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Why our dogs need help with Vegetarian and Vegan diets

While some people choose to raise their dogs on a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons there are a number of important factors to consider when making the change over.

Dogs have higher protein requirements than humans, and this protein requirement can still be adequately met with legumes and other vegetarian sources. The amount of protein required overall ranges between 12% - 40% ; however some specific amino acids are may still be lacking.

Two important amino acids that may be lacking in vegetarian diets are Taurine and L-Carnitine, and these nutrients are vital for maintaining good heart health.

High quality protein is very important in supporting your dog’s heart health, and so amino acid supplementation is routinely recommended for dogs that need to maintain good  heart health.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and those particularly associated with heart health in dogs are L-Carnitine, Taurine, L-Arginine and D-Ribose.

It is  important to pay attention to the long term dietary intake of these key amino acids through  a well balanced diet. Additional supplementation can play a complimentary role and give added peace of mind.

L-Carnitine is usually classified as an amino acid, but it's actually a vitamin-like compound that plays a vital role in the body by transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria. It is essential to cellular energy metabolism, and due to the myocardium's high energy requirements, the highest levels of L-Carnitine can be found in heart muscle tissue.

These high energy requirements mean that the heart requires a higher level of L-Carnitine than may be found in some diets. Low levels of L-Carnitine are associated with  several breeds, especially Boxers, but also Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, and Dobermans

The body's ability to synthesize L-Carnitine decreases with age and supplementation may be necessary to support good heart health.

High levels of this amino acid are normally found in the heart muscle and it is abundant in most meats and fish, but cooking, especially cooking methods that immerse meat in water, such as boiling, can reduce Taurine levels in food by up to 85%.

However, this is not supposed to be a problem for dogs, because, unlike cats, dogs are supposed to be able to synthesize sufficient Taurine from the sulphur amino acids, Cysteine and Methionine, much like humans.

You'll notice the "supposed to’s" in that sentence. That's because it is far from clear that all dogs have the ability to synthesize adequate levels of  Taurine.

While premium dog foods typically include additional Taurine supplements, low protein diets as well as  brands using high levels of cereal protein may not contain sufficient Taurine.  Lamb and rice diets have also been implicated as have homemade vegetarian and vegan diets.

Some breeds (e.g., Newfoundlands, American Cocker Spaniels) are prone to a low Taurine level in their systems  even when Taurine levels in their diet are adequate.

There is evidence that Taurine supplementation supports heart health in many breeds.

Vital amino acids for your dog’s healthy heart and circulation

L-Carnitine for dogs

Taurine for dogs

Maintaining and Supporting Your Dog’s Heart Health

Heart health in the modern dog is principally governed by genetics, diet, weight and exercise. Controlling these latter three factors is our responsibility as owners.

Diet and specifically supplementation of the diet with key amino acids can give your dog increased support. It becomes even more important if your dog is of one of those breeds more genetically pre-disposed.

There are some technical articles in on our website that may help you to understand more about heart health. Use the top menu to navigate to them, they are in Blog/Articles

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets for Dogs

Can dog’s really live without meat?

Owners who decide to feed a vegetarian or vegan diet can fully satisfy their dogs dietary needs if they are aware of the species’ nutritional requirements.

Dogs may prefer to be carnivores whenever possible and while meat and fish are their preferred prey, even when times are plentiful they will still eat some herbage. Perhaps they are self medicating in some way. Perhaps obtaining certain minerals and vitamins that their meat diet lacks. Observers of carnivorous animals have noted that hunters will often eat intestinal contents before tackling raw meat.  Another piece of evidence to give us an insight into the dogs true nutritional needs.

What’s the best doggy vegetarian diet ?

So what should you take into account when preparing a vegetarian diet for your dog. Well firstly because they do not have a large capacity to digest vegetable matter, including starches and sugars they do lean towards a high protein and high fat content diet.

Therefore be aware that cereals, including rice, and potato must be kept to a minimum. Excessive starches and sugars increase the risk of your dog developing serious diseases such as diabetes, colitis and other digestive conditions.

Vegetable fibre is difficult to digest and so must be well broken down by mincing or liquidising though not necessarily cooking; which will reduce nutritional value. Raw is often best if it is broken down to improve digestability.

Plant proteins are abundant in legumes, peas, beans etc.

