Your Dog Is Not A Vegan: pt 4 Vegan Kibble

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In part three I talked about the digestive tract of the canine compared to the ruminant animal. I also explained why dogs are not designed to digest Carbohydrates. In part four and  five, I take a look at two brands of vegan kibble dog food. V-Dog and Petaluma.  Their marketing is compelling and they almost drew me in. But, let’s take a look at what is in their “food” and how they answer some of their FAQ’s.

We’ll start with Petaluma food. Their list of ingredients is long.

Organic chickpeas, potato protein, dried yeast, organic brown rice, pea protein, organic peanut butter (organic peanuts), organic sweet potato, organic flaxseeds, organic oats, organic peas, organic sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and rosemary extract), peanut oil, brown rice syrup, organic carrots, ground grass, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulphate), calcium carbonate, parsley, organic kelp meal, salt, marine microalgae, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin D2 supplement, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid), minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite), turmeric, choline chloride, dl-methionine, cinnamon, allspice, taurine, potassium chloride, and ginger. 

FYI, there is nothing in this long list of ingredients, aside from Taurine, that I feel should be in a dog’s diet!

The first thing that I zeroed in on was the D2 supplement. This is the synthetic form of D and can, in my opinion, be highly toxic.  Vitamin D2 is plant-based; it forms when a compound called ergosterol, found in many plants, is exposed to ultraviolet light. Mushrooms can, when allowed to sit in direct sunlight for a period of about 60minutes, convert ergosterol to VitaminD2. However this is not as superior as D3 which is in fish and eggs among other foods. They also have a Vitamin A supplement. Since true vitamin A can only come from animal sources, I am going to go with this one being synthetic also.

Let’s look at a few of the FAQ’s.

My bag of food has many large pieces of oats and flax seeds and I can see some intact oats and carrot pieces in my pup’s poop. Is that okay? (My reply, NO! It is not OK. 

Consuming larger pieces of whole grain is healthy and having some pieces of oats, carrots, and flax seeds in your dog’s poop is normal and not indicative of digestion issues. We use whole grains like oats in our food. Using unrefined grains (including the bran “shell”) preserves healthy dietary fiber and minerals and results in a lower glycemic index as the energy can be more gradually absorbed during digestion. Some pieces will pass through your pup largely intact as gut bacteria do not entirely break down the insoluble fiber. While this may result in slightly larger #2s, it also feeds beneficial gut bacteria (the ‘microbiome’) and causes dogs to strain less during their poops.

I found that first line mind boggling. Consuming large pieces of whole grains, vegetables and seeds that come out in the poo intact,  is not healthy or normal. If it is coming out the same way it went in then your dog is getting zero benefit. If you are worried about fiber, give your dog something with feathers and/or fur.  [1] The dog will probably strain more during a poo, trying to get out all those seeds grains and veggies. I can think of nothing more irritating to a dogs gut.

How digestible is your food?

The digestibility of our food has been validated through an in vitro digestibility test performed by a university laboratory. The test found that dogs digest ~80% of nutrients in our diet, including protein-specific digestibility of 80%. This digestibility result is similar to meat-inclusive formulas and provides peace of mind that dogs are able to derive more than enough protein and essential amino acids from our diet. Digestibility is not a stand-alone metric of nutrient quality, but an important factor to consider when formulating a diet to ensure you are providing enough bio-available forms of every nutrient. Factors like fiber levels can decrease protein digestibility, but that does not make diets with more fiber (like Petaluma) less healthy as long as the dog is still absorbing sufficient amounts of protein. In fact, the additional dietary fiber brings a number of important metabolic benefits.

I can’t even wrap my head around this one. They talk about food being bio-available, but they also say digestibility is not a great metric of nutrient quality. Bio-availability and digestion is key!  Then they say that high fiber diets decrease protein digestion. But since their formula is high in fiber, it is still healthy if the dog is getting enough protein.  I am just going to leave that one right there.

Can dogs digest carbohydrates?  Yes. One of the largest genetic differences between domestic dogs and wolves is that they evolved to digest carbohydrates.  Dogs developed many more genes that produce amylase enzymes to break down starches. It’s hypothesized that these adaptions occurred to digest a more omnivorous diets as they evolved alongside their human companions.  Dogs also have pancreatic amylase (as well as other carbohydrate enzymes) which allow them to digest >95% of starches (similar to humans).

This whole answer is not true.  Dogs may have evolved to tolerate slightly larger amounts of carbs than wolves. Yes, wolves have 2 of copies of the AMY2B gene – compared to dogs who have 4-30. The  AMY2B gene helps the body make pancreatic amylase. (I am working on another blog about AMY2B.) HOWEVER, that does not make them carbavores.  That does not mean they developed to eat 40-60% of their diet as carbohydrates.  Even  a wolf will eat vegetation in the wild. Mostly grasses, herbs and some berries when they are in season. Or when there is no meat available. In other words, it is starvation food to survive. Nothing more. Dogs are highly adaptable and can survive if need be on plants for a short time. However they have zero requirements for carbs and veggies.  Meat is what they thrive on.

Can I transition my dog from a raw meat diet to Petaluma?

Yes, but it may require a bit of patience.

Transitioning from a largely raw meat diet to a baked food with a fair amount of dietary fiber (not present in meat) and plant protein can be a pretty significant change, as the two diets have very different optimal gut bacteria (microbiome) profiles that can take weeks or months to transition for some dogs. It would likely require a much slower transition (small amounts of Petaluma added over weeks) to get your pups’ digestive systems acclimated to the change. 

My answer to this one. Please don’t take your dog off of raw meat and put him on this kibble.


Is your food organic?

We support organic agriculture and the benefits it brings to the environment, farmworkers, and consumers by sourcing organic ingredients when feasible. Our adult dog formula contains over 50% organic-certified ingredients from farms and processors that engage in (and are audited for) organic farming practices. We will continue to add organic versions of ingredients to our recipe as we grow and exert more influence over the ingredient supply chain.

Our packaged food product is not certified organic because it is not made in an organic-certified facility and we have chosen to supplement it with a synthetic form of the amino acid taurine, which is not an exempt nutrient approved by the National Organic Program.

In light of the recent investigation into the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and the possible link to taurine deficiency, we believe that offering a bio-available form of synthesized taurine in our diet is critical. The National Organic Program allows supplementation with many vitamins and minerals but has not added taurine to its approved list for adult dogs as the FDA’s animal feed organization continues to debates whether taurine is an essential supplement for adult dogs as it is for cats.

All that to say “No, our food is not organic”. Why, because as I said above, they have synthetic D2, Vitamin A and Taurine, an amino acid critical for your dogs heart health. It’s best source is from animal food. I wrote about Taurine and DCM here.  What is DCM ? – Joyfully Healthy Pets 

Are you getting dizzy from all the spin? No matter how attractive they make it sound,  or how good it makes you feel to feed it, this is a dead and highly processed carb loaded ”food”.

Next time I will talk about V-Dog.

Hang on, it is going to get bumpier.


[1] Vital Essentials has dehydrated rabbit ears with the fur.

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Joy Eriksen CSAN

Certified Small Animal Naturopath

My name is Joy Eriksen and I am a Certified Small Animal Naturopath. My passion is helping people with their companion animals. Keeping them healthy and vibrant for a long and happy life.

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