Yes! Tofu is simply pressed soybean curd. You may have heard about dogs eating grass. Aside from stress and anxiety reasons, feeding on grass comes from an old feral instinct that helps fill gaps in the dog’s diet. And soybeans, like other plant proteins and foodstuffs such as barley, wheat, and legumes, fit into this gap neatly.
Tofu is widely regarded to be a great meat substitute because it contains all the amino acids you would find in complete proteins, and also because it has many health benefits. It’s a staple among vegetarian foods and is a popular healthy food option for many pet owners who want to introduce their dogs to some plant based protein.
But things aren’t all that cut and dry.
Just because they can eat tofu and there are several health benefits to doing so, doesn’t mean you should be feeding your dog tofu all the time. Eating soy products comes with its own set of disadvantages, many of which may lead to serious repercussions for an otherwise healthy dog.
Just like with any food item, weigh the pros and cons in order to find out exactly how much tofu you should be feeding your dog.
Benefits of Tofu for Dogs
As you may know already, tofu is a great source of protein. Every gram of tofu is at least 8 percent hydrolyzed soy protein, which is one of the most digestible proteins and thus promotes better gastrointestinal health.
Vitamins and minerals
The process used to make tofu adds in a lot of essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron. Each 100 gram serving of calcium-set tofu has 53 percent of the daily calcium needs of a human diet, which means it would supply even more calcium for a dog. Not to mention, it’s also a decent source of fat.
Additionally, tofu is low in calories, making it an exceptional nutrient dense food for dogs who have a bit of a weight problem and need a more balanced diet . And it comes with virtually zero cholesterol to boot.
It’s got all of these benefits in an entirely vegan package. Thus, tofu is fantastic for pet owners who want to shift away from animal proteins and introduce their dog to a more plant-based diet.
It’s also a decent substitute for conventional dog food if it happens that your pet has dog food allergies. Simply mix it in with more complete proteins, as well as sources of fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals to create a nice batch of natural, homemade dog food.
Making your own nutritionally balanced dog food in this way is great for singling out what exactly triggers your dog’s allergic reaction. Dog food allergies are usually caused by dairy ingredients, but can also be due to red meat such as beef and lamb, poultry products such as chicken and eggs, or gluten from grains.
Disadvantages of Tofu for Dogs
Not as nourishing as meat
The most notable disadvantage of tofu for dogs is the fact that tofu on its own is not as good at supplying protein as animal sources.
Tofu also lacks certain vitamins, such as vitamin D and vitamin B12. Meat on the other hand has these vitamins, as well as has superior amounts of iron and zinc. Add that to the fact that meat proteins are simply synthesized more efficiently than plant based protein .
Soy proteins contain all of the essential amino acids. This technically makes soy a complete protein. Even so, it is considered to be lower quality when compared to meat proteins. Thus, many consider it to be inefficient as a meat substitute, since you have to make up a lot for the benefits you lose by giving up meat.
Tofu also contains a significant amount of anti-nutrients, which can potentially inhibit digestion and nutrient absorption if it is consumed in large amounts. Thus, it is best used to supplement other meat food items in a homemade diet.
Can aggravate allergic reactions
While we mentioned before that soy is a great way to avoid allergic reactions, this won’t do much good if your dog is specifically allergic to soy, which also happens to be one of the most common allergies among canines. What’s more is that consuming too much tofu can actually make your dog develop a soy allergy.
Tofu consumption can lead to something more serious than a simple tummy ache. Consuming too much tofu can cause something called canine bloat. The soy causes gas to expand in their gut, which can lead to flatulence—one of the leading causes on instances why a dog smells so bad.
When the bloating is at its worst, you can notice symptoms such as excessive drooling pale nose, profuse drooling, panting, vomiting, and of course, a bloated stomach. If these symptoms become apparent, get your pet to a vet immediately.
Tofu contains phytoestrogens, which pose a particular danger to female dogs but can adversely affect dogs of both sexes. Dogs undergoing puberty are especially affected because of the effects phytoestrogens have on the thyroid. This can manifest itself in itchy skin, coat shedding, and other strange occurrences or behavior.
Serious health complications
As with all human foods, tofu can cause significant complications in dogs’ bodies if not consumed in moderation. You’re advised not to feed tofu to pregnant or nursing dogs, as well as those with kidney, thyroid, and liver diseases.
The observed effects are sometimes so severe that some veterinarians are of the opinion that dogs shouldn’t consume tofu at all. Dr. Karen Becker is one such vet, stating that soy consumption is likely to lead to reproductive problems, liver disease, and ill effects on the thyroid leading to stunted growth.
Soy has also been found to make kidney stone development more likely in those who are prone to them .
While these complications aren’t too likely to occur, the risk is still there. This, Dr. Becker argues, should be enough to dissuade anyone from feeding tofu to dogs at any amount greater than the absolute minimum. According to her, the risks simply outweigh any nutritional value.
How to Feed Your Dog Tofu
Make sure you get unprocessed tofu
Plain tofu already comes with enough risks to balance out the benefits. Prepackaged tofu might introduce even more ingredients that could cause harm to your pet’s health.
Cook the tofu
Raw tofu has a bigger chance of causing stomach upset and bloat. Uncooked tofu doesn’t have the same health hazards as raw meat, so it’s not as risky if dogs eat raw tofu. Still, it’s best that dogs eat cooked tofu.
The best way to cook tofu for dogs is to press it for 15 minutes and cutting it into bite-sized cubes afterwards. This will make it so that your dog eats tofu at just the right amounts. Afterwards, pan-fry until golden brown. Your pup will have a much better time of eating tofu if it’s made more flavorful by cooking. To be on the safe side, though, give them plain, unseasoned tofu the first few times you feed it to them.
Gauge their reaction
As we’ve mentioned, dogs will react differently to items primarily meant to be human food. Monitor how their body reacts to the tofu before feeding it to them again. Like other vegetarian foods, tofu is best used to supplement their diets or as an occasional treat. If you intend to feed your furry friends more tofu than is usually advisable, keep an eye on how it affects their physical condition. Make sure you’ve got your veterinarian’s number on speed dial in case the situation gets out of hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dogs eat tofu?
Yes. Tofu is safe for dogs to consume.
What makes tofu good for dogs?
Tofu is a complete protein source, containing all essential amino acids that their body requires. It’s also got plenty of fat, calcium, and a good collection of vitamins and minerals, all in a low-calorie, zero cholesterol package.
Can dogs eat soybeans?
Yes. But just like with tofu, over-consumption can lead to dire consequences. The high fiber content of soybeans can give them excessive gas, and potentially lead to diarrhea.