rejects here!
As we all know, however, dogs have very different physiology to humans – there’s a reason we don’t all tuck into a bowl of Kibble after a working day. Can dogs really sustain themselves, and remain happy and healthy, on a purely vegetarian diet?
Dogs are more adaptable in terms of diet than many of us realise. While we assume that their sharp teeth, hunting instincts and food preferences mean that they're purely carnivorous, canines are omnivores.
Dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet. In fact, eggs are the richest source of protein available to our furry friends. Vegetarian pooch parents rejoice - you do not have to keep squeamishly feeding flesh to Fido!
In addition to this, a vegetable-focused diet could also help a dog that struggles with their skin. If your pet is constantly scratching and you're adamant that fleas are not the issue, it may be an allergy to a meat protein. If you stop offering your dog chicken, beef and duck and then the scratching ceases, you have your answer.
A vegetarian diet for dogs can also share some of the human health boons. The odds of liver disease in your pet are reduced when they consume less meat, as are the risks of kidney stones. A Lacto-Ovo diet will also help any portly pooch that tends to pile on the pounds to manage their weight.
You may struggle to get your dog to accept vegetables at first, but some of them make for great treats. If the sun is beating down at the height of summer, or your pooch is going through teething, freeze a carrot and offer it as a crunchy, chewy delicacy. Many dogs love this! If you plan to have your dog switch to a full-time Lacto-Ovo diet, however, you should consult a vet first.
Have you ever heard the saying, “just because you can, it doesn’t mean that you should?” Well, that’s hugely relevant to switching a dog to a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet!
Firstly, let's take another look at that list of foods suitable for this meal plan.
Are you seeing the first issue from the off, here? You are drastically reducing the food options available to your pet! You may be able to pick up a vegetarian wet food, but this can get costly if you have a large dog. It can also be samey if they must eat identical things day after day after day.
Next, you'll need to consider whether a Lacto-Ovo diet is providing your dog with sufficient balance. Canines are hard-wired to receive certain vitamins from animal products in their food and missing out on these could have an impact on their health. Vitamin D3, for example, may be in short supply with a vegetarian diet – leading to poor quality fur and other problems. Sure, you can add supplements to your pet's meals, but that could get expensive. The same can be said of the frequent check-ups with the vet your canine chum will need to ensure they are not struggling with health.
Finally, there is the simple fact that your dog may not enjoy their vegetarian meal plan. We're not saying that's a given – some dogs will take to Lacto-Ovo eating with no problem at all. What's more likely, however, is that a pair of big brown eyes wondering where the rest of their dinner will follow you around the house.
A dog can survive on a Lacto-Ovo diet, but that's arguably the key word; survival. Many dogs will struggle to really flourish and enjoy their lives if they are not getting to tuck into their favourite meals, especially food-focused breeds (which, let's be blunt, is almost all of them!)
We're not even going to address the elephant in the room, which revolves around what excessive vegetables will do to a dog's bowels. If this is a route you decide to go down, prepare to invest in a lot of poop bags and wet wipes!
The choice, as always, lies with a pooch parent as to whether they want to feed their dog a Lacto-Ovo diet. If this idea appeals, speak to a vet and ensure that their meal plan provides your dog with all essential nutrients and vitamins. Perhaps most importantly though, listen to your dog too. If your pet seems unhappy with their diet, they'll be unhappy with one of the most important elements of their day. If that's the case, it may be time to reconsider applying human values to your pet.