Since practically all vegetable material contains fats and oils in addition to the oils you may add, you need to be aware that too much omega 6 oils are harmful, causing internal inflammation that can give rise to arthritis and other complaints. The better vegetable oils are: olive, coconut and flax.  Avoid sunflower, corn and rapeseed oils especially. We have a good article on vegetable oils for dogs in our online healthcare blog.

What are “essential” nutrients?

The clever thing about metabolism is that if we don’t get a certain nutrient in our diet then the body can synthesise it from the chemical building blocks obtained from other parts of our diet. So in fact not that many nutrients are really classed as “essential”. But nevertheless there are some that are essential that the dog can’t manufacture at all or can’t manufacture enough of to fulfil their true potential. This can lead to a dog “surviving” on a vegetarian diet rather than “blossoming”. It can also become more important for older dogs as their internal “manufacturing” systems weaken with age.

What is the case for supplementation?

This then is the area where judicial supplemention of the diet on the owner’s part can help the vegetarian diet become truly fulfilling both for dog and owner. Supplementation is usually needed to reduce the risk of deficiencies at some  point in your dog’s life.

Two important amino acids that may be lacking in vegetarian diets are Taurine and L-Carnitine, and adequate  intake  of these nutrients is vital to maintain good health in the nervous system, heart and circulation. Taurine is an “essential” for example and no plant foods have more than a trace of it.

Many minerals can be deficient either because of where crops are grown or over-intensive agriculture. Plant derived vital Omega 3 fatty acids EHA and DPA are found only in algae, and so seaweed and spirulina are good things to add to the diet for this and for the vast array of minerals they contain.

Bear in mind that the greater the variety of foods that you introduce into the vegetarian diet the greater your chance of maintaining good heart health.

Bear in mind that the greater the variety you can introduce into the vegetarian diet the lower the risk of deficiencies.

Muscular Tone

The use of L-Carnitine is known to support muscular toning activities such as aqua-therapy.  L-Carnitine  demand by the muscles is higher than normal as a result of this type of increased exercise.

Post-operative & convalescent

During the post traumatic and post surgical recovery periods, energy requirements increase by between 20% and 100%.  L-Carnitine ensures the increased energy requirements of the recovering animal are met by  the cellular energy value of those fatty acids that result from stress-linked lipomobilisation.

Slimming - weight loss

While not a magic bullet for combating canine obesity, we are  satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that L-Carnitine is beneficial to canine weight loss. Several studies have shown that dogs losing weight on a diet supplemented with L-carnitine lose more weight, including a greater percentage of body fat, while retaining more lean muscle mass than the control group eating the same weight loss dog food minus L-Carnitine supplementation. For instance, in one study  with overweight dogs, the L-Carnitine group lost 6.4% of their body weight after 7 weeks of dieting, while the group eating the same diet without L-Carnitine lost only 1.8% body weight.

Carnicare liquid syrup is fed at the rate of 1ml twice per day for every 10kg of your dog’s weight.  It should be sprinkled on your dog’s food at mealtimes, although not necessarily with each meal.  A measuring dispenser is provided to help you to feed the correct amount easily.

Side effects are rare and limited to mild diarrhea. Feed at half the recommended rate to allow your dog to acclimatise to it.

Carnicare contains 40% (400mg/ml) of L-Carnitine, making it the most concentrated and best value product available.

Carnicare™ contains is a special grade of L-Carnitine, manufactured by a unique production process based on fermentation, which is the only way of producing L-Carnitine in the same way as nature.

Our L-Carnitine contains no impure D-Carnitine, which is actually detrimental to the dog.

Magnesium Aspartate Hydrochloride is also present to give increased assimilation into the system.


L-Carnitine     400mg/ml

Taurine             80mg/ml

Magnesium  Aspartate Hydrochloride    100mg/ml

Potassium Sorbate natural preservative – less than 1%

Safe and Vet recommended

Please consult your Vet

The Ingredients in Carnicare are widely recommended and used by Veterinary Surgeons.

Carnicare has a very safe record and is compatible with all medications that may be prescribed by your vet.

Use of Carnicare in hydrotherapy, weight loss and convalescence

How to feed Carnicare to your dog

Carnicare Ingredients

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Heart Health

Vegetarian & Vegan

Weight & Convalescence




L-Carnitine & Taurine supplement for dogs