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The Animal Person Minute: On Homecooking for Your Dog


Today’s photos of one of my orchids were taken 24 hours apart. One of the plusses of living in South Florida is that I’m surrounded by lush greenery and impossibly bright blooms if I play my cards right (and even if I screw up, sometimes). The flowers aren’t long for this world as you know, but while they’re here they sure do brighten my days.

The topic for today is homecooking for your dog if you’d like to make the transition to vegan. My dogs have been both vegan and not (following the bones and raw food–BARF–model), and they’ve been deemed healthy by both my homeopath and my traditional vet whatever they were eating (via exams and blood work). I have seen studies that attest to the long-term benefits of veganism for dogs, and my dog who’s not a vegan is transitioning back (her energy was far better as a vegan).

I cannot give medical advice, obviously, but I can point you in the right direction and you are welcome to start posting on this entry if you’d like to discuss anything regarding homecooking for vegan dogs. I have written previously that I’m not a fan of kibble or of the ingredients in most kibble (wheat, corn, soy, and probably genetically modified). I’d rather cook an organic meal.

Two non-negotiables are: vegedog (the proper ratio of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus is difficult to achieve on your own) and vegeyeast (which is more acidic than the nutritional yeast you’d get for yourself, and though our system thrives in an alkaline environment, theirs thrives in a slightly acidic one).

Everything else is up for grabs. I use all organic, but that’s me. For protein, I use lentils. And for grain, I rotate, but quinoa’s my favorite. No pasta, no white rice. I make a fruit and veggie mush myself, but I used to use Preference by The Honest Kitchen, but it has honey so it is not vegan. (And I did ask them about that, and about perhaps changing to agave nectar, but they have no plans to change.) For fat, I use virgin coconut oil. And everyone loves a dollop of pumpkin puree, which is great for digestion. I also toss on some Prozyme, which is probiotics and digestive enzymes.

However much kibble you fed, the general rule is you’ll need about twice as much real food. Harbinger’s has recipes included and they’re also on the website. Depending on what you were feeding before, you might expect more, shall we say, output.

Neither of my vets was shocked at how healthy my dogs were as vegans because they’re open-minded, they educate themselves about nutrition, and they keep up on their research. Nevertheless, I would never say it’s for every dog. Keeping animals in your home always presents challenges and compromise, but if you’re like me, the opportunity to give a homeless and/or abused animal a loving home for the rest of her life, is worth it.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dustin Rhodes #

    I have been "home cooking" vegan meals for my two dogs for the last 3 months. Before that, they ate canned and dry vegan food. I also use Vegedog, Vegeyeast and Prozyme.

    I make one large batch which lasts about 7 days: Sweet potatoes, mashed kidney beans, oats, canned pumpkin, peas, wheat germ and quinoa. My dogs LOVE it.

    Home cooking is pretty effortless, surprisingly. I would say I spend less than an hour a week making the food; and I didn't do this sooner because I thought it would be time-consuming, and I was afraid my dogs wouldn't eat or that I would cause my Boston Terrier gastrointestinal distress (nearly anything and everything causes gastrointestinal distress in a BT). But alas, the opposite has been true.

    I now refer to Lulu and Delilah as the "Mad Crappers." Vegan food inspires a lot of dog pooping, but not in an unmanageable way.

    I just recently started seeing a new vet here in Washington, DC who commented on how good both of my dogs look for their ages, 9 and going-on 11. Vegan diets are apparently serving them well, and I encourage others to give it a try.

    October 10, 2007
  2. Patty #

    I share my home with two sweet greyhounds (no other adjective truly captures a greyhound quite like "sweet"). I had them on commercial vegan food for the last eight months, but they would eat only sporadically when they used to be voracious eaters. And, judging from their stool, it wasn't that healthy for them. I tried including slippery elm bark into their food and it helped for a while, but they never thrived. One of my girls has an allergy to soy and, with my crazy work schedule, I didn't think I could home cook food for them. So, I decided to go back to meat-laden food. I am still mixing the food as they transition. It has been a moral dilemma for me for the last week. I just stumbled on this blog and I am motivated to try cooking for them (although I wonder if it really is that easy). I wish I had found you just a week or so earlier. My concern is finding the right recipe for them that meets their dietary needs and avoids allergic reactions. Any suggestions?

    October 10, 2007
  3. Ellie #

    My dogs eat meat and vegetables, but also enjoy lentils, red kidney beans, and chick peas. Beans and legumes are packed with protein, and can substitute for soy. Sorry if I'm being dense, but I don't understand the moral dilemma.

    October 11, 2007
  4. Ellie,

    I think I understand the moral dilemma. For me, it's about me going to the store and purchasing, say, and this for me would be the clearest example–turkey necks (when my dogs were on BARF). Violet would eat a 12 oz. turkey neck as a meal, and though turkeys aren't being bred for their necks, as they're usually thrown away, I was purchasing part of a dead animal and it wasn't for survival (as it is when I purchase Evanger's canned fish for Emily). That bothered me when I knew there was an alternative.

    With that said, because they are a different species and each is an individual, I could never say every dog should or could be a vegan. I'm not one of those people (and believe me, I know some), who believe we must have only vegan dogs otherwise we're not . . . vegan enough. This is a Gray Matter left to the individual (in my opinion).


