Can I Give My Dog Tofu?
With plant-based meat substitutes on the rise, many people watching their health have started experimenting with faux meat in all of its incarnations, from trendy ‘healthy’ varieties like tempeh and seitan all the way to heavily flavored chik’n hot wings. Many, however, stick with the classic meat alternative: tofu. This soy-based food is often thought to a staple among vegetarians, but it has been around for at least two thousand years. This high-protein, high-calcium food is versatile and easy to use in delicious, healthful dishes. Those who practice cooking with tofu often come to love it—and, contrary to popular belief, the phytoestrogens found in soy are not dangerous to their health.
But those pet owners who cook with tofu must ask themselves: can dogs have tofu? Is this a safe, high-protein snack that can add a little variety to your dog’s diet?
The answer is complicated. While no one includes tofu on a list of foods that are toxic or immediately dangerous to pets, it’s difficult to make the argument that it is an ideal source of calories. Many seem to agree that tofu is not recommended for dogs—largely due to concerns that it may trigger allergies in our canine companions. This may be an unfair assessment, however, because research shows that beef, dairy, and wheat allergies are far more common in dogs.
Risks/Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Tofu?
There is also some thought that eating soy may contribute to bloat and urinary stones. To be on the safe side, it may be better to avoid feeding your dog large amounts of tofu and other soy products. Introduce tofu slowly, practice moderation, and make sure that it is part of a well-formulated diet.
Is there any potential benefit to feeding your dog tofu? The short answer is: not really. Tofu is a wonderful source of healthy plant protein for humans, but our canine friends often do not digest soy products as efficiently, which means that they can’t properly absorb the nutrition. The amino acid profile of tofu is also slightly off—most experts believe that tofu does not have the right ratio to make a complete protein for our pets.
This means that, if you use soy products like tofu to meet your dog’s protein needs, they will wind up with amino acid deficiencies somewhere down the road. Inadequate protein consumption, which is usually the result of a poorly formulated dog food diet, can lead to serious health problems. These issues include symptoms like extreme fatigue, poor coat health (it may feel rough and lose its sheen), reproductive and lactation problems, stunted growth, weakened bones, an increased risk of bone fractures, behavioral changes, poor appetite, extreme weight loss, and a reduced ability to recover from illness or injury. Protein deficiency can repress the immune system, which makes your dog more likely to suffer from infections of all sorts.
Fortunately, protein deficiency is extremely rare, but it is something pet owners should be aware of when putting together their dog’s diet. While soy is an excellent source of nutrition for us, it may not be as solid of a protein source for our pets.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are two potential problems with feeding your dog soy: it may increase your dog’s risk of bloat, and it can make your dog more prone to developing urinary stones. Bloat is a dangerous, potentially fatal, condition that can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including eating too much food too quickly, drinking too much fluid, exercising immediately after eating, and extreme stress. Since tofu is made from soybeans, which can cause gas, it may be more likely to trigger bloat than kibble. Symptoms of bloat include restlessness and pacing, excessive drooling, dry heaving, distended or painful abdomen, and anxiety. If left untreated, your dog may develop pale gums, general weakness and lethargy, rapid heartbeat, and breathing problems. Eventually, bloat can lead to collapse and even death, so it’s important to seek treatment immediately.
Since tofu contains high amounts of silicates, it can raise your dog’s chances of developing silica stones. Symptoms of urinary stones include painful or bloody urination. If you think your dog has kidney or bladder stones, take them to the vet’s office as soon as possible.
In sum, feeding your dog tofu almost certainly will not kill them (it is a nontoxic food and a fairly rare canine allergen), but it may be wise to introduce your dog to it slowly and to practice moderation. If your dog shows signs of a food allergy, consult a veterinarian. Know also that tofu is not a complete protein, so your dog needs to consume other high-protein foods to meet all of their amino acid requirements. In addition, be aware of how you cook your tofu—your dog should not consume tofu cooked in large amounts of sugar, salt, or fat.
Dog Eating Tofu Video: