I recently read an article on the V-dog website called “6 Reasons Not to Feed Your Dog Raw Meat” and much of it is either inaccurate or inapplicable. So, I had a look at the rest of their site, including the ingredients of their food. Here are my 6 reasons not to pay any attention to this article.
Is the American Veterinary Medical Association qualified to offer nutritional advice?
1. Among the referenced organizations in the V-dog article is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). We all know how much vets learn about nutrition in their educational training – close to none, and what they get is typically provided by pet food reps. But in their desperation for advocacy from any quarter, V-dog doesn’t mind enlisting the AVMA’s misguided, profit-driven stance on raw feeding in an attempt to make their product look good. Apparently V-dog loves that the AVMA believes kibble is healthier for dogs than a raw food diet.
The truth is, raw feeding can be full of mistakes or it can be done properly. When it’s done properly, dogs thrive. THAT’S why the AVMA is threatened by it, and ANY feeding method that keeps dogs out of the vet’s office. It’s quite possibly true that a home-prepped vegan diet could do the same for dogs, but even that doesn’t argue in V-dog’s favor. More on this below. In any event, V-dog makes no points for siding with people whose businesses only thrive when dogs don’t.
Is there ONE carnivore in the wild who eats only plant foods?
2. Advocates of feeding dogs a vegan diet love to cite the anomaly of the Giant Panda as an example of a carnivore that eats no meat in the wild and appears to thrive. True to form, this fact is cited in the V-dog article. It seems that a few million years ago some members of the Giant Panda species began eating bamboo because their normal prey became less available. So, the species began its slow journey toward accommodating its environment rather than going extinct. Any other species would make the same wise choice. But while the bargain allowed them to survive, it did not offer the complete adaptation that the preceding millions of years had. The Panda now must spend 14 hours per day eating as much as 40 pounds of bamboo per animal. Scientists recently discovered that their feces consists mostly of undigested bamboo and that only 17% of what they eat is digested. Other animals with the carnivorous features of the Panda extract anywhere from 60 to 90% of what they eat. Real herbivores keep food in their intestinal tracts for 24 hours whereas Pandas process it in only 10 hours, which is not enough time for their bodies to get what they need from the food. In other words, Pandas are not herbivores. They have clabbered together a way of existing in a similar way that frugivorous humans manage to live in areas where our foods don’t grow all year round. It may be better than becoming extinct, but, as the power and wealth of the medical industry will attest, it’s not working for us. And it may not be working for Pandas either. This article says that pandas are plagued with stomach aches and irritated digestive tracts that make it difficult for them to reproduce, which may partially account for their declining numbers. So the switch to bamboo may have only offered a temporary reprieve from extinction, not true sustainability. The Panda has undergone this process of partial adaptation spontaneously, triggered by what was happening in its environment. That’s quite a different matter than taking a functional omnivore out of nature the way we have, domesticating it, and forcing it to eat a diet that it was not adapted for. Scientists have discovered that the Giant Panda’s rather experimental eating habits have resulted in their losing the Tas1r1 gene that makes meat taste good to meat-eating species. Domestic dogs, most assuredly, still retain the Tas1r1 meat-eating gene. In any event, the Panda does not offer the shining example of how taxonomy can’t be relied upon to guide us to the proper foods for any particular species, as vegan dog feeders and V-dog claim.
“Wolves don’t eat cows”
3. The V-dog article uses the excuse that “wolves don’t eat cows” to support its contention that a raw meat diet is not appropriate for dogs, but not before it points out that “dogs are not wolves”. What wolves do and do not eat should not matter if dogs are not wolves in the first place, so they rather shoot down their own argument. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that dogs ARE wolves on the inside (regardless of how much they differ superficially on the outside), and wolves DO indeed eat cows. Why has the wolf been the sworn enemy of cattle ranchers ever since the latter moved into wolf territory? It was predation on domestic livestock that motivated the paid bounties on wolves which made them all but extinct in many US states where they once thrived. Meat is meat, and the bodies of genuine meat-eating species process it all the same, whether it once flapped a wing or lifted a leg. The only difference between the diet of the wolf and the ideal diet of the domestic dog is that those doing the feeding must be cognizant of the profiteering mindset of commercial agricultural producers and ensure that their dogs don’t get too much of the life-sapping fat that the latter deliberately put on their animals before slaughter.
