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Insect Food for Dogs: A Full Guide (2023)


insect based dog food cover

Seeking sustainable and nutritious alternatives for your furry friend(s)? You may have noticed insect protein recently emerged as a promising ingredient in dog food.


In this article, we will explore the kind of dog food that can be made with insects, whether this is suitable for all types of breeds, and the overall pros and cons of introducing insect-based food into your dog’s diet.


As you read this article, always keep the following in mind: it's important to consult with a veterinarian before making any significant dietary changes for your dog to ensure its specific nutritional needs are met and that no potential allergic reactions can occur.


Is insect-based food healthy for dogs?

Let's start with the most important question. Is insect food actually healthy for dogs? While there is a scarcity of in-depth studies conducted on dogs, existing research indicates that insect-based dog food contributes positively to the nutrition of dogs, is well-accepted, and does not have adverse health effects for them.


Is insect protein healthy for all dog breeds?

Insect protein can be a healthy option for dogs of various breeds, but it's important to consider individual factors and consult with a veterinarian.


Indeed, while dogs, in general, can benefit from the nutritional advantages of insect protein, certain breeds or individual dogs may have specific dietary requirements or sensitivities that need to be taken into account.


Some dogs may have allergies or sensitivities to certain protein sources, including insects. It's crucial to introduce new proteins gradually and monitor for any adverse reactions. Furthermore, dogs with specific health conditions or dietary restrictions may require customized diets. In sum, the suitability of insect protein should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis!


dog waiting for food

Is insect-based dog food commonly used?

The adoption of insects as a source of nutrition for pets is a growing trend, no doubt about that!


Several companies worldwide committed to producing insect-based dry food and treats for pets - including dogs. Currently, these insect-based dog foods can be bought in specialized stores, retail outlets, and online platforms.


The market for these products is expanding, and pet owners generally express satisfaction with the inclusion of insect-based meals as part of their pets' diets. The perfect storm!


What are the best insects for dog food?

When it comes to selecting insects for dog food, there are several options that are commonly used and considered suitable for canine nutrition. While there is a wide variety of insects worldwide, only three types—mealworm larvae, black soldier fly larvae, and adult crickets—are commonly utilized in diets for dogs (and cats too!).


Let’s learn more about the nutritional benefits of these insects below.


mealworms in bowl

Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor)

Let's start with the mealworm larvae. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. They are widely available and commonly used in insect-based pet foods due to their nutritional profile and acceptability. Good for dogs too, studies show!


Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens):

Another interesting insect to consider for your dog food: black soldier fly larvae, often referred to as “BSFL”. Like the mealworm larvae, they are highly nutritious and provide a good balance of protein, fats, and amino acids for dogs. They are rich in calcium and have a lower fat content compared to mealworms.


Crickets (Acheta domesticus)

Adult crickets are another popular choice for insect-based dog food. They offer a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Like BSFL and mealworm larvae, crickets are often turned into powder and incorporated into dog food recipes such as snacks and kibbles.


All in all, these insects are generally well-tolerated by dogs, and safe of course. They provide high-quality protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, making them valuable ingredients in balanced and nutritious dog food formulations.


However, it's important to ensure that the insect-based dog food is formulated to meet the specific nutritional requirements recommended for dogs. If you’re unsure about what your dog exactly needs, give your veterinarian a ring!


What kind of dog food can be made with insect protein?

different types of dog food in bowls

Dry kibble

The insects described above can be processed into a fine powder or meal and used as a primary protein source in dry kibble formulations. These kibbles can be formulated with other ingredients to create a balanced and complete diet for dogs.


Wet food

Insect protein can also be incorporated into wet dog food recipes, either as the main protein source or as a complementary ingredient. Wet food provides moisture and can be more palatable for dogs with specific preferences or dental issues.


Treats

Insects can be used to create dog treats, such as biscuits, chews, or training rewards. Insect-based treats offer a protein-rich and flavorful option for rewarding or training dogs.


Do dogs find insect-based food tasty?

Like often, the answer is, it depends. As you can imagine, dogs' preferences for insect-based food can vary from one dog to another. While some dogs may find insect-based food tasty and enjoy it, others may not show the same level of enthusiasm.


Taste preferences in dogs are influenced by factors such as individual palates, previous experiences, and overall preferences for certain flavours and textures.


However, it's worth noting that many insect-based dog food products are formulated to be palatable and appealing to dogs. These companies have conducted trials with positive results (we trust they didn’t start selling insect-based dog food without some sort of proof dogs actually like their products!).


In these trials, factors such as taste, aroma, and texture to enhance the overall sensory experience for dogs are tested and optimized.


Steps to introduce insects into your dog's diet

Convinced enough to give it a try? Here are steps you can take to gradually introduce insect-based food into your dog's diet.


Of course, introducing a new type of food, such as insect-based dog food, into your dog's diet should be done gradually to ensure a smooth transition and minimize any digestive upset.


dog waiting for food

Here are the suggested steps:


1. Consult with your veterinarian

Before making any changes to your dog's diet, it's important to consult with your veterinarian.


A veterinarian can assess a dog's overall health, nutritional needs, and any specific breed considerations to determine whether insect protein is appropriate and beneficial for a particular dog.


They can also provide guidance on proper feeding amounts, and potential supplementation, and monitor the dog's response to the new protein source.


2. Start with a small amount

Begin by adding a small portion of insect-based food to your dog's regular food. This allows your dog to become accustomed to the new taste and texture gradually.


3. Mix with current food

Mix the insect-based food with your dog's current food. Gradually increase the proportion of insect-based food over several days to a week.


For example, start with 25% insect-based food and 75% regular food for a few days, then increase to 50% insect-based food and 50% regular food, and so on.


4. Observe your dog's response

Monitor your dog's reaction to the new food. Watch for any signs of digestive upset, such as diarrhoea or vomiting. If any adverse reactions occur, don't take any risks, consult your veterinarian for guidance!


5. Increase the serving size

Once your dog has successfully transitioned to the insect-based food mixed with their regular food, you can gradually increase the serving size of the insect-based food while reducing the portion of the regular food.


6. Monitor your dog's health

Throughout the transition process and after your dog has fully transitioned to the insect-based food, closely monitor their overall health, energy levels, coat condition, and digestive function. If you notice any concerning changes, consult with your veterinarian.


Remember that every dog is unique, and the transition period may vary depending on their individual tolerance and preferences. Patience and close observation are key to ensuring a successful introduction of insect-based food into your dog's diet.


Again, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog's diet to ensure it aligns with its specific needs and dietary requirements.


Let’s finish with the pros and cons of introducing insects into your dog’s diet!


labrador eating

Pros and cons of using insect protein as dog food


Pros of using insect protein for dog food


1. Sustainable and environmentally friendly

Insects require less land, water, and feed to grow compared to conventional livestock, making them a more sustainable protein source. They also emit fewer greenhouse gases, contributing to reduced environmental impact.


2. High-quality protein

Insects offer a high-quality protein source containing essential amino acids necessary for a dog's optimal health. They can provide a well-balanced and easily digestible protein profile.


3. Hypoallergenic for some breeds

Insect protein serves as a novel protein source, making it a suitable option for some dog breeds with food allergies or sensitivities. It can help manage food allergies and alleviate related symptoms.


4. Nutrient-rich profile

Insect protein is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It offers a favourable balance of nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, promoting healthy skin, coat, and immune function in dogs.


5. Palatability and acceptance

Many dogs find insect-based dog food palatable and enjoy the taste, making it an appealing option for picky eaters.


Cons of using insect protein as dog food

dog kibbles in bowl

1. Limited availability and market presence

Insect-based dog food is still relatively new and may not be as widely available as traditional options. It might require some effort to find and purchase insect protein-based products.


2. Cost

Insect protein dog food products may be more expensive compared to traditional dog food due to factors such as production costs and limited market demand.


3. Potential allergies

Although insect protein is considered hypoallergenic for many dogs, there is still a possibility of individual dogs having specific allergies or sensitivities to insects. Care should be taken to monitor any adverse reactions.


4. Limited research

While there is growing research on the benefits of insect protein in dog food, the body of scientific literature is still relatively limited compared to traditional protein sources. Further studies are needed to fully understand the long-term effects and benefits of insect protein on canine health.


Wrap up

Incorporating insect protein into dog food presents several compelling benefits compared to traditional options. Not only does insect protein provide dogs with a high-quality and easily digestible protein source, but it also addresses sustainability concerns, manages food allergies, and offers a rich nutritional profile.


Supported by scientific research, the inclusion of insect protein in dog food represents an environmentally conscious and health-conscious choice for pet owners seeking a sustainable and nutritious diet for their furry companions.


That being said, we recommend you introduce insect-based food gradually, observe your dog's response, and consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog's diet or taste preferences.


Sources

Valdés, F., Villanueva, V., Durán, E., Campos, F., Avendaño, C., Sánchez, M., ... & Valenzuela, C. (2022). Insects as feed for companion and exotic pets: a current trend. Animals, 12(11), 1450. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12111450



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