Dr Susanna relocated from Wales in the UK to Colombia in 2020. On arrival she set up home in the Colombian rainforest. Not long afterwards stray animals arrived and Dr Susanna, being vegan herself, and concerned about the sustainability of pet food in general wanted to avoid feeding meat.
Vegan Dogs And Cats - A Real Life Example
How do you feed starving stray animals when you're a raw vegan living deep in the Colombian rainforest?
In the foothills of the Colombian Andes, Dwelling In Symbiosis is regenerating 120 hectares of damaged rainforest while creating living spaces from native bamboo.
Living In The Rainforest
Visitors sleep in tree tents, suspended on the steep hillside between three trees, truly immersed in nature.
Walking from a tree tent through the regenerating rainforest in the early morning rose-tinted mist, something moved on the pile of shade cloth.
A tail was feebly wagging, just a tiny bit. The skeletal dog was peering up through pus filled eyes, cowering in fear. With a little encouragement he wobbled to his feet and staggered up to our kitchen.
A Starving Dog Arrives
What do you feed a dog that urgently needs food when you live as a raw vegan?
The dog was not dehydrated as there is plenty of water in the rainforest, but he was absolutely starving to death. A bag of bones wrapped in dry skin with dusty, dry sparse ‘fur’ and numerous ticks.
What could we offer him from our raw vegan food supplies? A banana? He ate the first mouthful, thought about it for a moment, then devoured the rest.
Bananas to the rescue ...
A second banana was gobbled down. Then a third, a fourth and over the following two hours, he ate thirteen bananas.
The following few hours were spent clearing the pus from his eyes, removing ticks and fleas from his whole body and giving him the love and care that he had clearly never experienced in his short little life.
Clearly exhausted, the bed of towels under the table was greatly appreciated and he slept for the rest of the day. Two more bananas, then bedtime.
More Dog Food Ideas Were Needed
We were amazed to find the dog was still alive in the morning. Bananas were clearly not desired - so what could we use as vegan dog food? Could we work out a suitable plant-based diet for him?
How about soaked, dehydrated cashew nuts for essential nutrients? Nuts are a mainstay of a vegetarian diet. The first nut was sniffed then devoured. And the second, third, then a small pile on a plate.
Time to clear his body of internal parasites now, so Diatomaceous Earth was given in water, to be repeated daily for three weeks.
Maybe he’d like some coconut oil, still solid in the cool of the early morning. Yes! Devoured! That will help his dry, flaky skin to recover.
What about some coconut flesh? He certainly enjoyed that! Maybe a bit of avocado. Another success. We were managing his diet in the absence of meat-based food.
Pet nutrition became focused on high calorie, nutrient dense foods to help him regain some muscle.
A Vegan-ish Diet For Starving Rainforest Pets
Chia porridge made with brazil nut milk was lapped up. When caring for a starving creature, without relying on animal protein it is important to feed nutrient dense foods a little and often, one type at a time, to make digestion as easy as possible.
His body would probably not be able to deal with much at a time, having clearly existed on virtually nothing for so long.
Dogs are carnivores but they are also scavengers which makes them very adaptable
So what are the protein and fat rich vegan foods that an adaptable, scavenger carnivore, such as a dog, could use effectively?
Avocados, nuts, seeds and coconuts are the simplest, prepared by "taking advice" from nature to maximize the nutrient availability and avoid any toxins.
Bananas, avocados, chia seeds, nuts, coconuts, raw eggs
Avocados are simple to eat, peeled and stoned. They are also versatile, being readily incorporated into numerous delicious recipes.
It is important to note that avocado stones and skins are thought to contain some toxins so these are not eaten by animals or humans. But the avocado flesh is highly nutritious and well balanced, an excellent source of fat and protein.
Nuts and seeds contain all the nutrients and micronutrients that the baby plants they are destined to become need in order to grow, so they are absolutely packed with nutrients and micronutrients, all just waiting to be activated by water.
Bring out the full nutrition in nuts by soaking first
The nutritional value of dry nuts and seeds increases dramatically once their enzyme systems are activated by soaking. This mimics nature, when the nut or seed falls to the ground or is consumed, it is soaked, removing the enzyme inhibitors and allowing the nut or seed to germinate, sending out shoots and roots.
This process requires a vast amount of energy, which is available to any animal that eats and thoroughly chews these soaked, germinating nuts and seeds.
But Dogs Don't Chew!
Carnivores are not well known for thoroughly chewing anything, except maybe your best shoes or the table leg! So we blended the activated (soaked for over 4 hours and discarding the soak water) nuts or seeds with water to increase their digestibility, creating a nut/seed milk.
But don’t sieve it to remove the pulp, as that contains half the nutrients! The flavour can be changed by adding nutritional yeast, raw miso, raw soy sauce, herbs etc. to provide variety and improve palatability where necessary.
