What Should Vegans Feed Their Dogs? Guide to Plant-Based Canine Diets

Research has shown that a vegan diet for humans can lower risks for many diseases, including obesity and diabetes, and address issues like food allergies. What about your dog’s diet? Can vegan dog food benefit our canine companions as well? Before you cut out animal proteins in your pet’s diet, there are a few things you need to know. Here’s a look at whether a plant-based pet food diet is good for your dog.

Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores? It Depends …

Would dangling a piece of broccoli in front of your dog get a response similar to the one you’d get dangling cooked chicken or bacon? Do dogs enjoy eating vegetables? Some experts say yes, while others say dogs only eat veggies if they have to for survival. As close kin to wolves (which share over 99% of the same DNA), it’s held that wolves are carnivores; therefore, so are their domesticated cousins.

However, research suggests that domestication and evolution are behind changes in our canine companions’ digestive and metabolic traits.* These adaptations further permit better starch digestion (think potatoes and grains), supporting the argument that dogs are omnivores (an animal that eats both meat and plant matter). While many experts call dogs plant-eating creatures, some experts and Merriam-Webster still consider dogs carnivores (animals that eat only meat).

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy for Dogs?

Can a plant-based diet for dogs be healthy? What about dogs suffering from health issues?

Here’s the deal: While most commercial dog foods contain animal proteins, they also incorporate some vegetables, such as corn, beans, lentils, peas, potatoes and beets for coloring, thickening, and nutritional value. Whether you know it or not, you are already feeding your pet a steady diet of meat and veggies, which begs the question: Is vegan dog food healthy? It can be.

Many pet parents who practice vegetarianism or veganism may seek a like diet for their pets fueled by health or for ethical reasons. Dogs can derive nutrients from various sources, including meat, vegetables and fruits. For example, apples provide vitamins A and C, which can help your dog maintain healthy skin and coat. At the same time, bananas, sweet potatoes, peas and carrots contain vitamins and potassium, which aids in kidney, nerve, and muscle function.

What Are the Risks of a Vegan Diet for Dogs?

Are vegan diets dangerous for dogs? No. However, there are a few risks that come with a meat-free diet. Without ingesting some animal matter, your dog may not get enough protein, which is essential for healthy tissues and organs, skin, coat, muscles, and tendons.

Amino acids support immune and heart health. Because both of these nutrients are found in meat and meat meals, a plant-only diet may cause your dog to have an amino acid imbalance. Your dog may further have issues with vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Over time, if your dog’s diet continues to lack these nutrients, it could lead to irreversible damage. So, how can a plant-based diet be healthy for your pet? Add supplements that contain these necessary vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to their diet.

What’s the Best Vegan Diet for Dogs?

You have several vegan food options for your dog. You can prepare your pets’ meals or buy commercial meat-free dog foods that use plant-based proteins. Talk to your veterinarian about specially formulated, prescription-only pet foods, especially if your dog has health issues or a sensitive stomach.

Be aware that some vegan dog foods may claim to contain non-meat protein sources, but they aren’t vegan if they contain eggs.

When deciding which is the best for your pet, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Vegan diets are not recommended for puppies. Talk to your veterinarian about what to feed your puppy and how long you should wait to switch him or her to a vegan diet.
  • Not all fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your pet. While veggies like spinach, green beans, and celery make the okay to eat list, some foods can be dangerous to dogs, even lethal, including onions, chives, leeks, and wild mushrooms.
  • Always consult with your veterinarian before you make any changes to your pet’s diet. If your vet finds a vegan diet can benefit your pet, they might want to monitor your dog closely with blood work and vet visits to ensure your dog meets their dietary needs.
  • If you make your own dog food, look for balanced vegan dog food recipes, and consider adding a supplement to your dog’s diet.

Can you serve up a healthy vegan diet to your dog? Yes, but don’t be surprised if adding veggies to your dog’s food brings smelly consequences.  Our recommendation; don’t sit downwind.

Vetnutrition.tufts.edu, Clinical Nutrition Service, “Vegan Dogs — A healthy lifestyle or going against nature?” Cailin R Heinze.

Researchgate.net, “Omnivorous dog traits,” Guido Bosch.