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Why your dog should be eating bugs! Edible Insect based dog food and treats

Published on 5 Nov 2021

Have you ever tried eating insect based cuisine? Dogs often find bugs to eat for themselves, but did you know you can increasingly buy products to feed them insects intentionally? 

With increases in human population, loss of wildlife habitat, and concerns over environmental problems such as climate change, feeding the world sustainably is a top priority. 

Worldwide, pets consume enormous quantities of meat. Livestock production uses large amounts of resources and often produces a lot of carbon. Insects are an alternative protein source increasingly gaining popularity for people, and for dogs as they can be produced rapidly and with a much lower carbon footprint than livestock can.

Insects as a protein source

Insects are a rich source of protein, and contain many of the same compounds as animal protein products from conventional agriculture, such as beef and poultry. While different species vary in their levels of nutrients, the ones in use for dog food are highly nutritious. For example crickets contain nearly seventy percent protein, contain the ten amino acids essential for dogs, have more B12 than beef, more iron than spinach, and more calcium than milk.

"A study of Dingos on K'Gari (Fraser Island) found it is common for the local dingos to consume insects as part of their diet."

Common types of insects used in pet foods

Three main types of insects are currently used in the pet food industry around the world:

  • Crickets 
  • Black Soldier Fly Grubs
  • Meal worms

There's huge potential for more insect species to be used for pet food in the future, as this sector of the petfood industry develops and expands. 

"Eating insects is known as entomophagy"

Other Common ingredients of insect-based pet foods

Insect proteins can be mixed with various ingredients to create nutrient filled and wholesome food for our dogs. For example, insect proteins can be combined with vegetables, grains and other protein sources. In TBH Cricket Pumpkin Almonds Natural Dog Treats they are combined with pumpkin and almonds to create a delicious and nutritious treat for your pooch.

Cricket Pumpkin Almonds Natural Dog Treats

TBH Organic Cricket Pumpkin Almonds Dog Treats.jpg

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The sustainability of insects in dog food and treats

The global human population is growing, and with it there is a growing demand for protein to feed everyone. Conventional livestock such as beef cattle production is contributing globally to the destruction of large areas of wilderness, to the use of vast amounts of water, and to the production of large emissions of carbon dioxide. 

Sustainability is one of the main advantages of insect protein over other forms of livestock production. Cricket protein produces only four percent of the equivalent carbon emissions that beef production does, per gram of protein produced. Water consumption from cricket production is only ten percent of that used for beef. Insects can often be farmed quickly and in small spaces. Some farmed insects are even fed on clean waste products such as vegetable compost, and then their faeces can be used as fertiliser! Insects have great feed conversion efficiency, which means that they need to be fed less than other farmed animals, per unit of protein they produce. 

Urgent action is needed to protect our planet from wilderness loss, species loss, and climate change, and using insect proteins for human and pet food has huge promise to be part of our solutions for a sustainable future.  

The sustainability of insects in dog food and treats - Greenhouse Emissions.png

Humane dog food & treats

Increasingly many people are considering the ethics of what they eat, and the food they provide to their pets. While many people are choosing a vegan diet, it is hard to adequately provide nutrition for dogs without incorporating animal protein.

Many people are concerned about the way farm animals live before they are consumed, and there are ethical concerns about the industrialised treatment of animals such as chickens and pigs. Equally, free range livestock such as cattle are kept on land recently claimed from our ever dwindling wilderness, and the need to claim more land for agriculture increases while our human population grows. 

"Eating insects might seem novel to us, but according to the CSIRO over two thousand species of insects are used to make up part of the diet of more than two billion people around the world."

Insects have in many ways simpler needs than our other farm animals. Crickets like to be kept in a warm damp place. In cricket farming, the insects live for most of their natural life span (which is only about six weeks) in conditions that suit them. Insects feel pain differently to vertebrate species, but the humaneness of insect production is maximised by chilling the animals before processing, so that they go to sleep. 

Insect based foods are thus humane in a number of ways, by reducing the numbers of vertebrate animals needed for consumption, and by reducing the land, water, and carbon resources needed for farming, thus helping in the retention of wilderness and habitat for our wild creatures too. Insect proteins have significant potential to benefit people in less developed countries also, by preserving environmental resources as described. 

"Even if you haven't intentionally eaten insects, you've probably consumed products from them, for example cochineal, which is used for red food colouring."

So if you're considering ways to help your pooch (or yourself) to go green, consider giving tasty bugs a try, they are definitely a food for our future. 

Insect based dog food FAQs

Does my dog need to eat meat?

Dogs are omnivores, but are adapted to a mostly animal product based diet. Dogs can do well with food from a wide variety of sources. While it is technically possible to feed dogs a vegan diet, it is easier to formulate complete and balanced diets using animal protein sources. The nutritional profile of insects varies depending on the species and the stage of the life cycle but in general food insects are a rich source of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and trace minerals. Insects can therefore be an excellent substitute for mammalian or poultry meat in pet food. 

Can dogs with allergies eat insect based dog treats and foods?

Food allergies are relatively common in dogs, usually resulting in symptoms such as itchy skin or gastrointestinal upsets. It can actually be helpful to transition dogs to a protein they have not been exposed to before. So insect based foods are likely to be helpful for dogs with food allergies. If you do have a dog with allergies, it is good to discuss changes to their diet with your vet before you proceed with them. 

Do bug based treats and food have to be kept in the fridge?

Check the label of any product you buy for storage information, but for the most part insect based pet foods are formulated to be stored at room temperature. 

References

  1. Adventures in pet food, accessed 14/10/21
  2. Insect-based food 'better for pets than top steak',accessed 14/10/21
  3. Climate change: Will insect-eating dogs help?, accessed 14/10/21
  4. There's a fly in my kibble! Insect-based pet food takes off, accessed 14/10/21
  5. The environmental sustainability of insects as food and feed, accessed 14/10/21
  6. Nutritional and sensory quality of edible insects, accessed 14/10/21
  7. Edible Crickets (Orthoptera) Around the World: Distribution, Nutritional Value, and Other Benefits, accessed 15/10/21
  8. Cricket Nutritional Value | Cricket Flour Nutrition, accessed 15/10/21
  9. An industry with legs: Australia's first edible insects roadmap, accessed 15/10/21
  10. Why crickets?, accessed 15/10/21
  11. Food in balance with nature, accessed 16/10/21
  12. Insect-based ingredients in pet food, accessed 16/10/21
  13. Insects for breakfast and whales for dinner: The diet and body condition of dingoes on Fraser Island, accessed 16/10/21

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Heather Lance

Heather Lance

Veterinarian

Heather has been a practising vet since 2008 and finds daily joy in meeting people and their beautiful fur kids. With a love of all animals, Heather has a particular fascination for cats. Heather and family are blessed to live with three beautiful moggies, Charlie, Kitani, and Surinda, and one splendid Golden Retriever, Pickle.

Heather Lance's Pets

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