Is a vegan diet and vegan dog food safe for dogs?
There are tons of myths floating around online about whether or not dogs are able to live on a vegan diet or not.
Some people believe dogs are strictly carnivores while others believe they’re omnivores, like humans.
So which one is it, can your dog really be a vegan too?
Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?
This is an age old question with tons of debate surrounding it. People who feed their dogs meat claim dogs are strict omnivores while vegans claim otherwise, but who’s correct?
Let’s dive into the evidence and finally answer this question.
From a DNA standpoint, we know that dogs evolved directly from wolves some 15,000 years ago or so.1
And since wolves are clearly carnivores, that means dogs must be carnivores too, right?
Anyway, take a look at your dog’s teeth. Are they flat and dull like that of an omnivore, or sharp, pointy, and perfect for chewing flesh? The latter right? Only carnivores have sharp, pointy teeth.2
Dogs, like other carnivores, also have larger and more elastic stomachs capable of storing large amounts of meat, organs, and bones. They also have higher concentrations of stomach acid, which is aids in faster digestion of animal protein and also kills bacteria in decaying meat.
Additionally, dogs have short intestines because unlike plant-based matter, animal meat doesn’t need to sit inside the intestines to ferment; it’s processed quickly and excreted.3
There’s no denying it, all of the evidence points to dogs being carnivores.
However, a recent study in in 2013 reveals otherwise: it found that dogs have genes for digesting starches, a trait only found in omnivores.4
So what’s that mean?
Modern dogs have evolved into omnivores, just like humans.5
Don’t believe it? Just take a look at your dog food. Is it mostly meat or carbohydrates? The latter, right? Why are you feeding kibbles to a carnivore? Wolves are carnivores; they don’t eat kibbles, they eat fresh, raw meat. Their stomachs are built to digest raw meat, not carbohydrate-rich kibbles.
Evidence Supporting Vegan Dog Diets
Even if modern dogs are omnivores, they still have bodies of carnivores. Wouldn’t a meat-less diet be detrimental to a dog’s health?
No, fortunately this is not the case. Dogs are perfectly healthy on vegan based diets. Here are some studies that support this claim:
Study #1: Study on Sprint Racing Huskies
Theoretically, a dog’s nutrient requirements could be met from a plant-based diet free of meat, but the proof didn’t exist until Wendy Y. Brown published her findings in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2009.
The study tested to see if Siberian sprint-racing sled dogs would develop anemia on a meat-free diet.
Twelve Siberian huskies were studied over a period of 16 weeks, including 10 weeks of competitive sled racing.
Half were fed a standard commercial diet with meat as the source of protein while the other half were fed a plant-based diet where the source of protein came from soybeans and corn gluten.
Blood samples were taken and monitored during weeks 0, 3, 8, and 16 and the dogs were checked by veterinarians during weeks 0, 8, and 16.
Haematology (blood) results for all dogs, irrespective of diet, were within normal range throughout the study and the consulting veterinarian assessed all dogs to be in excellent physical condition. No dogs in the present study developed anaemia.6
Study #2: PETA’s Dog Health Survey
In 1994, PETA conducted a survey that gathered information on 300 vegan and vegetarian dogs spread across 33 states and Canada.7 Here are some results:
|Vegan Lifestyle||Total Dogs||Excellent Health||Percentage|
|100% of dog’s life||12||12||100%|
|90% of dog’s life||26||22||84.6%|
|75% of dog’s life||65||53||81.5%|
|50% of dog’s life||142||120||84.5%|
However, since a control group of meat-eating dogs wasn’t also surveyed, this results aren’t conclusive. They still provide helpful some helpful insights on long-term plant-based lifestyles for dogs:
- Dogs on vegan/vegetarian diets for longer periods of time have better overall health
- Veganism is more beneficial than vegetarianism for dogs
- Dogs on vegan/vegetarian diets for longer periods of time are less likely to get cancer, infections, or become obese
- Garlic and nutritional yeast appear beneficial to overall dog health and coat condition
You can read the entire PETA study here.
How to Transition Your Dog to Vegan Dog Food
Now that you now dogs can in fact eat a vegan diet and thrive, let’s help you transition your dog to a plant-based diet.
What do I feed my vegan dog?
Healthy dogs have protein-rich diets, and for modern dogs, it doesn’t matter whether that protein is meat-based or plant-based.
