As an experienced dog parent, you probably already know that dogs and dairy products don’t go well together. Dairy products can cause more problems than they can benefit your dog in any way, so it’s best to avoid them if you don’t want your dog to experience tummy problems.
But what about soya products, or specifically – tofu? Well, there is a constant debate about using soy products in the pet diet. Some experts say it’s perfectly safe to give your dog soy products, while others deny it.
One thing is for sure – tofu can provide many health benefits for humans, and it is a prized protein and essential amino acid source while being a low-calorie food. But can tofu benefit dogs in any way?
If you happen to live a vegan lifestyle, you probably have tofu in your fridge most of the time. Perhaps you’ve been wondering for a while now – Can Dogs Eat Tofu? What are the risks of feeding my dog tofu? Are there any health benefits?
In this article, we will discuss whether it’s safe to feed your dog tofu and what you should watch out for. To find out more, read along!
Can Dogs Eat Tofu?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, dogs can technically eat tofu, and it is not poisonous for them, but it is not recommended. Even if you still choose to give your dog tofu, it must be given in moderation every once in a while.
Unlike cats, which are carnivores, dogs are omnivores and can eat plant-based foods. However, it is crucial to remember that dogs are primarily designed to consume meat, and other food such as vegetables and legumes should only make up 10% of their diet. That being said, you can feed your dog tofu but only from time to time and as a special treat, to avoid any side effects.
Furthermore, as tofu is made from soy, you should consider some crucial things before feeding your dog tofu. First of all, soy is often full of pesticides, which can also be present in all soy products. Pesticides can be harmful to your dog’s health and can lead to severe and life-threatening health conditions. But that’s not all.
Soy can cause several digestive issues (gas, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, etc.) and can lead to a serious condition called bloat. Bloat is a serious condition that can even be lethal if not treated immediately.
You may be wondering now – ‘but tofu is high in protein, how can it be bad for my dog?’ Keep on reading to find out!
Tofu originated in China and is made of condensed soy milk. The process of making tofu is similar to cheese making, and it consists of coagulating soy milk and pressing the remaining curds into solid and small white blocks.
Tofu is a food product rich in protein and contains carbs, fats, essential amino acids, and various minerals and vitamins.
Tofu is also a high nutrient-dense food as it is low in calories. The nutritional value of tofu can differ depending on the coagulant used in the making process. Coagulants that are used in the tofu-making process are nigari and precipitated calcium.
Nigari is what remains after the salt extraction from seawater. It is a coagulant rich in minerals and helps the tofu solidify and keep its form. On the other hand, precipitated calcium is essentially a purified calcium carbonate, and it’s made out of calcium salt. Nigari will add more magnesium, while precipitated calcium increases calcium content.
Note: If you want to feed your dog tofu, at least look for the one that has calcium sulfate (precipitated calcium) and not magnesium chloride (nigari). That will ensure a better balance between phosphorus and calcium in your dog’s diet, and lower the magnesium content, so your dog is less likely to suffer kidney stones.
Let’s look at the nutritional value of tofu per 3,5 ounces (100 grams):
The great thing is that most of the fats in tofu are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which can be good for your dog.
Tofu contains the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
Can Protein In Tofu Replace Animal Protein?
No, tofu protein can’t replace animal protein. The type of protein found in tofu is entirely different from the protein dogs actually need in their diet, which is a protein found in meat.
A common misconception people have is that high protein content in tofu will benefit their dog. But that’s not true. Proteins found in tofu won’t benefit your dog nearly as much as the types of protein found in high-quality dog food, which is based on meat.
How Much Tofu Can I Give To My Dog?
If you really wish to feed your dog tofu, you can do so, but in moderation. We recommend giving your dog tofu as an occasional treat, once or twice a week. You should also feed tofu in small quantities, not more than 14-28 grams (two tablespoons) for larger dog breeds, and 7-14 grams for small dog breeds.
