Though I hope to eventually pen a piece about canine nutrition vis-à-vis veganism and vegetarianism, this isn’t it! Since I don’t have much time for background research, and don’t want to half-ass it, I’ll have to save that topic for another time. Instead of convincing you to feed your dog-kids a vegan or vegetarian diet – assuming you have dog-kids, that is – this VeganMoFo post is all about feeding your dog-kids a vegan diet (or foodstuffs), frugally.
Granted, commercial vegan and vegetarian dog foods are more expensive than their non-veg counterparts, and feeding your dog-kids a diet consisting solely of homemade food requires enough expertise that I don’t recommend it. Or rather, I can’t advise you on how to do it. You see, even though I occasionally feature recipes for homemade dog food, I primarily feed my kids commercial kibble: ’twas Nature’s Recipe Vegetarian formula for awhile, but we recently switched to V-Dog. Though it’s a little more expensive, it’s also confirmed vegan (DelMonte never would respond to my inquiries). The homemade goodies are more of a “topping,” if you will, to add a little variety to their meals. So all in all, we do spend a pretty penny on dog food in the Garbato-Brady household, homemade goodies notwithstanding.
Luckily, there are other ways to cut costs:
– Make your own dog treats. As with vegan dog food, vegan dog treats can be a little pricey, so you can save some cash by baking treats yourself. In contrast to food, which must meet your dog-kid’s nutritional requirements, treats are extras, so diy is just fine! Just go easy on the fat, salt, sugar and calories, mkay? Also, always check and double-check the ingredients to confirm that they aren’t harmful to canines.
Dogs also tend to be less discriminating eaters than people (well, me), so experiment with abandon, and don’t be afraid to substitute in less expensive ingredients when necessary. Chances are, your kids will enjoy whatever you create. Plus, is there anything cooler than giving your dog-kid a treat you baked especially for her, with nothing but love? (And an oven!)
The obvious downside to baking your own biscuits is that they don’t keep as well as the store-bought stuff, so it’s a little harder to keep some on hand at all times (you never know when you’ll need to entice your dog-kid away from a found animal corpse, am I right?). However, this brings us to the next tip:
– Fresh, raw, dehydrated and dried fruits and vegetables make great treats, too! With a few exceptions, your dog-kids can eat many of the same foods as you. (Although, again, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on table scraps, particularly salty, fatty and sugary foods, and always stay away from foods that are harmful to canines.)
Come breakfast time, my dog-kids are all ears, waiting for me to crack the cabinet in which the dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries are stored. Even though I’m readying breakfast for myself, they know I’m a sucker for a furry face (or five). Before I’ve even set the bags on the countertop, I’m surrounded. Blueberries for everyone!
Likewise, I never chop or dice fresh fruits and veggies solo; there’s always at least one dog, hovering, waiting for a carrot or potato cube to fall to the floor. Carrots are a popular snack, and one I hand out at will, as they’re neither expensive nor unhealthy. Raw tofu is a big hit, too, as is popcorn.
Last but not least, frozen and partially thawed fruit makes a refreshing snack during the hot, humid summer months.
– Forget about the pig ears. Before I switched him to a vegetarian diet, our first-born dog kid, Ralphie, absolutely loved rawhide treats. He’d spend hours gnawing on them and then spend another hour transferring his prize from hiding place to hiding place. Once he “went veg,” bye bye rawhides. (Cue the tiny violin; once we introduced Peedee to the family, the hidden rawhides probably would have caused too many battles to keep around anyhow.)
While there are a few brands of vegetarian “pig ears” and plant-based rawhides available, in my experience, they don’t hold up to rough chewing nearly long enough to justify their expense. As a substitute, we’ve switched to rubber Kongs. Most varieties of Kong have little nooks and crannies in which to hide treats – biscuits, chews, even nut butters such as peanut, soy, almond, cashew, etc. (these work best, IMHO, but they can be very messy and thus are best enjoyed outside).
In addition to providing hours of entertainment, stuffed Kongs help to clean dogs’ teeth. Rennie is our most voracious chewer – and she has the purtiest teefies!
Kongs are sturdy, but not indestructible, so always supervise your dog-kid and replace damaged toys immediately.
Kong is our brand of choice, but there are a number of “rip-offs” on the market. Before ordering multiples of any one toy, take one for a test run to ensure that you dog-kid likes it. Rennie, for instance, will only play with Kong rubber toys. You can see how many testers we bought before giving up!
Also, shop around – the prices of identical toys vary widely, depending on the vendor. I’ve had good luck at Amazon as well as wholesale websites, such as Pet Blvd.
Got more frugal vegan dog food ideas? Do share!
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