A very good friend of mine has been a vegan for several years. She is trying to persuade me that I should switch to veganism, but I am reluctant for various reasons. I have been concerned that her dog might be suffering as she has started to feed her a vegan diet too.
My friend uses a lot of tofu in the meals she prepares for herself, and is now including it in her dog’s diet too. I have tried to point out that dogs are meat eaters and that her dog’s health will suffer. She is adamant that dogs can follow a vegan diet and that tofu will do her dog no harm. I have done some checking and here’s what I have found.
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What is tofu?
First of all, let us establish exactly what tofu is. If you do not follow a vegetarian or vegan diet then you may not be familiar with this product.
Tofu is made in a similar way to cheese. Soy milk is curdled and the curds are pressed into blocks. These blocks are white in color and have no strong flavor. Tofu is used as a substitute for meat by vegans and vegetarians. When used in a dish it will absorb the flavors of the other ingredients. It is possible to obtain tofu that has already been flavoured.
Some tofu is made from genetically-modified (GMO) soy beans and is therefore a controversial product. Organic tofu made from non-GMO soy is available should you object to GMO products.
Can dogs eat tofu?
The simple answer is ‘yes’ they can. Tofu is not toxic to dogs and does contain some beneficial minerals. However, some dogs may suffer from side-effects if fed too much tofu.
Although dogs are omnivorous – meaning they can eat plants and fish as well as meat – they are essentially meat eaters. Their digestive systems are designed to obtain the maximum benefit from meat, and are less efficient at getting essential nutrients from other food.
Tofu should, therefore, only be fed in moderation. As an occasional treat tofu will give your dog some benefits but also avoid the potential side effects.
What are the health benefits of tofu?
- Let’s begin by identifying the minerals that tofu contains. Your dog only requires traces of some of these for good health, but if you are reducing his meat intake, tofu is another source. The minerals include:
Your dog would normally get the required amounts of these minerals from a balanced diet.
- Tofu is a low-calorie food, so will not lead to problems like obesity.
- Tofu is a useful food for dogs that suffer with certain food allergies. Commercial dog foods tend to be processed and contain ingredients that trigger allergies. Tofu will be digested easily and without causing certain allergic reactions. Tofu, however, is made from soy and in a very few cases dogs may have an allergic reaction to soy.
If your dog suffers from allergic reactions the best course of action is to switch to a special dog food rather than rely on tofu as a regular food.
- Dogs that suffer liver problems are usually prescribed a change of diet. The new diet will need to be low in animal proteins, so tofu can be used as a meat substitute in these cases. Again, tofu should be fed in moderation and in conjunction with other suitable food.
- Dogs with kidney problems often benefit from a similar approach. If your dog is frequently plagued with bladder stones, then tofu can help as part of a new dietary regime. Animal protein contains purines which make kidney problems worse. Cutting the level of purines in a dog’s diet will ease the bladder stones problem. The proteins found in tofu are low in purines.
Problems when feeding soy to dogs.
- Dogs don’t absorb nutrients efficiently from soy products like tofu.
- Tofu can increase the risk of canine bloat.
- Tofu can cause diarrhea in dogs.
- A few dogs might be allergic to soy, and therefore to tofu. Look out for signs like a swollen face, itchiness, lethargy and a reluctance to eat. Consult a veterinarian if you are in any doubt.
- If tofu is made with GMO soy there is a possibility that it may have been treated with pesticides. Traces of these pesticides might remain in the tofu and be harmful to your dog. If you are concerned choose an organic brand of tofu.
In answer to the question ‘can dogs eat tofu’ the answer is yes. However, feed in moderation and choose the type of tofu carefully – an organic brand will be the better choice.