Your dog's diet is based on many factors: his age, health and nutritional needs, as well as your budget. Your vet may recommend a particular diet because of an issue Sparky's dealing with, or you may want his diet to mimic your own. Straying too far from his natural diet requires guidance.
Grain Free Diets
Commercial dog food is increasingly available in grain free varieties to gain favor with people wanting to mimic their dogs' ancestral roots. Dogs are built to digest animal based protein efficiently, as well as simple carbohydrates such as fruits and light vegetables. Complex carbohydrates, such as corn and rice, are difficult for Sparky's digestive system because he doesn't have the enzymes to break them down. Whatever digestion occurs in his gut is from fermentation, which can make him prone to allergies, obesity and digestive issues over time. Grain free doesn't mean carbohydrate free; Sparky benefits from carbohydrates as an energy source, and grain-free diets will substitute vegetables such as potatoes and carrots to fill the gap.
Vet-Prescribed Meat Free Diets
Sometimes a meat free diet can be what the doctor ordered, particularly if Sparky has an allergy making meat a problem. Occasionally veterinarians will prescribe manufactured foods containing non-meat protein sources, such as egg or soy, to help with bladder stones, liver disease or food allergies. If that's the case with Sparky, the vet will monitor his condition to ensure he's responding to a meat free diet.
Meat Free By Choice
If you're vegetarian or vegan, you may want Sparky to enjoy the health benefits of vegetarianism. However, consider that he's an omnivore, able to survive on animals and plants. And while you're at it, take a look at his teeth: there's no denying they're meant to process meat efficiently, just like his intestinal tract is. Dogs can live a healthy life on a meat free diet, however, it's a diet requiring supplements. For example, dogs are at risk for taurine deficiency if they don't get the proper protein to help them make it, making taurine supplements necessary to ensure good cardiac health. WebMD notes a meat free diet will have chemically synthesized additives to replace the nutrients Sparky would get from animal based protein.
Meat and Grain Free Dog Foods
There's a wide variety of nutritionally complete grain free dog foods on the market. Dog Food Advisor and the Dog Food Project offer thorough guides for grain free options. Meat free dog food is tougher to find commercially. The Dog Food Project also offers options for vegetarian and vegan commercial dog foods. When you look at the ingredients note, you're not going to find a food that's both grain and meat free. If you want to feed Sparky that diet, you'll have to cook for him yourself -- under the supervision of your vet or an animal nutritionist. If you opt for a vegetarian diet, WebMD recommends a commercial diet that meets nutritional requirements by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. As well, run your choice by your vet or a nutritionist to ensure Sparky's receiving adequate nutrition to meet his specific needs. Regular vet checks are important for monitoring his health. Finally, never feed a meat free diet to puppies, pregnant or nursing dogs.