Can Golden Retrievers Be Vegetarian?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can be vegetarians, but they won’t thrive on a vegetarian diet. As omnivores, dogs can eat both meat and plants, so after researching, buying ingredients, and some time prepping, a Golden Retriever could follow a meatless diet. However, it’s been thought that not eating meat long-term can cause health issues in dogs.

It’s entirely your choice what your Golden Retriever eats, but there are a few negatives associated with a vegetarian diet that you should be aware of before you decide on their diet.

If you do want to switch your dog to a vegetarian diet, make sure that you do it gradually and monitor for any reactions or side effects to new food.

You’ll also need to watch out for any signs of malnourishment or vitamin deficiencies in case your Golden Retriever isn’t getting all the nutrients that their body needs. As active, energetic breeds, they need at least 1-2 hours of exercise per day so they also need enough food and drink to provide that energy.

What Should a Vegetarian Golden Retriever Eat?

If you’re planning on feeding your Golden Retriever a vegetarian diet, the first (and most obvious) thing is to avoid all meat and meat products. Fortunately, they can still get protein – with eggs being the best source.

Some brands actually make vegetarian dog food. This is similar to buying regular dog food with the difference that it doesn’t contain meat products. You’ll need to check the ingredients and make sure that it contains all the necessary nutrients.

The other option is preparing the food yourself – usually consisting of fresh vegetables and various other non-meat foods.

You can use the following ingredients in your Golden’s vegetarian diet:

  • Rice.
  • Oats.
  • Beans.
  • Lentils.
  • Seeds.
  • Kale, carrots, broccoli, peas, green beans, and more vegetables.

Where Can Golden Retrievers Get Protein From in a Vegetarian Diet?

While meat is the main source of protein for omnivores, there are other options that will allow your Golden Retriever to still get the protein that they need.

Protein comes from:

  • Eggs.
  • Corn.
  • Beans.
  • Soy.
  • Whole grains. 

Make sure that you research and seek advice from the vet to make sure that you’re including the right variety and portions of each food group as you make up their food.

Pros and Cons of a Golden Retriever Being Vegetarian

There are several pros and cons to feeding your Golden Retriever a vegetarian diet. Make sure that you consider all the points before you decide what you want to do for your Goldie. 

Fun fact: Studies show that in 2022, 14% of adults in the UK follow a meat-free diet! 

The Pros of Your Golden Retriever Being Vegetarian

There are quite a few positives to your Godie following a vegetarian diet:

  • Align with your beliefs – depending on your beliefs about meat consumption, you might not want to handle or have meat in your home.
  • It can be more environmentally friendly – this comes from them not eating meat and eating plant-based products instead.
  • Avoids poor quality meat – sometimes your dog might be eating animal by-products, meat that carries disease, and low quality, rotten meat.
  • Helps if they have meat intolerance or allergies – if your Goldie reacts after eating meat, substituting their diet will avoid the side effects while keeping them healthy. This also helps with chronic illnesses that prevent meat or fat from being processed. 

The Cons of Your Golden Retriever Being a Vegetarian

There are quite a few drawbacks to your Godie following a vegetarian diet:

  • They have short digestive tracts: This means that their gut can’t digest and process the waste from plant-based food efficiently. An example is if you feed your Goldie a chunk of carrot – it’ll come out looking the same meaning that it wasn’t digested and the nutrients weren’t absorbed.
  • Their teeth and jaws are designed for eating meat: A Golden Retriever’s pointy, sharp teeth are perfect for biting into meat and bone. Their strong jaws help them to bite down and chew – they aren’t tailored for eating softer vegetables.
  • Grains can wreak havoc in their gut: Often, vegetarians eat a lot of grains. But grains contain anti-nutrients called lectins and phytates. They’re also found in beans, legumes, and nuts, and they basically prevent vitamins and minerals from being absorbed.
  • They miss out on easy nutrition: Dogs can eat most parts of animals and can get a wide range of nutrients from them. For example, they can get vitamins B12, E, and D as well as a variety of minerals.
  • They might reject a vegetarian diet: A Golden Retriever who previously ate and enjoyed meat will not be impressed to suddenly stop eating meat. Their bodies will crave it and they might turn their nose up at less appetising vegetables.
  • Time and effort: Researching, purchasing, and preparing food to make up a vegetarian diet will take up much more of your time than simply scooping some dog food from a can into their bowl. 
  • Money: While buying pet food from the store costs you money, buying a variety of fresh vegetables and vegetarian foods will add up. 
  • The risk of preparing homemade food: When making food at home, you might accidentally use harmful ingredients, fail to meet their nutritional needs, or cause digestive issues from the dietary change. 

Can Golden Retrievers Be Vegan?

Golden Retrievers shouldn’t be vegan. Though it would be possible to feed them an exclusive diet of non-animal products, it would take a lot of micro-managing, money, and time to do so. It would also likely lead to nutritional deficiencies and issues. There are numerous risks and very few benefits of them being vegan.

Overall, it’s extremely difficult for a dog to be healthy and get all the nutrients that they need while on a vegan diet. You’ll need guidance from a nutritionist and plenty of time and resources to make sure that your Golden Retriever is healthy. 

Why a Balanced Diet Is Important for Your Golden Retriever

No matter what food or diet you give your Golden Retriever, it’s important that it’s balanced and provides all the nutrition that they need. This means they get all the vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and everything else their body requires to be healthy. 

An example is if your Golden Retriever is deficient in an amino acid called taurine which can increase the risk of them developing heart disease. It could be the case that avoiding meat leads to deficiencies that lead to avoidable health conditions.

For more guidance on a dog’s diet, check out this PDSA website, this Dogs Trust website, or this RSPCA website – all three are reputable vets or charities. 

How to Know if Your Golden Retriever Is Healthy

If your Golden Retriever is on a meatless diet, you’ll need to closely monitor their health.

If you’re concerned that they’re unwell in any way, arrange a check-up at the vet and speak to a dog nutritionist for advice. Watch out especially for signs of nutritional deficiencies.

How to check if your Golden Retriever is healthy:

  • Weigh them – have they gained or lost weight?
  • Is their coat shiny or dull? (Shiny is best here).
  • Are they lethargic or low energy? 
  • Are their stools normal? Diarrhoea or constipation could be a warning sign of a problem.
  • Are they eating and drinking as normal?
  • Get a vet check-up and blood test done.
  • Do they have an unusual amount of dandruff and crustiness? If so, they might need vitamin A or Zinc.
  • Are they behaving normally and in character?

You’ll know your Golden Retriever best, so if you suspect that something isn’t right or if they’re acting out of character then it’s always best to get them checked out.

Alternatives to a Vegetarian Diet for Golden Retrievers

If you’re not happy with your Golden Retriever being on a diet that includes meat, but you aren’t a fan of vegan or vegetarian diets either, there are still a couple of options that might suit you better.

Try a pescetarian diet. This means that your Golden can have fish but not meat. It allows them to still have a decent source of protein and also get other nutrients from the fish.

Find more ethical brands to buy your dog food from. If your issue is with the quality of the meat or where it comes from, you can look into the brands to find one that more closely matches your values. 
And if you’re still unsure, consider speaking to a vet or nutritionist who can usually shed more light on pet diets. They can help you find something you’re happy with that also allows your Goldie to have a healthy, balanced diet.

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