Our meat-free diet could be adapted successfully for dogs.
A drop of incredibly sweet Stevia can be added to sweeten it but be careful. If you add too much, it becomes disgustingly bitter. The consistency of this milk depends on how much water is added.
Nut and/or seed milks or coconut milk (blended coconut "meat") can be mixed with various seeds to make a porridge. Chia seeds are the easiest to use.
A dessertspoonful mixed in with 250 mls nut/seed milk, stirring frequently, absorbs the liquid to make a thick porridge in about 15 minutes. Any excess can be divided into portions and frozen or stored for a day or two in the fridge, but, as with everything, fresh is best.
Chia seeds are rich in omega 3, the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid, as well as other fats, proteins and some carbohydrate. Apparently, the indigenous peoples of South America, where it grows readily, avoid feeding too much chia to children under 2 years old as it is so calorific, they get too fat!
Using A Dehydrator
To vary the texture, crackers can be made in the dehydrator. Mix the nut/seed/coconut milk with seeds like chia, flax, hemp, sunflower.
Making Dog Biscuits ... Well, Crackers
Season to taste (yours and your dog’s!) and spread thinly on the teflex dehydrator sheets.
Dehydrate at 40 Degrees C for about 12 hours, then turn over onto the mesh sheet below and gently peel off the texflex sheet. This temperature is the highest possible to prevent damage to those all important enzymes, so keeping the crackers alive and raw. Dehydrate for another day or two, until the mixture is dry and crisp. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container or bag.
Coconut flesh is easily digested by, supplying plenty of fat and protein. A hole is made in the shell to drain out the delicious coconut water, much loved by humans, cats and dogs.
The coconut is then smashed with a hammer and the flesh removed, being rapidly consumed by the carnivores. The shell is impossible to digest, so is crushed and used in the garden.
Another great source of readily available protein is sunflower greens. These are sunflower seeds, soaked, sprouted and grown in soil for a week or so, and cut when they have just one pair of leaves. Once they grow beyond that, their nutritional density reduces. These can be blended and mixed with other tasty morsels. The same applies to pea shoots and wheat/barley grass.
Add Some Superfoods
Cats love to eat Chlorella tablets as I discovered when I dropped one on the floor. Again, these algae can be mixed with pulverised coconut "meat", chia porridge, crackers, or any other delicious nutrient dense creations.
Feeding A Starving Cat
The worm-ridden starving kitten that recently arrived as a gift loves coconut meat, mashed, blended or pre chewed (!!!) and mixed with chlorella and a pinch of crushed raw egg shell (for minerals).
Chia porridge is another favourite. Egg yolk was rapidly lapped up daily for the first ten days but is no longer desired on the menu. Pet Plus and Diatomaceous Earth are mixed with a little water and given daily as a paste on a spoon. Chunks of Aloe Vera flesh are much enjoyed too. And vegan cheese is the favourite.
But cats are obligate carnivores
Cats are obligate carnivores. As this kitten suffers some growth deformities of his front legs from previous nutrient deficiency (in reality, starvation), a chunk of raw meat was offered.
The kitten pounced on it and devoured it in next to no time, immediately hunting around for more.
Hmmmm. Not ideal for a family of raw vegans who have become pet parents, but when a very carnivorous carnivore arrives, what can you do with regard to their pet food?
Their biological requirements must be respected. If the body is designed to consume animal products - other animals’ meat, bone, fur, guts, organs and offal - then that is what is required for healthy growth and maintenance. 100% vegan cat food may not be biologically appropriate.
How We Now Feed Dogs And Cats In Our Vegan Household
So, in summary, the dogs (yes, there are now two!) enjoy all the raw vegan food created for the humans, with extra protein rich crackers and chia porridge, raw egg (just the white when the kitten has the yolk!), Pet Plus, Diatomaceous Earth and sometimes, crushed egg shells. It has turned out to be an excellent diet for dogs.
The kitten has the same with a little bit of meat or egg yolk (separated from the less nutritious egg white, which the dogs enjoy as a bonus) most days. And of course, fresh spring water available to drink always.
We don't have 100% vegan pets with 100% vegan diets - they are taking eggs and some meat as required - but they are nearly vegan which is far cry from the heavily meat-based diets they might have followed elsewhere.
And To Drink?
The spring fed stream supplies the most delightful fresh clean water, pumped 80 metres up the hill by the energy free Ram pump. No need to filter out any chemicals, as there aren't any! But we do run it through a UV water purifier to zap any microbes, just to be sure! Their water bowls are replenished daily.
You can learn about raw food preparation and food combining through the following books about vegan dogs. They contain simple recipes that can be adapted for you and your pet.
You can find Dwelling In Symbiosis on Instagram at @dwelling_in_symbiosis.