V-Dog misses the importance of species appropriateness
4. The V-dog article says that red meats have been declared “carcinogenic” and cites an article on this topic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Readers who take the time to follow the link to the article will see, however, that the WHO is actually pretty non-committal on that point. It says red meat “probably” raises the risk of colon cancer. Most importantly, the risk is for HUMANS consuming red meat. The WHO does not concern itself with how red meat consumption affects other species besides humans, particularly species for whom meat is a biologically appropriate food. The deleterious effects of red meat eating by humans has ZERO relevance to what happens when a facultative carnivore like a dog eats meat. The WHO article, additionally, is much more focused on PROCESSED meats, which nobody advocates feeding to dogs. Further, it is reasonable to presume that even if red meat were definitively deemed to be carcinogenic for humans, it would be COOKED red meat, not raw meat. It is now scientifically acknowledged that cooking meats creates carcinogens that do not exist in raw meat, and that the more meat is cooked, the more harmful it becomes. Cooked meat causes problems for every species that consumes it, and nobody’s arguing for the feeding of cooked meats to dogs, at least not in raw feeding circles. V-Dog really dug deep to scrape up this excuse to not feed meat to dogs.
The only marginally valid argument for a vegan diet for dogs is ethics
5. After all is said and done, there really is only one argument in this article that is valid, and that is ETHICS. Even so, people who put ethical treatment of other animals above or equal to their own dogs should still not be persuaded to feed V-dog, for a number of reasons mostly relating to the food itself that I will get into in #6 below. There are many good arguments why humans should break OUR meat-eating habit, including the environmental degradation and sheer waste cited in the V-dog article. But as long as humans ARE eating meat, the parts of animals that humans don’t eat will either go to waste or they will be fed to dogs. Raw feeders do not create the market for meat products, human meat consumption does that. In large part, raw feeders provide a means of profitable disposal for the parts of animals that humans do not use and are hypocritically repulsed by, like bones, necks, tripe, hearts and other internal organs. Some have theorized that dogs eating the food waste of humans has long been a central part of our symbiotic partnership with them. Make all the arguments for humans not eating meat that you like and I will support you because I personally have been vegan for 32 years. But the only one that works for dogs is ethics, and even this is questionable if the health and life of a dog must be sacrificed.
Is V-Dog a healthy option for dog owners wanting to feed vegan?
6. Of the last 33 ingredients listed on the label in V-dog, salt is added in the greatest quantity. There is more salt in this product than blueberries, cranberries, spinach, carrots or celery. Either these other healthy ingredients that the V-dog brand brags about including in their kibble are in minute quantities, or there’s LOTS of salt in this product. The description of the kibble on the website says that it is “loaded with vegan superfoods like quinoa”, but quinoa is very close to salt on the list, which means there’s either very little quinoa in it as well, or LOTS of salt. Preserved canola oil is near the top of this list of 40 or so ingredients. The ingredients that precede it are starchy foods like rice, oatmeal and dried peas, or isolated proteins from potatoes and peas. The only advantage I can see that V-dog offers over grocery store kibble is that it does not contain rendered animals. Grocery store kibble is the worst possible food anyone could concoct. To say something is better than the worst imaginable food is not saying much. V-dog may not be rendered junk, but it is junk just the same. Its makers have found a niche that they think they can profitably fill by following the same despicable example that every other commercial pet food producer uses – buy ultra cheap foods, put them together with a lot of fake supplements, make it all shelf-stable by processing the life out of it, spend a ton of money on marketing, advertising and packaging, and prosper.
I have long heard stories about how some dogs seem to do well on vegan diets. Consequently, I make no secret of the fact that my mind is open to the possibility of dogs being able to manage well without meat. BUT there is no question that it’s not the dogs eating V-dog that are thriving, if any vegan dogs are thriving at all, it’s the ones whose owners do their own food prep in their own kitchens, with real foods, few or no supplements, no oils, no salt and as much water-rich raw or gently cooked plant foods as possible.
As facultative carnivores, dogs are functionally indistinguishable from omnivores, and that’s why the carnivore vs. omnivore debate will never end. By recognizing that omnivores eat both meat and plant foods, we can balance the concerns we have about other animals and wanting optimal health for our dogs by feeding diets that include both, maybe even heavy on the plant foods. In fact, since we just don’t know what the minimum requirement is that dogs have for meat (NOBODY seems to be studying this), we can probably get away with feeding it as seldom as once per week with absolutely no compromise to a dog’s health. I have a near-vegan option in my feeding protocols included in my book for people who are interested in feeding optimally without increasing their meat footprint.
It seems entirely possible to me that we can have optimally healthy dogs that NEVER enrich the sick dog industry throughout their lives without also enriching the animal agriculture industry, or at least doing so minimally. Where V-dog is concerned, however, we definitely don’t need to compromise the health of our dogs or resort to convoluted logic in order to feed ethically.