More and more people are adopting a vegan lifestyle. It is estimated that around 1 in every 200 people in the USA are now vegan but that number is increasing every year. Concern about animal welfare, coupled with a desire to protect the environment, drive many people’s transition to veganism. Inevitably, this will impact the four-legged friends in their lives.
Some dog owners investigate whether they could change their dog over to an entirely vegan diet. If they do, vegan dog treats would be a part of that but it is important to consult a vet first. On the other hand, some owners are reluctant to cut out meat altogether from their dog’s diet and are looking for a compromise. Vegan dog treats can be a part of that lifestyle choice. They are healthy, nutritious and excellent for dogs with allergies. Here’s our guide to the best vegan dog chews.
Things to Consider When Buying a Vegan Dog Treats
There is plenty of vegan dog treats to choose from! Here are a few things for you to consider when you are choosing which would be best for you.
- What are they made of? This is the most important consideration. Take a careful look at the ingredients list. Do they contain anything that your dog is allergic to? Most vegan treats try to avoid common allergens such as corn.
- How much protein do they contain? The protein composition of these snacks is highly variable. Obviously, they contain no animal protein but some can reach quite high levels of plant-based proteins. If you are relying on these snacks to deliver some of the protein in your dog’s diet this is an important consideration.
- Will they help dental health? Gum disease is a common problem in dogs. Treats and chews are a great way of helping your pooch to maintain a healthy mouth. Some are shaped in a certain way so that they scrape off plaque and this is a desirable feature for a chew. Others have natural ingredients to promote fresh breath which is always a good idea!
- Are the ingredients natural? It is best to look for products that have all natural ingredients and which avoid artificial colors and preservatives. This is the healthiest option for your pooch.
- How big are they? Some treats last longer than others! Some are quite large and chewy and are designed to keep a smaller dog occupied for up to 15 minutes. Some have several treats threaded onto a rope so your pooch has the challenge of getting them off!
Why You Should Use Vegan Dog Treats
A decade ago, dog vegan treats were unheard of. However, these days they are becoming more and more popular. Here are a few reasons why so many dog owners are choosing to give their dogs vegan treats.
- You are a vegan. If you have decided to become a vegan, you may want to make your four-legged friend part of that decision. Even if you do not feel that a totally vegan diet is appropriate for your dog, you may decide that choosing vegan snacks is a compromise that you can live with.
- Ethical reasons. Vegans have moral and ethical reasons for not wishing to eat meat. You may find it distressing to handle dog snacks that contain animal products. Vegan snacks will be more acceptable to you. Also, some vegan dog treats are made from upcycled human foods which cut down on waste and protects the environment.
- Environmental concerns. Meat production damages the natural world far more than plant production. Therefore, by cutting down some of the meat in your dog’s diet, you are helping to reduce meat production and do your bit for environmental protection.
- As part of a healthy diet. Vegan snacks are packed with highly nutritious ingredients. There are very little fillers and they deliver nutrients that help to keep your pooch healthy. You’ll find high-quality ingredients such as blueberries and sweet potato.
- To combat allergies. Even if you are not a vegan, you may have been advised to avoid certain ingredients because your dog has an allergy. It is always important to get your dog properly assessed by a vet before you assume that they are allergic to something. Vegan dog snacks rarely have the common dog allergens (such as wheat) in them.
- To avoid artificial ingredients. Artificial colors and preservatives may not be good for your pooch. Vegan treats are often the most natural dog treat that you can buy and contain only natural ingredients.
- Therapeutic reasons. Some veggie dents for dogs promote dental health because they are shaped to scrape plaque off teeth as they are being chewed. Others can be used to help relieve conditions such as anxiety because they contain natural soothing ingredients such as chamomile.
Ingredients to Avoid
Vegan dog chews can contain some ingredients that some dogs are allergic to or which can harm them. In general terms, the more natural the product the better. However, even though the ingredients are natural, they can still trigger an allergic reaction in some dogs. Always read the label carefully. Here are a few examples of ingredients that you may want to avoid.
- Chemicals and preservatives
Some pet treats have been known to contain Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin. All three are powerful chemicals that are used as preservatives in pet foods and treats. Unfortunately, they are also listed on the Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (California) as known carcinogens and reproductive toxicants. This means that they could potentially cause cancer and interfere with your pooch having pups. BHT has also caused kidney and liver damage in experiments on laboratory rats. Ethoxyquin is so dangerous that it is actually banned in human foods in the US.
Propylene Glycol (which may be written a PG) is used as a moistening agent in some dog treats. It is manufactured from the same ingredients as antifreeze which indicates how toxic it could be.
Looking for human-grade ingredients in the snack can be a good way of avoiding some of these problems.
