You might be tempted to put your dog on a meat-free diet, and it is possible for a dog to live on one. But is it actually ideal? Removing meat from your dog’s diet and giving him vegetarian foods mean that they lose their source of protein.
Just like us humans, dogs require protein in order to survive. In fact, dogs require even more protein than we do. You might have heard about tofu being a protein-laden plant alternative to meat, and it is certainly a common option for humans. But can your dog eat tofu? Is it safe?
We’re going to break down what tofu is, if it is safe for dogs to eat, and if it packs in enough nutrients to meet dog nutrition requirements. Benefits and drawbacks will be weighed, and we will also let you know what other non-meat protein options are safe for dogs to consume.
What is Tofu Anyway?
You’ve probably passed by tofu in the grocery aisle and not given too much thought to this packaged food. In Japan, though, it is a staple of the human diet. Tofu is made from curdled soybeans and pressed into blocks, giving it a cheese-like appearance. You’ll also find some water in the package when you open it up. That’s called nigari, and that is the liquid leftovers from extracting salt from seawater. This water actually helps give tofu its unique texture and shape, and contains a lot of minerals.
Tofu can be fortified with different vitamins and minerals. It just depends on what kind of tofu you buy. B12 and calcium are often found in certain tofu fortifications, which can be helpful for vegan humans.
Take note: Buying organic tofu is important. Why? Well, soybean crops are frequently contaminated by fertilizers and chemicals. Also, most of them are genetically modified. Buying organic circumvents these pitfalls for humans eating tofu.
Let’s take a moment to discuss what nutrients are actually contained in tofu. If you pick up a 3 oz. serving of tofu, you will find a nutrition list that looks like this:
- Calories: 70
- Total Fat: 3.5g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Poly Fat: 2g
- Mono Fat: 1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 15 mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 2g
- Dietary Fiber: Less than 1g
- Protein: 8g
- Calcium: 10% DV
Super-firm tofu won’t have the same exact nutritional composition as silken tofu, so there is some variance based on what type you get.
Can My Dog Safely Eat Tofu?
Now, here’s the big question: “Is it safe to feed a dog tofu?” The answer is yes, but on the condition that their overall daily dog food still contains protein-rich sources with meat. If you think your dog requires a specialized diet, you should consult with your veterinarian first. That way, your vet can assess for any vitamin or nutrient deficiencies your dog might have and put together a healthy diet plan unique to your dog.
Symptoms to Look Out For
If your dog is lacking in protein, you should be aware of a few tell-tale symptoms. Some of the signs you will notice include:
- A change in their mood and behaviors
- Lack of appetite
- Extreme fatigue
- Anemia (a lack of healthy blood cells, which can be determined by your vet)
- Extreme weight loss
- Weakened bones
- Stunted growth
- A poor coat
- Reduced ability to recover from injury and illness
These concerns should be addressed with your vet—and soon. As is the case with us humans, protein deficiency can have some serious underlying causes and effects (such as leaky gut syndrome and liver disease). The sooner you deal with it, the better.
Tofu and Toxicity
Deficiencies aside, it is okay if a dog eats tofu. It is not toxic to them. However, it is recommended that you only give your dog tofu in small, snack-size amounts every now and then. It should ideally not be part of their everyday diet. And, of course, if you feed tofu for dogs a few times and they refuse it, that could be your dog’s way of telling you either they don’t like its taste or that it doesn’t agree with their stomachs.
Does Tofu Offer Enough Protein for Dogs?
Tofu is quite rich in protein. In a 100 gram serving of tofu, you get 8 grams of protein. That’s a pretty good ratio. Protein is essential for building up muscle strength, both in dogs and in humans (and in most living beings). It helps your dog grow healthy cartilage, nails, tendons, and more. The thing is, your dog’s digestive system is much more adept at processing animal proteins than plant proteins like soybeans. That’s why tofu is recommended as more of a snack than a staple of the daily diet.
Non-Meat Protein Alternatives For Dogs
There are some other non-meat proteins that you can add to your dog’s diet. Oatmeal, broccoli, quinoa, and plain (not flavored) Greek yogurt are all safe for dogs to eat and can help boost their protein intake. Again, you should speak to your vet to see if these foods are going to really serve your dog’s unique dietary needs. If your dog is healthy, it should be okay for you to combine these proteins into your daily diet.
