On any trip to the grocery store, you may see aisles lined with vegan and vegetarian options such as plant-based milk and burgers. As plant-based diets are becoming more widely adopted by humans, pet parents are becoming more interested in plant-based or vegan diets for dogs.
A long-time popular meat substitute is tofu. You may have wondered: can dogs eat tofu? This article explains what tofu is, if you can feed it to dogs, any benefits and risks of feeding your dog tofu, and helpful feeding tips.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu originated in China over 1,000 years ago . It is made by taking fresh or dried soybeans and soaking, boiling and straining them to produce soy milk. Then, calcium or magnesium salt is typically added to curdle the milk. The soybean curds are then pressed into tofu – a soft to firm, white substance.
Tofu has a mild taste and often absorbs the flavor of what it is cooked in. It has a spongy texture and is often pan fried or baked prior to serving.
Can Dogs Have Tofu?
Tofu is non-toxic and safe to feed to most dogs. Dogs, like humans, are omnivores, meaning they can thrive on various foods, including animal and plant-based foods.
You may wonder if feeding your dog a vegan or vegetarian diet is safe. While it is possible for a dog to eat a complete and balanced diet with plant-based protein, such as tofu, as the primary protein source, this would require the skill of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure that the diet contains the right amounts and balances of proteins, vitamins, and minerals . Pet parents are advised to only feed tofu in moderation unless they are working with a vet nutritionist.
Tofu comes in a wide variety of textures. It ranges from silken tofu, which has more of a yogurt-type texture, to extra-firm, which has a meat-like consistency. The main difference between tofu types is the water content and, therefore, the caloric density.
Silken tofu will contain fewer calories per serving than more firm types of tofu. For this reason, giving a small-breed dog like a Chihuahua a small amount of soft or silken tofu may be better than extra-firm tofu, as Chihuahuas have low daily calorie requirements due to their small size.
Is Tofu Good for Dogs?
Tofu can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet as an occasional treat. Tofu is a complete plant protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Depending on how the tofu is made, it can be a good source of calcium and magnesium. Tofu is a nutritionally dense food and has high amounts of iron, phosphorus, zinc and other nutrients with relatively few calories per serving.
Tofu also contains isoflavones. These are compounds that may provide certain health benefits to dogs. Studies have shown that soy isoflavones may prevent weight gain and may aid in weight loss in dogs .
A soy-based diet may be recommended for dogs suspected of having a food allergy to help alleviate their symptoms. Animal proteins, such as beef, chicken, and dairy, are considered dogs’ most common food allergens. Hypoallergenic diets often contain hydrolyzed soy protein and, in some studies, these diets have been shown to reduce the symptoms of food allergies in dogs .
When is Tofu Bad for Dogs?
While tofu is generally considered a safe, occasional treat for dogs, there are some things pet parents should keep in mind.
Watch for allergic reactions or sensitivities. As with any new food, dogs may be allergic or sensitive to tofu. It should be introduced in small amounts at first to ensure your dog doesn’t have a reaction to the tofu. If you feed your dog a small amount of tofu and don’t notice any signs of an upset stomach or itchy skin, it is likely okay to continue feeding tofu as an occasional healthy treat or meal topper. While soy-based foods are not common allergens for dogs, soy and tofu allergies or food sensitivities are possible.
Keep preparation plain and simple. Pet parents should only feed their dogs raw or plain baked tofu without any added salt, seasonings or oils. Tofu that comes pre-seasoned or in different flavors should be avoided as it may contain garlic or onion seasonings that are toxic to dogs or may have harmful levels of sodium.
Don’t go over your dog’s calorie limit. As with any treat or food added to your dog’s regular diet, you should not feed more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories from tofu. You should also make sure that you are factoring the amount of tofu you feed into your dog’s recommended daily calorie intake to prevent excess weight gain.
Tofu and Dogs: Helpful Feeding Tips
As stated previously, unless you are working with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, you should keep the amount of tofu in your dog’s diet to 10 percent or less of their daily calorie intake.
For example, an average-sized Labrador Retriever can safely consume a standard three-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu, which contains about 80 calories. However, an eight-pound Chihuahua should be limited to ¾ of an ounce of the same tofu. Make sure to read the nutrition labels of the tofu you are feeding because the caloric content of the tofu varies depending on the type.
If your dog grabs an entire block of tofu off your counter and eats it, it is best to speak to a veterinarian immediately to know if any treatment is recommended.
When feeding your dog any new food, it is best practice to discuss this with your veterinarian, especially if your dog suffers from any chronic conditions.