    As Ellie said (and Dustin) it's easy to do without soy. Red lentils and green/brown lentils (and french lentils) are easiest because they cook the fastest. I buy organic, in bulk, from Whole Foods. Steel cut oats, brown rice, millet, and quinoa are the grains I rotate. And always about 1/4 cup of pumpkin, 1 tbsp. coconut oil, vegeyeast and vegedog, and veggie mush. My suggestion is to order the vegeyeast and vegedog (and maybe prozyme) from Harbinger's, and while you wait for them, purchase Embark, by The Honest Kitchen. It's really expensive, but the perfect food (it has turkey in it, but you can't see it. It's a raw, dehydrated food). Tell me how much your dogs weigh, and I will give you recipes. It would be great if you've had bloodwork done recently and you know that they are starting healthy. As Dustin wrote, it's not difficult. Quinoa and lentils cook in like 10 minutes, and if you use Preference (again, by The Honest Kitchen), all you do is put hot water in it and it's done. You can make a couple of days worth of meals in 30 minutes–I promise.

    October 11, 2007
  5. PS-If you buy Monzie's, which is a grain mix from Sojourner's (, and you use canned kidney beans (mashed, as Dustin said), you could cut your prep time. Monzie's, like Preference, just needs hot water and is a great mix of whole grains.

    October 11, 2007
  6. Patty #

    Thanks for all the help. I will check out Harbinger's and the Honest Kitchen. My greyhounds weigh 65 lbs. and 85 lbs. My big girl is the one allergic to soy.

    It isn't about being "vegan enough," it's about supporting the meat and dairy industries. I prefer to avoid giving them my dollars. On the other hand, I don't want to compromise my girls' health. Finding nourishing recipes that I can fit into my schedule is very helpful.

    Thanks again!

    October 11, 2007
  7. Dustin Rhodes #

    Also, Patty: There IS commercial vegan dogfood available that does not contain wheat and/or soy. Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula is grain free except for the oats, which most dogs are NOT allergic to. So, to save yourself some time, if you are worried about the effort required to commit to full-on home-made dogfood, you could make some homamde–like some steamed sweet potatoes and carrots (or anything, really)–and mix it with the dry kibble. This would make for both a good transition AND it would be easier for you. Just a suggestion.

    October 11, 2007
  8. Great idea, Dustin! We tried Natural Balance Vegetarian, but I've never seen so much poop in my life and my diabetic's blood sugar for some reason went bananas. But that's my dogs, and everyone is different. It certainly is an inexpensive, easy solution, Patty, so you might want to give it a whirl. And if it works, you don't even have to homecook!

    October 11, 2007
  9. Ellie #

    Hi Mary,

    I'm glad you're not wrapped-up in being vegan enough 🙂 Neither am I. Imo, that's a very self-involved motive for feeding dogs and cats a vegan diet, and I don't think it's fair to them. As you said before, I just go by what my dogs show me.

    October 11, 2007
  10. Dustin #

    Ha! Natural Balance makes my dogs go poop crazy, too–but they love it. I still, once in a while, mix some of it in with the homemade food, mostly because they like it so much.

    And as far as being "vegan enough": that's certainly a point of contention in the vegan community, no? But sometimes it's definitely worth having a conversation about—with all of the people who are interested in redefining what a vegan is; what it actually means to be vegan—it's worth having some dialogue every now and again. Some people, after all, think it's "vegan enough" to eat fish or wear leather (or however else one wishes to twist the definition to suit its purposes). But my being vegan doesn't have anything to do with what I feed my dogs. I am infinitely grateful that they love vegan food, first of all, and the fact that it agrees with them. I with you, Mary, on this one: probably all dogs can't do it, but it sure seems like many can—and thrive on a vegan diet.

    October 12, 2007
  11. Ellie #

    I agree, Dustin, what's "vegan enough" is certainly worth discussing. Vegetarianism is another term that's been co-opted to include people who eat fish and dairy, but I wasn't aware of this problem in defining veganism. My only concern here is separating what our pets need from what we want. It disturbs me to give my dogs animal products– i.e., Wellness Senior dog food, which contains chicken– but I buy it because I think my dogs need it.

    October 12, 2007
  12. Dustin #

    I think it's a big problem—the defintion of vegan being co-opted by hipsters and image-conscious trend-followers in search of an identity. Look at Mike Whatsitsface, the person who made the movie "Year of the Dog." He calls himself an "erstwhile vegan" (because he eats fish). Really? I would call him an omnivore. And remember when Andre 3000 was going around calling himself a vegan and wearing fur… justifying it with the comment, "I like to look good"? I am, of course, using celebrity examples, but this kind of message is not relegated to celebrities alone, unfortunately. Any time a non-vegan calls itself a vegan, we all suffer for it; and the message of compassion and non-exploitation is lost.

    October 12, 2007
  13. Dustin,

    Mike White, and boy did that annoy me:

    I didn't know about the Andre 3000 thing. I go around telling people he's a vegan. Thanks for telling me.

    PETA's recent Dita Von Teese PSA regarding spaying and neutering has come under fire because she wears fur. I'm not sure if it's right to criticize for that, but there's definitely a blurring and confusion of the message, and the mainstream media just makes it worse (probably unintentionally, out of ignorance).

    I'll be writing an Animal Rights column at biweekly, and the first one, out next week, will be the first page of my abolitionist pamphlet. I'm sure many people will never have heard the abolitionist message before, so it should be very, very interesting.

    October 12, 2007
  14. Ellie #

    Dustin, exactly! When they start co-opting terms, the message is lost. I was continually writing to journalists to explain the group they covered does not represent animal rights. Same for calling the killing of healthy or treatable pets "euthanasia". I've written so many times to correct it. Most recently I wrote to PBS to explain HSUS is not an animal rights group. It can get discouraging because the media is big on sensationalism, and accepts whatever sensationalists call themselves.

    October 12, 2007
  15. Ellie #

    Good news that you'll be writing a column at Rethos, Mary. Actually, I tried to register to post, but they never got back to me to confirm it.

    PeTA has a habit of engaging celebrities who don't live by the animal rights ethic. I think a group that purports to represent animal rights should choose people who live by it– this is yet another example of how PeTA promotes PeTA.

    October 12, 2007

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