Should I feed my dogs vegan food

It smells and looks like pea stew. And yet the two-year-old Golden Retriever rushes to his food bowl with enthusiasm. He has been on a vegan diet for more than a year. And that has it's reason.

Balu is a beautiful, cream-colored young dog. It's lively, but not hectic. Tail wagging and panting joyfully, he greets strangers without becoming too intrusive. But the young four-legged friend scratches his ears more and more often and vomits. On many days, the manure is so fluid that it is difficult to dispose of in a bag. The fur becomes more and more dull, it visibly loses weight.

After various dietary changes, one thing is clear: Balu is allergic to beef, turkey and chicken. In such cases, the vet recommends feeding a new type of meat. A wide variety of tins of buffalo, kangaroo or ostrich meat can now be found in pet supplies. This form of diet can easily cost ten times as much as conventional. Veterinarians suggest that one in ten visits to the vet is due to an allergy.

The professor recommends vegetarian instead of vegan pet food

Baloo's mistress Christina Meinert follows the advice of the veterinarian and initially feeds her dog ostrich meat. But the 32-year-old from Starnberg asks herself: Can that be the solution, can't you feed a dog without meat or even without animal proteins?

If you believe Professor Ellen Kienzle, Chair of Animal Nutrition and Dietetics at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, vegan nutrition is possible, but has not yet been adequately investigated in any study. If you want to be on the safe side, you should support with dairy products and eggs. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian is the technical term for this.

Meinert would like to find out more about the subject and is starting training as a nutrition therapist for dogs. In consultation with experts, the dog owner changes her pet's diet again. The four-legged friend receives vegetarian food with the addition of cottage cheese, but has to vomit from it.

The Meinerts from Starnberg develop their own food

At this point, the marketing consultant has already acquired a lot of knowledge and experience with regard to dog food and is looking for a vegan alternative. With her husband Patrick Meinert, she starts developing a feed that is free from animal ingredients.

Balu is now on a vegan diet. When the couple is not cooking for the male dog, their own product is fed. "The feed is a so-called complete feed and covers the needs of all important nutrients," says the nutrition therapist, "we developed it together with several veterinarians and laboratories, only then did we offer it to Balu and finally put it on the market. Our manufacturer is based in Hamburg. As far as possible, all ingredients are grown regionally. "

The two started selling in February 2019 and are now so successful that Patrick Meinert has given up his old job as site manager. "We are not interested in dog owners following a strict vegan diet," says the man from Starnberg, "but we are opposing the myth of the carnivore dog."

It is a common belief that dogs eat only meat. Nina Gerhardt, senior physician at the Oberhaching Veterinary Clinic, is repeatedly confronted with this misconception. She also notes that "dogs are more likely to develop allergies to various foods, often also types of meat." The doctor can only guess whether the allergies occur more frequently or the dog owners are becoming more sensitive to the problems of their pets. However, she finds it difficult to feed the dog as an omnivore - vegan. "You can feed a dog vegan without it experiencing a deficiency. However, it is questionable whether this type of diet is really appropriate to the species. In any case, you should always consult a nutrition specialist."

It is precisely this question that leads the controversial debates in Internet forums and at medical congresses. There is no satisfactory answer to this, even if vegan feeding is legal under German law. Dogs have become more and more of a domesticated product of humans over the centuries. In the distant past, four-legged friends were nourished by their owners' waste and adapted their digestion to a humane diet. It is only in the past few decades that people have begun to feed their loyal companions individually.

This individuality has now been taken to extremes: It culminates in trends such as "barfen", the dog is fed according to the eating habits of wild dogs or wolves. Rations of raw meat and offal are fed. 4400 tons of meat are consumed by dogs in Germany every day. "Paradoxical love of animals", say the Meinerts, "but also an absolute climate killer." Professor Kienzle opposes this opinion: "Dog food contains slaughter by-products, things that humans usually no longer eat. The dog is only slaughtered at the moment when the dog is fed steak. In a society in which most of the vegetarians are, one would have to think twice , what you do. "

"We have many customers who have not switched their dogs completely to vegan, but four days a week. On the other days, the animals continue to receive animal protein in the form of dairy products or meat," says Christina Meinert, "in any case that is a step in the right direction for the climate and dog health. "

There is always hostility

This definitely applies to the health of the poodle Leon, whose owners have been loyal customers of Meinert products since the beginning. Even at a young age, his ears swell up every day. At some point they start to fester. Leon's owner Sandra Kittler drives him to the vet and receives a shocking diagnosis. Leon's inflammation levels are so advanced that there is a high probability that his ears will have to be amputated. The doctor advises the woman from Pöcking to make a final change in diet. The male gets vegan food during the week and ostrich meat at the weekend. His ears swell completely within a week, says Kittler, and the pedigree dog has now been painless for months.

Christina Meinert says that another customer has been vegan for her five dogs for more than nine years. The oldest is now 14 years old and still in top shape. It is important to the couple that puppies or bitches are not fed a vegan diet while breastfeeding. Because then the need for important substances such as calcium, vitamin B12 or taurine cannot be assessed. The urine of a vegan dog should also be tested once a year and the blood every four months. Plant-based chewing sticks or roots are suitable for dental care.

There is always hostility. Dog owners are told that they are imposing their own lifestyle on their animals or that they are guilty of malnutrition in cruelty to animals. Patrick Meinert only says: "Sometimes you have to dare to do something new, this is the only way we can advance the world. The saying that we have always made does not count as a justification for our actions for me."

The couple are now also vegan. By dealing with the subject of nutrition, the two have come to believe that this is the healthiest way of life. The only thing they sometimes miss, they say, is a piece of really good cheese.