Vegetarians know soy is a viable source of protein, and quite yummy, too. However, don’t share a bowl of edamame with your pup just yet. The effects of soybeans on dogs can be positive, negative or neutral. Soybean ingestion is one of those hotly contested subjects in the veterinary world.
What is Soy?
Commonly used as an alternative to animal protein, soy protein derives from the soybean – a member of the legume family. It’s recently become more prevalent in dog food, though it’s still fairly uncommon. The soy protein found in dog food comes in many forms such as soybean meal and soybean oil.
Soy's becoming all the rage, and with good reason. Soybeans are valued as an excellent source of amino acids, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, omega 6 fatty acid and, in lesser amounts, omega 3 fatty acid. Soy is best combined with grains to create a balanced amino acid profile for your pooch. The fatty acids in soybeans can help support his healthy coat, skin and nervous system.
Veterinary scientists have recently discovered the isoflavones in soybeans increase your dog's energy level and reduce body fat accumulation. Isoflavones have estrogen-like properties that eliminate or reduce sex hormones in spayed or neutered dogs. On a soy-based diet, your buddy may have more energy and be less likely to become obese.
Soy, as a meatless protein source, also speaks to animal welfare. Though dogs can’t choose to eat a vegetarian diet, many pet owners feel soy is a more humane source of protein for both humans and dogs alike.
On the other side of the vegetarian debate, many pet owners and veterinarians argue that dogs are natural carnivores. Their bodies are optimized for consuming and processing meat; don't go feeding him a 10-ounce sirloin, though. Many dog foods contain a healthy balance of protein, vegetables and grains.
One of the biggest cons in the soy debate revolves around food allergies. Soy is known as a big culprit in dog food allergies. Signs of food allergy include diarrhea; vomiting; chronic ear infections; hair loss on the belly, back or tail; saliva staining on limbs; and excess scratching or licking. Consult your vet if your buddy exhibits signs of a food allergy.
Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. Once you and your vet have decided it’s okay to integrate soy into his diet, start slowly. You may find he responds best to a hybrid diet, one containing both meat and soy proteins.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.