Can Dogs be Vegan | Here's What Nutritionists Say
A vegan diet and lifestyle have become very popular. A lot of us want to avoid eating meat for various reasons. Some of us think that treating and raising animals for food is unethical. Some want to stop eating meat because it is good for the environment. Whatever your reasons may be, the point is that you stopped eating animal products.
Many vegan dog owners wonder, “Can dogs be vegan?” There is a lot to unpack there. A vegan diet can offer many health benefits to us, but dogs have different nutritional needs. There is a lot of controversy about this topic. Just because we have specific convictions doesn’t mean our dogs’ digestive systems will adapt to them. Here’s what you should know about whether dogs can be vegan.
The shortest possible answer is - yes. Dogs can survive on a vegan diet, but that doesn’t mean they should. Many dog owners and the general public think that dogs are carnivores. That would mean dogs have to eat meat to survive. Even though dogs belong to the order of Carnivora (meaning meat-eaters), dogs are actually omnivores. Here are the evidence that supports that;
- Dogs have molars with flat surfaces that are designed for grinding bones and plant material.
- Dog’s small intestine makes up 23% of its total gastrointestinal volume. That is a characteristic omnivores share.
- Dogs can convert beta carotene to vitamin A, and beta carotene is found in plants.
- Dogs can digest nearly all the carbohydrates they consume.
If you’d like to read more about whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, you can check out this article - Are Dogs Carnivores or Omnivores?
If dogs can choose, they will never voluntarily abandon meat-based diets. They love the taste of meat, and as far as we know, dogs aren’t environmentalists that worry about our planet’s wellbeing. There are two possible reasons dogs go vegan or vegetarian;
- Food allergies
- Their owner’s conviction
As we already said, dogs love eating meat, and a complete canine diet should include it. Let’s take a closer look at the two main reasons dogs might eat a vegan diet.
Like humans, dogs can be allergic to certain nutrients in their food. Humans are most commonly allergic to things like gluten, dairy, or soy. However, dogs are rarely allergic to the same things we are. Dogs are most often allergic to animal protein. If that is the case, your veterinarian can advise you to look for a high-quality vegan diet.
Deciding to become a vegan is one of our personal rights. There are many reasons you might want to consider it, but mostly because there are undeniable health benefits a vegan diet gives us. However, our personal convictions should not affect our dog’s diet. They are what they are, and numerous studies prove dogs thrive on meat-inclusive diets.
The first issue most owners want to put their dogs on vegan diets is this - preparing a vegan diet that includes all the necessary nutrients is extremely difficult, if not impossible, even for most experienced and professional canine nutritionists. Plants are a fantastic source of antioxidants and vitamins, but they do not contain enough fats or protein. When plants are added to a meat-inclusive canine diet, the dog will absolutely thrive. However, putting a dog on a vegan diet is risky, to say the least.
If you and your vet noticed your dog has dietary restrictions, and your vet performed tests to pinpoint what exactly your dog is allergic to, there are a few options you can do without risking your dog’s health and wellbeing. Commercial foods with questionable suppliers and animal treatment are not the only option. Here are a few things you can do if your dog can’t eat animal protein;
- If your dog is allergic to, let’s say, chicken, you can pick dog foods that do not contain the allergen. There are high-quality options like salmon, turkey, beef, lamb, bison, venison, etc. Talk to your vet and find out what the best option is. Here are a few recommendations for a salmon-based diet - Best salmon dog food.
- Research which pet food brands support humane animal treatment and sustainable farming. If you don’t eat meat because of animal cruelty, you can always choose a manufacturer that aligns with your beliefs.
- Switch to homemade dog food. You can prepare food for your dog at home. You can use your local farmers and check how they treat their animals. Another plus is that you can control all the ingredients that go into your dog’s food.
- Compromise. If you’re worried eating so much meat will have an impact on the environment, and you want to do all you can to minimize your personal impact - compromise. You can organize meat-free days for your dog where they will eat vegan or vegetarian options. This is also an excellent way for them to detox.
VET TIP: If you’re absolutely adamant about putting your dog on a vegan diet, don’t do it yourself. Talk to a professional canine nutritionist or your vet. Including all nutrients your dog needs and getting them from plants is extremely hard.
The good news is that there are some suitable vegetarian and vegan dog food options. You can choose from various manufacturers, but before you do, check with your vet. They can tell you all you need to know about your dog’s digestion, nutritional needs, and dog food options. Here are some vegan or vegetarian dog foods you can choose from;
- V-Dog Vegan Kibble Dry Dog Food
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Vegetarian
- Wysong Vegan Feline/Canine Formula Dry Dog/Cat Food
- Halo Vegan Dog Food
World Dog Finder team