The Risks Of Feeding Your Dog Tofu
Although tofu is considered a healthy food for humans as it contains several minerals and other nutrients, it won’t provide significant nutritional value to your dog. Dogs do not digest soy nutrients as humans do, meaning not efficiently. Therefore they can’t take advantage of many nutrients found in tofu.
In general, tofu isn’t unhealthy or toxic for dogs, but there are some potential side effects of feeding your dog tofu.
1. Gastrintenstal Issues
Your dog may experience several stomach problems, such as stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and the most common one – gas.
2. Contains Antinutrients
Tofu contains small amounts of antinutrients (trypsin inhibitors and phytates antinutrients), which reduce the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, and zink. However, the amounts of these antinutrients are reduced by the tofu production method.
3. May Lead To Hormone Imbalance
As tofu is a soy product, it contains phytoestrogens, a group of proteins that act as estrogen activators. They will interfere in the natural estrogen production and affect the general health of your dog. Because of the hormonal imbalance that large quantities of tofu can cause, you may also notice behavioral changes and bad skin or coat quality. It may also cause an imbalance in thyroid function and adrenal function.
4. Increased Risk Of Bloat
Bloat or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus is a stomach disorder condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. Since tofu is made of soybeans, which can cause gas in dogs, it can also lead to bloat. Bloat is a severe condition in canines, and can even be lethal if not attended immediately.
Symptoms of bloat:
- Swollen, hard belly
- Not able to vomit but retching
- Pain in the abdomen when touched
- Panting and restlessness
5. Tofu May Contain Pesticides
The vast majority of the soy is genetically modified (GMO), which means it’s most likely sprayed with pesticides as a means of insect control. However, some brands guarantee their tofu isn’t produced from soy that has been sprayed with pesticides and other harmful materials.
6. Higher Chance Of Kidney Stone Development
Tofu contains high amounts of silicate, and therefore there is a higher chance of dogs developing kidney stones.
The symptoms usually include:
- Back pain or abdominal pain
- The abnormal smell of the urine due to bacteria
- Blood in urine
- Cloudy urine
- Swollen belly
- Increase in thirst
If your dog has eaten a great deal of tofu, watch out for these symptoms:
- Scratching, licking, chewing skin and hair
- Ear canal infections
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Inflammation of the eyelids
- Hair loss
- Excessive drooling
- Pale mouth or nose
- Difficulty breathing
- Bloated abdomen
Can My Dog Be Allergic To Tofu?
Yes. Recent studies show that some dogs can be allergic to the protein sources found in soy milk, the main tofu ingredient.
Some of the allergic reactions to tofu include:
- Gastrointestinal disorder
- Red, itchy ears
- Scratching or rubbing the face
- Chewing feet
- Skin rash
- Obsessive licking leads to hair loss
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Potential Health Benefits Of Tofu For Your Dog
While tofu isn’t really beneficial for dogs, there are a few health benefits it can offer:
- Good source of protein – Tofu can be a good choice if your dog is allergic to proteins from commercial dog food proteins.
- Low in fat and carbs – This is great for dogs that have obesity problems.
- Rich source of minerals – Iron, zinc, and manganese will ensure healthy bones, coat, and skin.
- Good for dogs with bladder stones – Tofu has lower purine levels than animal proteins, suitable for dogs that suffer bladder stones.
- Liver-friendly – If a dog is suffering from liver disease he can’t consume proteins from meat; thus, tofu may be a perfect alternative.
To summarise, tofu isn’t toxic to dogs, and dogs can eat tofu. You can feed your dog tofu only if he is not allergic to soy products or doesn’t have any health issues.
However, it is essential to say that your dog won’t reap almost any health benefits from tofu. Your dog can also experience gas or even more severe health problems such as bloat, which can even be fatal.
By this point, it is up to you whether you should give your dog tofu or not. But bear in mind that dogs aren’t vegetarians, and tofu can’t be used as a primary protein source in their diet. Even though dogs are considered omnivores, they should get most of their protein from animal sources to stay healthy and avoid any health risks.