What is Vitamin D and Vitamin D3, and Why Is It So Important?
Veganism is a growing trend and recent conservative figures put it around 1 in every 100 people in the UK is vegan.
This means they have actively chosen to eliminate meat, eggs, dairy products, and all other animal derived ingredients from their diet.
However, these numbers are continuing to rise as more and more people opt for a plant-based diet.
Why is Veganism Becoming So Popular?
There’s two major reasons why people switch to a vegan diet – for animal welfare or environmental reasons.
As a species, humans are becoming increasingly aware of the damage being done to our planet, and this includes a greater level of awareness around the damage caused by the food we consume.
People are becoming more conscious of their own actions and how they can positively contribute to the sustainability and health of the world we live in.
Animal agriculture has a huge effect on the environment and climate change through using excessive amounts of land, water, and greenhouse gases.
Research suggests that individuals can reduce their personal carbon footprint by around 70% simply by switching to a vegan diet.
77% of the world’s farmland is currently used for rearing livestock including grazing them and growing food for them.
If more people were vegan this green space could be used differently to help regrow indigenous plant life. This would help prevent mass wildlife extinction and give animals back their natural habitats.
So if you think about it:
77 percent of farmland is used for livestock but yet provides only 23 percent of global protein supply.
In other words, the 23 percent of remaining farmland used to grow crops supplies more calories and protein for the population than the almost four-times larger area used for livestock.
This leads onto the other motivating factor that causes people to ditch animal products – their conscience. Awareness is growing around the world about animal suffering and what they endure in the meat, dairy, and egg industries to simply provide human beings with food.
People acknowledge the positive role they can play by not being part of this process and are choosing to convert to a vegan diet.
Whilst every decision to become vegan is a personal one and influences people in different ways, veganism is becoming a more popular lifestyle choice.
Veganism and Dogs
But, how does this human dietary change that’s hopefully here to stay, affect dogs? Is it safe for our canine companions to be vegan?
As a vegan pet owner, the odds are you already understand the ethical benefits of a plant-based diet and have concerns over farming meat and the environmental issues this brings with it.
Inevitably, these concerns will extend to your dog and you will want their diet to incorporate these values. Whilst this decision is well-intentioned, you are considering if this is in their best interests.
There has been much debate about classifying a dog’s diet, as some experts believe dogs are carnivores (meat eaters), whilst others classify them as omnivores (able to consume both meat and plant-based diets).
Whilst dogs are technically classified as carnivora in terms of their scientific order, it’s important to understand that this group of animals also includes the giant panda which eats exclusively bamboo plants!
In fact, dogs are more than capable of digesting and deriving nutrients from fruit and vegetables.
Below are several factors which help prove that our domesticated canine friends are more than adapted to consume a meat free diet:
- Their molars (large teeth at the back of their mouths) have a relatively flat surface which is used for chewing on fibrous plant material – unlike wolves and cats
- Dogs are able to digest plant carbohydrates
- They have a small intestine which takes up half of their gastrointestinal tract (similar to humans and pigs) – a feature of an omnivore, and is very different in size compared to the small intestine volume form in truly carnivorous animals like cats
- A dog’s body is able to produce the essential Vitamin A from the Beta carotene that is found in plants
Dogs have lower protein and amino acids requirements compared with true carnivores
- Dogs have up to 28 times! more amylase production than wolves… the enzyme responsible for the digestion of starches from cereal and grains
- Dogs have evolved a more efficient glucose absorption pathway
Remember dogs were domesticated by humans at least 14,000 years ago!
This means our beloved companions have likely been sharing hard-earned food from the table for all of that time, so it’s not surprising that they’ve evolved to survive and thrive on most of the food we eat.
How to Feed Your Dog if You’re Vegan
If you’re going to choose a vegan diet for your dog, then ensuring they still get all the amino acids, vitamins and minerals they need is absolutely key.
It’s important to strike a balance between providing vegan-friendly dog meals which support your reasons for the transition whilst still recognising the importance of your dog receiving all the vital nutrients.
If you’re a vegan pet parent then you should consider the following before converting your dogs diet:
- If you have any doubts then talk to your vet first, particularly if your dog has any specific dietary needs (e.g. growing young puppy) or medical dietary needs (e.g. diabetic). They will be able to address any concerns you have and might be able to recommend appropriate vegan dog food options. It’s becoming increasingly common for dogs to be fed vegan, so they probably have other clients who have asked the same questions. Your vet may have experience using plant-based diets to help dogs who are allergic to meat proteins used in conventional dog food.
- Shop around for high quality options to see what’s on the market and to decide what flavours/options likely work for you and your dog. Take a look at our plant-based Noochy Poochy Range here!
- Speak to other vegan dog owners. It’s no longer uncommon for pet owners to choose a vegan diet for their dog. By speaking to other pet owners who have made the transition, they will be able to recommend brands that their dogs enjoy and tips and advice to help you make the odd delicious vegan friendly meal at home.
- If you’re transitioning your dog to a homemade vegan diet, you will need to plan meals that incorporate all of the necessary nutrients (and this is no mean feat whether it’s a plant-based homemade or a meat-based homemade!). Speak to a vet nutritionist who will be able to advise the correct types and amounts of foods to fulfil your dog’s needs or find a company that can supply you with a balanced supplement that can be added to the homemade meal to balance it completely.
Vitamin D, D2 and D3 – Who Are They?
Vitamin D is a family of nutrients that share a similar chemical construction. Known as the sunshine vitamin (for humans anyway – see more below), it is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps build stronger bones, keeps muscles fit and healthy, and boosts immune function.