The canine body has the ability to transform certain amino acids, the building blocks or protein, into others, meaning that dogs can get all the amino acids they need while avoiding meat.8
Some vegan protein-rich foods you can feed your dog include:9
- whole grains
- sweet potato
- green beans
- peanut butter (natural & unsalted)
Commercially Available Vegan Dog Food
In addition to feeding your dog whole foods, the most efficient way to guarantee they’re getting all of their daily nutrients is with commercially bought vegan dog food. Here are the best vegan dog foods available today.
|V-Dog Vegan Kibble Dry Dog Food||20lb, 30lb||View|
|Natural Balance Vegetarian Dry Dog Food||4.5lb, 14lb, 28lb||View|
|Halo Vegan Garden Medley Stew for Dogs||4lb||View|
|Nature’s Recipe Dry Dog Food||15lb||View|
|Pet Guard Vegetarian Dry Dog Food||4.4lb||View|
V-Dog Vegan Kibble Dry Dog Food
Their goal is to feed dogs healthy alternatives to regular dog food while minimizing the environmental footprint that 80 million dogs are responsible for in the US alone.10
V-Dog’s vegan dog food is made up of 24% protein derived from 100% plant-based sources.
It’s loaded with superfood and have the perfect balance of vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids your dog needs to live its best life.
It’s one of the healthiest dog foods on the market; it’s free from animal ingredients, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, and fillers.
Natural Balance Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
Nutritionally, it’s the same as regular meat-based dog food, but without the meat.
It has a protein content of 18% and includes omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Some key ingredients in this vegan dog food include high-quality oatmeal, brown rice, and potatoes.
Its formula meets the nutritional guideline established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials for adult dog food nutrition.
Halo Vegan Garden Medley Stew for Dogs
It’s made with nutrient rich plant-based ingredients: assorted garden vegetables, chickpeas, peas, barley, oats, potatoes, and nourishing oils.
It’s free from animal protein, fish, and dairy, but rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids from flaxseed, canola oil, and sunflower oil.
Formulated to be easily digestible with its special blend of maintains, minerals, and other vegan trace nutrients, this vegan dog food also provides tons of antioxidants from sweet potatoes, cranberries, blueberries, and carrots.
Nature’s Recipe Dry Dog Food
Additionally, this vegan dog food doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives or color additives.
The healthy skin vegetarian recipe is specially formulated to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy with balance wholesome ingredients and plant-based proteins.
Pet Guard Vegetarian Dry Dog Food
This dog food features only premium USDA organic and holistic ingredients such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, peas, carrots, amaranth, and more.
It’s a great source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and is free from wheat, soy, corn, and yeast.
Please note, this is vegetarian dog food, not vegan, as it includes dried eggs. It was included it in this list because it’s a quality dog food with a step in the right direction.
How do I properly transition my dog’s diet?
The only issue that might arise from feeding your dog a new vegan diet is their refusal to eat it, but this is natural.
It takes time to adapt to any new diet; people have trouble with this all the time. The key to transitioning your dog’s diet is patience.
One way to overcome this hurdle is to transition your dog overtime instead of overnight.11
Giving your dog a bowl of new food will leave it wondering where its favorite meal has gone. Don’t do this.
Help your dog adapt to its new vegan dog food by mixing it in with its current dog food.
Start by mixing it in with half and half ratios. If your dog is still resistant, start with a 1:4 ratio of vegan to regular dog food and slowly increase the ratio over time.
Using this method your dog’s new favorite food will be its vegan dog food!
Another tip is to give your dog a little bit of whatever you’re eating. Dog love trying out the foods they see their owner eating.
Don’t be afraid to feed your dog some oatmeal and natural peanut butter. They’ll love it as much as you do!
- Lindblad-Toh K, Wade CM, Mikkelsen TS, et al. “Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog,” Nature. 2005. 438 (7069): 803–19. ↩
- Feldhamer, G.A. “Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology,” McGraw-Hill. 1999. p258 ↩
- Feldhamer, G.A. “Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology,” McGraw-Hill. 1999. p260 ↩
- Axelsson, E. et al. “The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet,” Nature. 2013. ↩
- Perry, G. H. et al. “Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation”, Nature Genet. 2007. 39, 1256–1260. ↩
- Brown W. et al. An experimental meat-free diet maintained haematological characteristics in sprint-racing sled dogs. British Journal of Nutrition. 2009. 102: 1318–1323. ↩
- “Dog health survey,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 1994. ↩
- Coates, Jennifer. “Can You Feed Your Dog A Vegetarian Diet?” PetMD. January 3, 2014. ↩
- Finlay, Katie. “12 Healthiest Human Foods For Dogs.” I Heart Dogs. ↩
- “Pet Statistics,” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ↩
- Kirkland, Mary. “Changing Your Dog’s Diet.” The Dog Daily. ↩