During last year’s Veganuary (where pawrents try out veganism - or plant-based eating - for January) over 620,000 people ditched meat, dairy and eggs in the name of animals, the planet or their health. This year we’re expecting even more participants, as plant-powered converts convince family and friends to give veganism a try. And as we all know, family isn’t limited to two-legged relatives! Our dogs are part of our pack and there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t join us on our Veganuary journey. In fact, the benefits for your dog – as well as for the environment and other animals – are just as big!
The practicalities of transitioning – for you and your dog
If you’re used to a diet heavy in animal products, it’s going to be a daunting leap to go vegan cold tofurkey. Similarly, if your dog has been eating meat-based dog food for every meal up until now, they may not react well (physically or emotionally) to a sudden switch. Making the transition gradual means you and your dog are far more likely to enjoy and stick to your new diet, for January and beyond. For you, that might mean slowly phasing out animal products (only eating meat and dairy at weekends, for instance) so your taste buds adjust. For your dog, we recommend mixing half a portion of nutritionally complete vegan food (like THE PACK) with half animal meat and gradually increasing the percentage of the plant-based portion. Or before you change your hound’s main meal, start by rewarding him or her with vegan treats instead of meaty bites. You can buy delicious plant-based treats from independent companies or even large pet food brands – or you can simply feed basic veggies like carrot sticks or cubes of sweet potato.
Make simple like-for-like swaps…
One of the exciting things about doing Veganuary in 2023 is the wealth of plant-based options now readily available in the supermarket. It used to be that you’d have to order online or seek out your local organic health food store to find non-dairy cheese alternatives; today, every major supermarket stocks at least five different kinds! Forget that generic ‘vegan cheese’ to replace your cheddar, you can usually find the exact branded substitute, from plant-based Babybels to almond-milk Philadelphia. Fancy a non-dairy milk in your coffee? Choose from oat, almond, soy, hemp and even pea protein alternatives, depending on the taste and consistency you’re used to. Swapping out meat is even easier, with thousands of new vegan brands offering plant-based burgers, sausages and even ‘rare’ steak that taste as good, if not better, than their animal predecessors. So there’s no need to change our meal plans at all: the Wednesday night spag bol can stay on the menu and the Sunday roast is as tasty as ever!
It’s no different for our furry friends. Over the last year, we’ve seen a plethora of new plant-based dog foods and treats arrive on the market, with many established brands launching meat-free treats or complete foods. Pick up a packet of Denzel’s Plant-Based Vegan Bites in your local Tesco or chop up a soy-based sausage instead of a meat one (just make sure there’s no garlic or onion in the recipe, as these are toxic for dogs). If your pup loves kibble, you can find numerous plant-based alternatives that offer the same taste and texture. Or if they’re more of a raw, fresh or wet food fan, plant-based companies like THE PACK provide those same complex tastes with a stew-like texture that your dog will go barking mad for. What if your dog loves chewing on a bone? Try a raw carrot or a chewy piece of dried papaya instead. Today’s Veganuary pawrents and dogs are spoiled for choice!
…or embrace different tastes and new foods!
While we all have our favourite dinners, it’s easy to slip into an uninspired routine when it comes to meal planning. Who else finds themselves reaching for the same ingredients and ready meals for every weekly shop, or playing it safe with tried-and-tested recipes? Comfort food is all very well, but getting too comfortable when it comes to our diet is a formula for dull dinners and boring breakfasts. It’s no different for our dogs. If we’re getting bored eating the same dinners every week, imagine how it must feel to eat exactly the same food for every meal, day in, day out! Yet that’s how most of us have traditionally fed our furry friends: the same brand of kibble or wet food, the same flavour, for lunch and dinner, seven days a week for our dog’s entire adult life…
That’s why Veganuary offers a fantastic incentive to shake up mealtimes, for you and your dog! Losing ‘safe’ ingredients like eggs, milk and cheese, not to mention mincemeat and chicken wings, encourages us to venture into different aisles of the supermarket and get more inventive with our cooking. We might try new spices and seasonings, experiment with different global cuisine or find a new plant-based brand of sausage that offers something more exciting than the usual pork. For your dog, the range of plant-based options available online - and increasingly in stores - mean that you can feed them a variety of different flavours and textures too. THE PACK offer three different varieties of wet food, each packed with tasty veg and pulses, while other plant-based pet food companies are selling everything from doggy porridge to ‘cheesy’ nooch-based kibble. You have a whole month to find out which your pal likes best, mixing up mealtimes to keep it interesting. Pet Nutritionist Emma Passman says, “I always try to recommend feeding a varied diet where possible, barring certain illness and dietary intolerances” and explains that “a vegan diet containing a blend of vegetables and fruits, supplemented with vitamins and minerals can contribute to that variety to help ensure a dog gets all the nutrients they need.”
Fielding questions from naysayers
Unfortunately, despite the wealth of scientific evidence supporting the health and safety of plant-based dog food, feeding a ‘vegan’ diet to your dog is still perceived as a controversial practice. That means you may get lots of questions about your motivations, from the curious to the outright aggressive! We therefore advise reading our eBook or blogs at The Woofington Post, which distil the science behind plant-based feeding in a simple, accessible way. Arming yourself with key facts such as ‘dogs are actually omnivores, not carnivores’ and ‘scientific research has shown that plant-based dog food may be healthier and safer than meat-based dog food’ will leave critics with little ground to stand on.
Another way to avoid scepticism is to be careful about the language you use when you talk about your dog’s diet. Many people like to accuse vegans of imposing their ethics onto their unknowing or unwilling dog. That’s why we recommend using ‘plant-based’ instead of ‘vegan’ to describe your dog’s eating habits. That way you’re not implying that you’re opting your pet into a social or political movement; instead, your motivation is to simply feed them the healthiest diet possible. Removing animal products from your dog’s bowl is first and foremost about benefiting them; that it also helps the environment and other animals is a happy bonus!
Download our FREE eBook!
Raising a Happy, Healthy, Plant-based Dog aims to make the science around dog nutrition accessible and to debunk mythologies around plant-based versus meat-based dog diets. It explores the health benefits of plant-based food and the science of omnivorous dogs, as well as the practicalities around meat-free feeding.
Our eBook takes a deep dive into questions like ‘Where do Plant-based Dogs get their Protein?’ and ‘Will my Dog Like Plant-based Pet Food?’ It also offers some top tips to help your dog thrive mentally as well as physically, and shares tales of just a few of the happy, healthy plant-based dogs who are already living their very best lives. At the end of the eBook, you’ll find a list of resources to enable you to delve further into the topics explored. Plus, 30% off your next order is within every eBook. Winner, winner, plant-based dinner!