Can I give my dog tofu

The versatile soy-based food called tofu has long been an option in the human diet, can dogs eat tofu as well, and is tofu safe for dogs to consume? What are the health benefits of tofu for dogs and are there any side effects your pet may experience from soy? Let's dig deeper into this.

If you've been wondering, “can I give my dog tofu,” the answer is YES – you can feed your dog tofu as long as you do so in moderation to avoid any potential side effects.

Tofu is not toxic to dogs, but overfeeding your canine on it will have side effects.

Because tofu has long been one of the most debated foods due to its potential health benefits and dangers related to genetically modified soybeans, there's something you must know before you start giving your dog tofu.

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What is tofu?

Tofu is a food that's made from coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curd into small, solid white blocks (a similar process to how cheese is made).

Tofu has first originated in China, and today vegetarians often use tofu as a meat substitute. It is often viewed as a healthy food option among vegans and vegetarians.

And even though dogs can go vegan, feeding tofu to dogs is not the same.

This is what a set of fresh tofu looks like:

What does raw tofu look like

Most people who are against eating tofu, and particularly feeding tofu for dogs, claim that genetically modified foods (like tofu, made from soybeans) are very controversial. But most studies to date (1) have not found anything negative about them.

Moreover, there are also non-GMO, organic tofu brands that you can use instead.

ALSO READ: Can Dogs Eat Pickles?

Tofu for Dogs 101
Can Dogs Eat Tofu?

Yes, dogs can eat tofu. Although if you choose to feed it to your dog, you must do so in moderation in order to prevent any potential side effects of tofu for dogs from occurring.

Aside from being very high in protein, tofu also contains a ton of useful nutrients for dogs, some of which can be extremely healthy and beneficial to add into your canine's diet:

  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Selenium
  • Phosphorus
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

A small serving of tofu can also be very low in calories, which makes tofu a highly nutrient-dense food option and treat for dogs.

It’s important to remember that even though dogs are omnivores, they are primarily designed to consume meat. Soybean-based tofu is not an ideal food selection for them.

Therefore, if you choose to use tofu for dogs, make sure that you give it to them only as an occasional treat to reap the health benefits of tofu and avoid possible side effects.

3 Potential Health Benefits of Tofu for Dogs

Can I give my dog tofu?Although feeding tofu for dogs is not an ideal food and you should not structure your canine's diet around it, there's anecdotal evidence from vegans and vegetarians claiming how tofu has improved their pets' health in many ways.

Here are three potential health benefits from tofu for dogs:

1. Tofu may be a healthy food option for dogs with food allergies.

In some circumstances, dogs develop food allergies to certain types of commercial dog food brands and particularly processed meat proteins found in kibble (2, 3).

Tofu may be an appropriate substitute for dogs with this kind of food allergy as it can make its way through the digestive system without causing an allergic reaction.

Based on this, can dogs eat tofu on a regular basis? Likely not, and we'll discuss why below. Ultimately, it's best you have a vet take a look at your pet if he has allergies. Sometimes they may suggesting sensitive stomach dog food brands or homemade diet.

2. Tofu is liver-friendly (and may be kidney-friendly) for dogs.

Veterinarians agree that dogs who have liver issues need a significant dietary change to fix this health problem, and that usually involves removing animal proteins.

Can dogs eat tofu regularly if they have liver disease? Not regularly, but for dogs with severe liver problems, tofu may be a better food choice than the less liver-friendly proteins that come from animal meat. The same may apply to dogs with renal disease.

Studies have shown (4) that canine liver is able to handle soy proteins more easily than meat proteins. However, there are different food alternatives other than tofu as well.

3. Tofu is good for dogs with bladder stones.

This issue is related to the above, particularly to dogs with kidney problems.

Dogs who are prone to developing bladder stones need a source of protein in their diet that has a low number of components called purines. Decreasing amount of protein in dog's diet can help with this, and low protein dog food brands exist for this reason.

Soy is perfect for this need as it has lower purines than animal proteins do, according to research (5). This means if you want to supply your dog with amino acids from protein, and he has renal problems, feeding tofu for dogs may be a good alternative option.

Health benefits of tofu for dogs infographic

“So can I give my dog tofu?”

The short answer is yes, dogs can eat tofu and there are several health benefits that come with adding tofu to your dog's diet.

Tofu for dogs may be particularly useful if your canine has specific health issues, such as kidney problems, liver disease or is prone to bladder stones.

But can dogs eat tofu on a regular basis? Probably not, because even though there are health benefits of giving tofu to dogs, there are also potential side effects.

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6 Potential Side Effects of Tofu for Dogs

Tofu is made from soybeansEven though tofu is a nutrient-dense food for people, some claim that feeding soy and tofu for dogs does not provide canines with the same vitamin and mineral benefits.

Dogs do not digest and absorb soy nutrients from tofu in an efficient manner, and as such, they cannot take advantage of many healthy nutrition found in tofu. This does not mean that tofu is unhealthy for dogs altogether but that not all nutrition is available to them.

However, if you choose to give tofu for dogs in place of natural meats on a regular basis, you may be setting your dog up for trouble in the future, and there's a reason why.

Here are potential side effects of giving too much tofu for dogs:

1. Inadequate full-structure protein consumption.

Tofu does not provide the amount, quality or variety of protein that a dog needs to live a healthy life, and it can cause inadequate protein consumption and lack of amino acids (6).

