While we all know canines are meant to be meat-eaters, you do come across a breed or pooch that may, in fact, prefer a vegetarian diet over a meat-based one. I remember having a Shih Tzu customer, a very fussy eater, who’d prefer to have paneer-based food rather than the chicken gravies. Hence, there is no strict rule that pets shouldn't be fed vegetarian meals. In fact, there are several reasons that can make us rethink meals for our pets.
As dogs age, their body starts to deteriorate. The cure for some of the common diseases and health issues in older dogs often includes a change in diet. Many older dogs, above 10 years, are advised to be put on a home-cooked, predominantly vegetarian diet.
Like humans, your pets can be allergic to different foods too, and that includes meat! Yes, food allergy is dogs has been increasing, and meat allergy is one of them. It's not uncommon, therefore, for your dog to be on a pure vegetarian diet. However, you need to ensure your pooch is getting all the essential nutrients and supplements it needs to live a healthy and happy life.
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Let me share a few tips and tricks of ensuring your pets are getting the right nutrition from non meat-based meals. Let’s start with lentils. They can be a great source of iron, fibre and proteins (a must in every canine diet). They keep your pets full due to the high fibre content. Some common lentils that you can include in meals are split green gram with skin (chilkewali moong dal) and red lentils (gulabi masoor dal).
A simple way to make your pooch thinks it’s eating a different meal each time is to add rice, millet, oats, and quinoa in their diet. These are great sources of easily digestible carbohydrates, making them your dog's go-to source of energy. Brown rice, in fact, has higher proteins and lower fats, as compared to white rice. You can consider it if your dog is on the higher side of their ideal weight.
As a gluten-free option, quinoa is an excellent choice. High in protein and packed with antioxidants, quinoa adds a variation to your pet’s diet. Another source of plant-based protein is soybean. Rich in folic acid, vitamins and fibre, it’s advisable to serve a portion once or twice a week.
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If a pet is a fussy eater, my go-to meal topping is homemade cottage cheese. High in protein and calcium, it is, shockingly, a favourite of many pets. Simply sprinkle some over a serving of rice and broth and watch your pooch lap up its meal in no time.
Giving an assortment of vegetables like spinach, carrot, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, beetroots and cucumber will ensure your pets get their sources of vitamins, iron and calcium. Serve them steamed, mashed or cooked together into a broth.
As for fruits, apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges, watermelon and pineapple are full of nutritious fibre and vitamins. These work best when used as training treats by freezing them into cubes or dehydrating them to crisps.
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When you introduce your pet to any new food or ingredient, it is best to ease them into it, just to be sure your pet can digest and adapt well. While the idea of vegetarian food for pets sound confusing, it can be achieved with careful planning and consideration.
Here’s a quick recipe for that can be made at home.
Protein Packed Veggie Broth
● ½ cup of green split moong dal
● Pinch of turmeric
● ½ cup chopped carrot
● ½ cup chopped spinach
● ¼ cup crumbled paneer
● ¼ tsp coconut oil
● 3 glasses of water
Cook the dal, carrot, spinach, turmeric and coconut oil in a pressure cooker with 2 glasses of water.
Once it cools down, mash it properly and add one glass of water to thin it out.
Before serving, add 2 to 3 tsp of crumbled paneer and mix well.
The veggie broth is ready.
Note: It is recommended to keep your veterinarian in the loop, before making any radical change in your pet’s diet.
Sonal Zalkikar is the founder and canine nutritionist at Petfeast