The most common dietary forms of it are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
So What’s the Difference?
Vitamin D2 comes only from plants. When plants are exposed to Ultraviolet B (UVB) light, it leads to the formation of Vitamin D2 from ergosterol, a compound found in plant oils.
However, Vitamin D3 can be found in both animal and plant sources (e.g. egg, salmon, lanolin in sheep wool) AND a specific plant source (lichen). Incredibly enough, UVB radiation from sunlight also allows the formation of Vitamin D3 in human skin.
This means humans who follow a plant-based lifestyle can still get their intake of both Vitamin D2 from their plant-based diet but also get Vitamin D3 from lichen sources AND being exposed to sunlight.
Unlike humans, dogs CANNOT get their vitamin D3 intake from exposure to sunlight, as their skin does not produce it in the same way a human does. So it needs to be provided by their diet.
Why is Vitamin D important in dog food?
As we’ve covered, dogs can’t get vitamin D through sun exposure which places more importance on getting their Vitamin D intake through food.
Vitamin D is necessary for correct management of phosphorus and calcium levels in both humans and dogs.
This includes controlling the absorption of calcium for the intestine, the movement of calcium in and out of the bone, and the amount of calcium excreted by the intestines – in a nutshell, correct levels of Vitamin D keeps human and dog bones strong.
It also plays a very important role in correct immune function to fend off infections.
Insufficient levels of Vitamin D can lead to several complications including bone disorders such as osteomalacia (softening of bones) and rickets (bone deformities) as well as skin and coat problems, vision problems, infections, dental problems, and kidney disease.
Vitamin D3 and D2 in Vegan Dog Food – Let’s Set the Record Straight
The Vitamin D2 that was available for use in dog foods was taken off the EU animal feed additive register two years ago. It was withdrawn from the market because there were potential safety issues and also some uncertainty on it’s bio-availability (how well absorbed and used it is by the body).
This means, in order to fulfil the dog food Vitamin D requirements, dog food producers cannot use D2 and are only allowed to use Vitamin D3.
The issue is that the one type of Vitamin D3 historically available for use on the dog food register comes from lanolin, an oil in sheep wool. As it comes from sheep wool this Vitamin D3 is not vegan.
This has put vegan and plant-based dog food producers in a bit of a dilemma. Either omit Vitamin D altogether so the food is completely vegan but accept that it’s not nutritionally ‘complete’ or try to find a vegan Vitamin D3 that is produced to extremely high standards that survives the cooking process.
As we’ve covered before, Vitamin D3 can also come from a specific plant source (lichen).
After 4 years of communication with different vegan D3 manufacturers we are pleased to say that hope is on the horizon. A Vitamin D3 made from algae (and therefore vegan!) underwent stability testing by PlantLabs. We are thrilled so say that it passed with flying colours.
Our laboratory testing shows that the vegan D3 survives the Noochy Poochy cooking process, and can provide the D3 needed in each dog meal, which means we now
- Include it in our recipe instead of the sheep wool D3
- Tell all of our lovely customers
- Throw a party!
- Change our packaging to show that we can now provide a 100% vegan recipe
Is Vegan Dog Food OK for Dogs?
Many pet owners have reservations about whether or not feeding their dog a vegan diet is safe, but McKinna PlantLabs is here to tell you that yes it can be!
By looking at their physical attributes, starch digestion capability, that all amino acids they need can be supplied by a particular balance of plant proteins, we can conclude that dogs are capable of surviving on a plant-based diet and with the right balance of nutrients, can thrive.
Their guts are able to digest a wide variety of foods, and they have the capability to digest starch and vegetable proteins quite similarly to human beings.
Feeding a plant-based food is no longer uncommon.
There are two ways you can feed your dog a plant based diet.
You can either provide a high quality, delicious, balanced commercial diet appropriate for your dog’s age and any medical condition or produce a homemade diet.
If you choose the homemade option, it requires more effort to ensure the right nutrient balance is delivered…but it is possible!
Noochy Poochy products contain all of the amino acids, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals your dog needs
Vegan Dog Food: What is Vitamin D and Vitamin D3, and Why Is It So Important?
Veganism is on the rise and it has become widely accepted and happily, as more companies cater for vegans, it is easier for people to follow a plant-based diet. People are becoming more aware of the need to protect the environment and conserve natural resources to ensure the longevity of our planet.
They recognise the importance of switching to plant-based and the positive effects that can be enjoyed.
But, it seems this ever-evolving trend isn’t limited to humans as more pet owners are switching their dogs’ diet to vegan too. Dogs are not just pets, but extended members of the family and it seems obvious that our ethical concerns about the planet would transfer to our pets.
Also, there are many reported benefits to be enjoyed from a vegan diet including that sense of ‘doing your bit’ to help the environment. In terms of converting your pooch, it’s reported your dog’s poo will even smell less if they are eating purely plant-based meals.
However, when it comes to catering for your canine friend, it’s essential you ensure they receive all the vitamins they need for good health.
As we’ve covered, vitamin D plays a core role in supporting your dog’s overall immune system, from supporting their bones and muscles, to improving their immune system.
As a result, even if you’re opting for a vegan diet it’s important Vitamin D is available at the correct levels in your dog’s diet… whether that’s through buying commercial vegan dog food, or preparing it at home yourself.
This ensures your dog’s diet is safe as they have the correct balance of nutrients in their system to be healthy and happy!
McKinna offers a plant-based, ethically sourced range of dog food to provide your four-legged friends with all the nutrients they need.
To get started on your way towards a more ethical dog walk through the dog park of life, order your first bag of Noochy Poochy today!