If you do not have the time to prepare non-meat protein-based food for your dog, ask your vet about plant-based dog food. Many dog food manufacturers are making plant-based dog food options these days to cater to diverse dietary needs. Your vet can help you find the one that works best for your dog. And, if you are unable to get to the store to buy it, you can search for the best dog food delivery service that carries plant-based dog food options.
Benefits of Giving Your Dog Tofu
There are some health benefits in tofu for dogs. The biggest of these benefits is the fact that tofu is high in protein and low in carbs. If your dog is a little overweight and needs to slim down to a healthier weight, then tofu can help them shed a few pounds. You just have to mix it in with their food every so often. It can help satiate your dog, especially if they tend to be an over-eater. They might end up begging for snacks less and eating a fuller meal at once. Since it is low in carbs and fat, tofu won’t do much for adding weight.
If your dog has liver disease, adding tofu to their diet might actually help them. Plant-based proteins like soybeans can help a dog’s symptoms improve. In fact, a soy-rich diet might be beneficial for a dog who has congenital portosystemic shunts .
On top of all that, as already mentioned, tofu is rich in protein. With 8 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving, you get a lot of protein-packed into a few small bites. Tofu is easy enough for a dog to digest as a snack, and it can be mixed into their food on occasion to help curb their appetite.
Potential Problems With Dogs Eating Tofu
Of course, there are also some drawbacks to giving your dog tofu. Dogs can get bloat, a serious condition in which the stomach can become distended and even rotated. This condition is extremely dangerous for dogs and could even lead to death. Tofu can potentially cause bloating and gas, and if this happens, your dog will need to be seen by the vet straight away to prevent further complications.
Tofu has also been known to cause hormonal imbalances in both humans and animals. Soy is laden with phytoestrogens, which can cause hormonal imbalances. This can lead to decreased quality of their skin and fur and even cause thyroid problems to develop.
Tofu can potentially cause allergic reactions in some dogs. If your dog experiences diarrhea after eating tofu, it likely means that they have a soy allergy. Other symptoms can include constant licking, itchy skin, eye inflammation, and ear infections. If you see any of these symptoms, try stopping the tofu and see if their symptoms improve.
Is tofu toxic to dogs?
Tofu is not toxic to dogs. It is just not a complete protein and has been known to cause an allergic reaction in some dogs since it is made of soy.
Can dogs have cooked tofu?
Any type of tofu can technically be eaten raw, but cooking it can improve both taste and texture. You will not want to give your dog any of the liquid contained in the packaging though, so be sure to drain it before you serve the tofu. The most ideal way to prepare tofu for your dog is to press the tofu for a lengthy 15 minutes. Then, you can cut the tofu into cubes. Place it in a pan (but do not add oil) and pan-fry it until the tofu is lightly browned on each side. Let it cool, then serve.
Why is soy bad for dogs?
Soy is not necessarily bad for all dogs. In fact, it can help them combat liver disease or help them shed a few unnecessary pounds. However, soy is not a complete protein and, as a plant protein, is not as easily digested as animal proteins by dogs. And, of course, there is the potential for soy to cause allergic reactions, as these symptoms have been noted in quite a few dogs who have eaten tofu.
Can dogs eat white tofu?
White tofu is just uncooked (or raw) tofu. In its raw form, tofu is safe for canine consumption. It might just not have a taste or texture that appeals to your dog. Cooking tofu in a pan can help improve taste and texture. Still, your dog might not like it either way.
Always Consider the Alternatives
Your dog might not be doing as well as they need to on a basic meat-based protein diet. Meat is generally recommended as the main source of protein for dogs, but sometimes supplementation is needed. If you suspect that your dog needs to add some more protein to its diet, give tofu a little consideration. Bring it up with your vet at an appointment. Your vet will likely want to do some blood work if your dog is showing signs of something as serious as liver disease.
Just remember, tofu should not become the entire protein source for your dog. It is all well and good (usually) in moderate amounts every once in a while. However, feeding it to your dog every day could cause harmful health complications.