This condition may result in many of the following health issues:

  • Stunted growth
  • Poor appetite
  • Reproductive problems
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Behavioral changes
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Weakened bones and heightened risk of bone fractures
  • Poor coat health
  • Compromised immune system, including a higher chance of infections and a reduced ability to recover from injury and illness.
2. Increased risk of canine bloat.

Many pet owners know that canine bloat is a very dangerous health condition for dogs, thus great care must be taken when choosing to feed tofu for dogs.

Tofu is made from soybeans, and soybean causes gas in dogs, thereby leading to higher chances of canine bloat (7), also known as gastric dilatation volvulus.

If canine bloat is not attended to immediately, it can eventually lead to a dog’s death.

3. Higher chance of kidney stone development.

Contradictory, isn't? Unfortunately, this is true and there is no studies at the moment to prove whether tofu can actually help or cause negative damage for dogs' kidneys.

Basically, there is a greater likelihood of kidney stone development because tofu contains high levels of silicate. These urinary stones can include bloody urination and pain in dogs.

In theory, feeding tofu for dogs can be both helpful and detrimental for dogs. Until we can see some scientific studies proving one way or the other, we don't know. So the best thing to do if your dog has any kidney or kidney stone problems is to avoid tofu altogether.

4. Gastrointestinal upset and distress

Tofu is made from soybeans that contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) and indigestible sugars, which may cause diarrhea and gas in dogs. This is also related to canine bloat and another reason to avoid overfeeding your dogs on tofu.

5. Tofu may have pesticides in it.

Just like with all food, some of them may not be as clean as they initially seem (8).

Most soy and tofu are considered a genetically modified organism (GMO), and therefore the soybeans used to make tofu are very likely to have been sprayed with pesticides as means of insect control in the fields.

Can dogs eat tofu that's non-GMO and organic? Yes, there are some tofu brands that are guaranteed not to have been sprayed with pesticides and other harmful materials.

6. Some dogs are allergic to tofu.

Finally, while tofu is considered a good food for dogs with food allergies, some canines may be actually allergic to soy, soybeans or tofu specifically.

In fact, it was found (9) that many dogs are allergic to protein sources in their food, including soy milk, which is another main component of tofu.

Allergic reactions to tofu for dogs may include itchiness, gastrointestinal disorders, chewing at feet, scratching or rubbing face, and red, itchy ears.

Can Dogs Eat Tofu?

Can Dogs Eat TofuIn conclusion, dogs can eat tofu and tofu is not toxic to dogs at all. Unless your dog is specifically allergic to it or has some health issues, it's safe to give tofu to your dog.

However, you should only feed tofu to dogs on occasion and not as part of a regular daily diet to reap its health benefits and avoid any potential side effects.

Finally, tofu for dogs should not be used as the main source of protein. Healthy dogs should get most of their protein from animal sources to prevent dangers to their health.


References and citations

Footnotes, references and further reading:

  1. Nicolia A1, Manzo A, Veronesi F, Rosellini D. An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2014 Mar;34(1):77-88. doi: 10.3109/07388551.2013.823595. Epub 2013 Sep 16.
  2. Verlinden A1, Hesta M, Millet S, Janssens GP. Food allergy in dogs and cats: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(3):259-73.
  3. Montserrat Serra, PhD; Pilar Brazís, PhD; Alessandra Fondati, PhD; Anna Puigdemont, PhD. (2006) Assessment of IgE binding to native and hydrolyzed soy protein in serum obtained from dogs with experimentally induced soy protein hypersensitivity. American Journal of Veterinary Research 67:11, 1895-1900.
  4. Proot, S., Biourge, V., Teske, E. and Rothuizen, J. (2009), Soy Protein Isolate versus Meat-Based Low-Protein Diet for Dogs with Congenital Portosystemic Shunts. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 23: 794–800. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2009.0327.x
  5. Kaneko K1, Kudo Y, Yamanobe T, Mawatari K, Yasuda M, Nakagomi K, Fujimori S. Purine contents of soybean-derived foods and selected Japanese vegetables and mushrooms. Nucleosides Nucleotides Nucleic Acids. 2008 Jun;27(6):628-30. doi: 10.1080/15257770802138681.
  6. Vaden, S. L., Hammerberg, B., Davenport, D. J., Orton, S. M., Trogdon, M. M., Melgarejo, L. T., VanCamp, S. D. and Williams, D. A. (2000), Food Hypersensitivity Reactions in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers with Protein-Losing Enteropathy or Protein-Losing Nephropathy or Both: Gastroscopic Food Sensitivity Testing, Dietary Provocation, and Fecal Immunoglobulin E. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 14: 60–67. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2000.tb01501.x
  7. Lacy, B. E., Gabbard, S. L., & Crowell, M. D. (2011). Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating: Hope, Hype, or Hot Air? Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 7(11), 729–739.
  8. Dolan, L. C., Matulka, R. A., & Burdock, G. A. (2010). Naturally Occurring Food Toxins. Toxins, 2(9), 2289–2332.
  9. WILLS, J. and HARVEY, R. (1994), Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats. Australian Veterinary Journal, 71: 322–326. doi:10.1111/j.1751-0813.1994.tb00907.x

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Sarah is the pet food expert at Top Dog Tips with experience in working, writing and researching the pet food industry, dog foods and canine nutrition. She's dedicated to uncover the truths about how, why and what we use to feed our dogs.