Well, I went ahead and did it: I bought vegetarian dog food.
Hold on! Before you shout me down, please let me explain the logic behind this move. And there is logic, I promise. Just a warning though, the poop talk might get a bit graphic for some tastes.
Our precious little boy has had food issues from the start. We’ve always tried to give Frankie the highest quality food we can afford, but for about 6 months after we got him he never had what either of us (non-vets) would call a ‘normal’ poop. You have an idea in your head of what a dog poop should look like, perhaps most noticeably that its primary colour is brown. Frankie had what would charitably be called greens or yellows, but nary a brown BM. We also nicknamed him Five-Poops because he almost always pooped 5 times per day.
The vet didn’t seem overly concerned about any of these things, saying it could be the result of trauma related to his surrender. Only six months on, I was unconvinced that this could still be the case. After doing some reading, I found that a chicken sensitivity could be the culprit in his case, so we switched his food. Like magic, he had ‘normal’ brown poops, and 5 times per day went down to 3 (on average – he still sometimes forces out a territory marking abomination).
From then on, I began rotating the protein source in Frankie’s diet, to avoid him becoming sensitized to another kind of food. All of the foods were protein-focused, whole-prey kinds of foods. In other words, the dog was eating better than we were much of the time.
Fast forward another couple of vet visits. We’re told the hound needs to lose some weight. As instructed, we reduce his food (which we already dosed out by weight), only to be told it’s not working. And we’re not talking much weight, only about two pounds, but on a weiner dog that’s plenty. It’s not life or death, but losing the weight will help him stay active and reduce pressure on his back, hips and joints.
The only thing is that the volume of food he’s given is so small. High protein food weighs more than low protein food, so he gets less than a volumetric cup in a whole day. He wanders around, insisting that he’s starving to death; he’s not, but I understand where he’s coming from. I’d rather have a belly full of low calorie food than two mouthfuls of high calorie food, even though the amount of calories nets out the same.
Add to all of this the fact that good ol’ Frank doesn’t deal well with heat and that we’re on the cusp of summertime. While there’s much debate for and against, there’s some evidence that a lower protein intake may help keep dogs from overheating – especially older dogs. Digesting protein is taxing to the liver, and filtering out undigested protein doesn’t do the kidneys any favours.
Thus we come around to our current experiment with vegetarian food. It’s made by a reputable company, and the contents are approved by the AAFCO to make sure it meets canine dietary requirements (like calcium). Plus, it’s now been Frankie-approved, which is the most important part. We’ll be transitioning him over the next week or so by mixing it with his existing food.
And here’s the good bit:
It won’t look like a big difference to your or me, but that’s nearly a 1/4 more in the veggie food than the meaty one. For a small dog, that could mean the difference between a gnawing belly and a sated one. We’ll see how this goes and update as necessary.