Tofu or bean curd is a major staple in Asian cuisines. It is now thriving in America and other parts of the world as veganism continues to be on the rise. Yes, tofu is a vegan-approved source of protein.
If you live in a vegan household with pets or you simply just want to explore with food, you might be wondering if tofu could be a good substitute for your dog’s meat portion. But before we answer that, we’ve got to find out if first of all tofu is safe for dogs.
What’s With Tofu?
Tofu is made by extracting the milk from soybeans and then adding a coagulant to curd it. It’s similar to the cheese-making process, but it uses soymilk instead of dairy.
A while back, manufacturers used nigari or sea water precipitate as the coagulant. These helped transform the soymilk from the fluid state into a thickened mass. Nowadays, manufacturers use either calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride as coagulants.
These things are often found in dog supplements too, so you should not worry about their safety. Magnesium chloride is commonly sold in the form of flakes, while calcium sulfate is sometimes given to dogs with calcium deficiency.
Tofu is known for its protein content, but the amount it contains is not sufficient if we’re going to compare it to animal protein. Take, for example, the difference in the protein content of lean ground beef and tofu.
A 3-ounce serving of firm tofu only provides 13 grams of protein while a 3-ounce portion of lean ground beef comes with 25 grams of protein. As you can see, the amount of protein in tofu is just half of that of lean ground beef.
Can Dogs Have Tofu?
Yes, especially if you know where it came from. It’s much better if it’s organic and made from non-GMO soybeans. What’s disappointing is that most tofu came from genetically modified soy products. The good news is that you can still find preservative-free and non-GMO tofu brands in most supermarkets.
Dogs can have some tofu mainly because tofu does not contain any ingredients that are toxic to them. Just keep it plain and don’t dip it in sauce. The key to a successful feeding, especially if it’s the first time you’re giving tofu to Fido, is to start slowly.
Consider the fact that your dog may not like it at all and will even turn his nose away from tofu the next time you serve it. As we know, tofu is bland and canines tend to have flavor preferences. More often than not, dogs enjoy sweets mainly because they have a sweet tooth like most mammals.
Give the tofu in moderate amounts. Otherwise, dog could suffer from bloating. Tofu, a type of processed soy, has estrogen-like effects that contribute to bloating. Canine bloating or gastric dilatation volvulus can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
Apart from bloating, eating too much tofu can also cause gastrointestinal upset. The plant estrogens found in tofu can cause diarrhea in dogs if they were overfed with tofu. Tofu may also contain indigestible sugars that can make your dog’s stomach upset.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Dr. Kaayla Daniel, a well-known author and nutritionist, strongly goes against the use of soy as an ingredient in cooking. She explained that the success of soy products was all because of stepped-up marketing of soy manufacturers, and not because soy-based products are really healthy.
Soy, the main ingredient of tofu, contains phytoestrogen. This chemical is pretty common in plants and works like estrogen. It either imitates estrogen or blocks it. The aftermath is abnormal puberty or infertility.
Is there a heavy concentration of phytoestrogens in commercial dog foods with soy or soybean derivatives as an ingredient? In 2004, a study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research revealed that certain commercial dog foods contain phytoestrogens. This is in amounts that can cause biological effects when consumed long-term.
Another concern about soy products is their ability to suppress the thyroid glands. Soy contains goitrogens, substances that disrupt the thyroid hormone production by interfering with the iodine intake in the thyroid gland.
Other Risks of Giving Tofu to Dogs
For years, dog food manufacturers have been using soy as filler because it is cost-effective compared to other animal-based proteins. This actually sparks a debate in the dog community, because soy happens to be one of the common causes of allergy in canines.
Food allergy accounts for 10-percent of all allergies in dogs. Canine food allergies are actually more of a genetic problem but they are triggered when dogs are exposed to the food they are allergic to.
If your dog reacts negatively after eating tofu, it is highly likely that he is allergic to soy. He may start itching and may suffer from distress. The irritation could even lead to pruritus or chronic itching.
Take the dog to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. It is possible that it was the soy causing the hypersensitivity but it could be another thing.
Benefits of Tofu for Dogs
Given the perils mentioned above, why do some owners still give tofu to their dogs? Simple: it’s affordable. A pound of tofu sits around $2 while a pound of boneless chicken breast costs more than $3. But more than the price, there are a few more reasons why tofu can be a wholesome treat for dogs (Again, only in moderate amounts or else your pooch will end up gassy!). Here are the health benefits of tofu for your dog:
It is wholesome for canines with liver problems
Tofu is a safer choice than animal meat for canines with liver conditions. Dogs with liver problems are advised to have a reduced protein amount in their diet. Organ meats and fish contain high levels of amino acids that can be harmful to dogs with such problems because their liver is not working properly enough to filter the toxins from the body tissues.
Tofu is kidney-friendly
Does your dog have bladder stones or is prone to having them? Your vet might have already told you about making some changes in your dog’s diet. This entails decreasing the amount of Fido’s protein intake and looking for foods with low levels of purines. This chemical compound, mostly found in animal meat, breaks down into uric acid when the body assimilates it.
Healthier Alternatives to Tofu
Do you give your dog tofu just because you want to give him his protein without the meat? After learning all the possible risks involved, you might be wondering if there are other protein substitutes to meat besides tofu. Yes, there are a lot of them and here are some of the best ones you can give your dog:
- Quinoa – a common ingredient in high-quality dog food, quinoa is your best bet when you’re looking for easy-to-cook meals for Fido. It’s big in terms of protein despite being so tiny in size.
- Chickpeas – also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are among the best type of wholefoods you can share with your fur baby. They are also being used as an ingredient in many dog food brands due to their viability.
- Great Northern Beans – generally, beans are safe for canines. Great Northern Beans provide vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. The best thing about these beans is that they taste really good.
Tofu is not really bad for dogs since it does not contain any ingredient that can poison them. But it’s not the best option for them either since it runs low on key nutrients and has an insufficient amount of protein. If you want to make sure Fido gets an adequate amount of protein, stick to superior protein sources such as beef, chicken meat, and pork.