By Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS
As a child, I didn’t dream of becoming a canine nutritionist or a vegan. I didn’t even know what those things were. Decades later, I am both. I am also the creator of a vegan dog nutrition movement called Plant-Powered Dog and the first online vegan dog food summit, the Plant-Powered Dog Food Summit, streaming free online March 12 - 19. My amazing journey has been inspired by my canine soulmate, a beautiful German Shepherd mix named Chase. We met at the local shelter in January 2002, and Chase agreed to come live with me and make my life amazing. Over the next 16-and-a-half years, he did exactly that. We were inseparable until Chase passed away on June 30, 2018 at about 18 years old. Too little time, but enough for Chase to change the trajectory of my life and propel me toward my mission—improving the health of companion dogs through optimum nutrition while helping save billions of farm animals from brutality and slaughter. If those two goals sound contradictory to you, they did to me as well for a long time. But, with Chase as my muse, they eventually united like two discordant voices singing in perfect harmony.
The first lesson Chase taught me was about the power of proper nutrition. Well, actually, it was about how to best clean up diarrhea, because he had a lot of it. Digestive issues, scaly skin, patchy fur—Chase had them all, likely from spending six months on a cold concrete slab at the shelter, anxious and malnourished. When it appeared that the only solution our veterinarian could offer was a lifetime of antibiotics and steroids, I opted for a different route.
I researched the scant information available at the time on fresh food for dogs and began cooking for Chase. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but one thing was clear—he was responding well. After just a few months, he gained weight, his skin and coat flourished and I was able to remove the daily pills that controlled his diarrhea. I was so impressed with the results that I returned to school and earned a Masters in Animal Science, co-authored two books on dog health with leading veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds and set up shop professionally formulating fresh-food diets for clients’ ill dogs.
The years passed and everything went along smoothly, until slowly, gnawingly, a business that had once been joyful turned unbearable. My actions and values had collided, and the result was emotional wreckage.
The second lesson Chase taught me was about loving and protecting all animals. The more I opened my heart to the agony of abused dogs, the more I realized that I couldn’t love one type of animal and treat them as family while contributing to the torture and slaughter of other, just as emotional, intelligent and sentient beings in the name of eating, wearing or otherwise harming them. I turned vegetarian and then vegan, but I continued formulating meat-based diets because I believed the myth that dogs needed to eat animal products to thrive. Even as a vegan, I reasoned, I certainly couldn’t “impose” my beliefs on my canine clients.
Eventually, the emotional anguish became so severe that I could no longer formulate diets with animal products. If it meant giving up my canine nutrition business to live by my principles, then so be it.
One day, debating my next step with my husband, he recommended that I research the possibility of feeding dogs a vegan diet. At first I balked. Certainly dogs couldn’t be vegan. Or could they? It was certainly worth investigating!
I quickly realized that while modern dogs originated from wolves, they have evolved alongside humans for tens of thousands of years in largely agrarian societies. As a result, their genomes have also evolved. I discovered that the dog who rides in our car, cuddles on our couch and snoozes in our bed bears little resemblance to their wolf relatives. Our modern canine companions are now omnivores, perfectly capable of not only surviving, but thriving on, a vegan diet.
Moreover, the more I dug into the abhorrent practices of the factory farming industry, the more I discovered that it not only perpetuated horrific treatment of animals, but created a polluted food system that many veterinarians believe is contributing to the skyrocketing instances of canine chronic diseases. This trend toward high-meat diets for dogs may actually be making them sick.
I had discovered the best of both worlds. Feeding a vegan diet to dogs is not only compassionate and respectful of all animals, but it might also be the answer to longer health and longevity for our canine companions!
What started as a research exercise led to Plant-Powered Dog, a movement devoted to giving dog guardians the tools and resources to feed their dogs a nutritious, compassionate plant-based diet.
Not someone to do things on a small scale, I decided to create the first-ever online vegan dog nutrition summit. I reached out to 17 of the greatest global minds in the fields of plant-based veterinary nutrition, science and animal activism and invited them to participate. Each one generously and enthusiastically jumped on board. The Plant-Powered Dog Food Summit was born.
The Plant-Powered Dog Food Summit is dedicated to revealing the facts about meat-based versus plant-based dog nutrition, a possible key to why chronic diseases in dogs are skyrocketing and how dog guardians can help their best friends live a long, healthy life with a compassionate vegan diet. For more information and to register for free, visit www.plantpowereddogfoodsummit.com.
Chase is no longer physically with me, but the seeds of love and compassion that he planted continue to grow. Thanks to him, my mission is to leave this world a better place than I found it by helping end the suffering of all species. Teaching people that they can raise thriving dogs with respect for the lives of all animals is my contribution. Plant-Powered Dog is my voice.
Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS, is an award-winning canine health writer, nutritionist and healthy pet food advocate. A vegan and animal welfare activist, Diana created Plant-Powered Dog as a movement to give dog guardians the tools and resources to raise healthy, thriving canine companions through a nutritious, compassionate plant-based lifestyle that positively impacts the well-being of all animals and the planet. Learn more at www.plantpowereddog.com.