- Food Dyes
Artificial coloring is completely unnecessary in animal feed as dogs don’t care what color their treats are! Always choose a product that has no coloring added. Some food dyes such as Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6 have been linked to hypersensitivity reactions and cancer in humans so they are likely to affect animals too. Caramel color contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE) which has been linked to cancer in animals.
- Potential allergens
Some ingredients can be totally natural but are still capable of making your pooch ill through an allergic reaction. Allergies in dogs can cause digestive, behavioral and skin problems. Here are some common dog allergens that you may want to avoid. However, it should be noted that if your dog has no allergies, there is no need to avoid them.
- A listing for ‘cereals’ in the ingredients list is very unhelpful because it does not tell you which cereals are in the treat and they could vary from one batch to another. If your dog does have an allergic reaction, you will not know what triggered it.
- Corn. Corn is often used as a ‘filler’ in treats because it bulks them out and is cheap. However, some dogs find it hard to digest and it causes them intestinal problems.
- Soy. Obviously, there will be no meat protein in a vegan snack and so this is sometimes replaced by soy protein. However, some dogs have been known to have allergic reactions to soy.
- Wheat is a good source of carbohydrates in dog treats but can cause intolerance in some dogs. It may be a good ingredient to avoid.
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DIY Vegan Dog Treats
Making your own vegetable dog chews for your pooch is a lot of fun and there are loads of ideas online. You can mold them into attractive little shapes such as bones and hearts and store them in an airtight container for a week or so. Most need to be baked for a while in the oven. You will know exactly what is in each of the treats and this places you in total control of your dog’s diet.
They make an ideal Christmas or birthday gift for the other doggies in your life and look lovely when gift-wrapped or secured with some colored twine. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Carrot and custard tarts. Made from carrot juice, applesauce, and soy milk.
- Spinach, Carrot and Courgette Treats. Made from shredded carrot, shredded courgette, baby spinach, peanut butter, and pumpkin.
- Three ingredient hearts. Made from canned pumpkin, bananas, and unbaked oats.
- Banana Flax Vegan Dog Biscuits. Made from ground flax seeds, rolled oats, cinnamon, coconut oil, and banana.
Many vegetables make simple, healthy and low-calorie vegetable dog chews for your pooch. You just have to make sure that they don’t present a choking hazard. Most dogs will happily munch away on sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli.
However, some human foods can make dogs very ill and this list includes avocado skin, grapes, and unripe tomatoes although there are many more.
Best Vegan Dog Treats FAQ:
Q: Aren’t dogs carnivores? I thought that dogs are supposed to eat diets that are meat-based.
A: There is no consensus on whether dogs are best fed a diet with or without meat. As with many debates, there are strong opinions on both sides. Some people insist that dogs are carnivores which means that they must have a diet that is predominantly meat. Others argue that they are omnivores which means that they are able to eat both plants and meat.
Dogs have several anatomical features which suggest that they could do well on a diet that does not contain meat. For example, they have large teeth (called molars) with flat surfaces which are good at grinding up fibrous plants. Also, their guts are able to break down carbohydrates found in plant material. Their small intestine makes up almost a quarter of their total gut capacity and this is typical of omnivores. It is very different to the guts of true carnivores like the cat family. Your dog’s body is able to manufacture vitamin A from beta-carotene found in plants and that is a typical characteristic of animals that eat plants.
So, the science indicates that whilst dogs may prefer meat and may do better on a diet that contains some meat, they are able to derive nourishment from plants too. Therefore, vegetable dog treats can be a vital part of a balanced, healthy diet for your dog.
Q: How long do vegan treats last?
A: Many vegetable dog treats do not contain any artificial preservatives and so they may have a shelf-life that is shorter than other snacks. However, most of them have limited moisture content and so spoilage will not be too rapid.
The best advice is to store them in a sealed, air-tight container and to buy them in small packs. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice about storage and usage of veggie treats for dogs.
Related Post: Dog Food Containers
Q: Can vegan dog treats be frozen?
A: You can batch-bake DIY veggie treats for dogs and store them in your freezer. They can last here for several months but the longer you store them the more likely they are to lose texture. The flavor may also be affected and freezer burn can make them unpalatable if they have been in the freezer for too long.
Our Top Pick
An excellent choice of vegan dog chews. These treats will help to control gum disease in dogs because their ‘Z’ shape scrapes off plaque and freshens the breath.
The key ingredients are cornstarch and glycerin with protein provided by soybeans. They contain no wheat gluten and are suitable for dogs with wheat and raw-hide allergies.
- Should Your Pet Go on a Vegetarian Diet?, Pets WebMD