Can Dogs Be Vegan? Is Making Dogs Vegan Abuse Or Healthy?

can dogs be vegan

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by veterinarian Dr. Sandra Tashkovska, DVM.

Dogs are notorious meat lovers and thrive in it, but can dogs be vegan?

It might sound far-fetched, and it’s given rise to much controversy, but research indicates that a carefully planned vegan or vegetarian diet for your dog is possible and even healthier. Today, we present the facts and the science behind both sides of this argument and weigh whether dogs can benefit from plant-based nutrition or if it’s dangerous for them.

As more people adopt a vegan lifestyle, the question of whether dogs can also be vegan is becoming increasingly relevant. Hence, it’s critical to understand the nutritional aspect of dog veganism and its impact on the dog’s health before putting your dog on such a diet. We also provide additional resources for those considering a vegan diet for their pets. Let’s dive right in!

What Are Vegan Dogs?

Dog veganism is a dietary and ethical choice that involves abstaining your dog from consuming animal products or products derived from animals. A vegan dog diet is typically made from fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, vegetable oils, soya, and other non-animal-based foods. A vegan dog diet is a stricter form of a vegetarian dog diet. Unlike a vegetarian dog diet, a vegan dog diet prohibits consuming or using animal-derived products such as dairy, eggs, honey, leather goods, wool, and silk. Vegetarians and vegan dogs don’t eat meat and fish.

Can Dogs Be Vegan?

Research and anecdotal evidence show dogs can be vegan and thrive on a meat-free diet. Research on dogs’ diet adaptation shows that our pups have evolved to eat diets with less meat and more plant starch (carbs).[1] Dogs can digest plant starch thanks to a mutation that happened over thousands of years in the gene coding for pancreatic amylase (AMY2B). This happened over thousands of years due to domestication and the start of agriculture.[2]

Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University states that dogs can thrive on a vegan or vegetarian regimen. However, it has to be a carefully designed vegan diet that meets all of their nutritional needs.[3] The American Kennel Club also states that dogs prefer meat, but a vegan or vegetarian diet is possible if it’s balanced.

Dogs have several omnivorous characteristics, according to Hill’s Pet research.[4] Dogs became omnivores about 8,000 years ago, according to an analysis of prehistoric dog droppings. An analysis of dogs’ anatomy, behavior and feeding preferences shows they are omnivorous and can eat and survive on both plant and animal matter.[5],[6] 

Is Making Your Dog Vegan Animal Abuse?

According to the official definition of ‘animal cruelty’ (neglect’ or ‘intentional’ cruelty to animals), feeding or making your vegan dog food is not considered animal abuse. Feeding a dog a well-researched, balanced vegan diet does not fall under the category of animal cruelty, as defined by PETA. Animal abuse is commonly divided into two categories: neglect and intentional cruelty. Examples of deliberate cruelty include overt abuse, dog fighting, and cockfighting. Neglect includes denying basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, or veterinary care.

Commercially available vegan food offers a solution for animal lovers who want to feed their dogs complete and balanced nutrition that is 100% cruelty-free and made from animal-free sources. Because it provides all the nutrients dogs need to thrive, this is far from being considered animal abuse.

Is It Healthy For A Dog to Be Vegan?

Dogs can be vegan and healthy if they get all the necessary food nutrients. The University of Vienna studied the consequences of a vegan diet on 20 dogs for over six months and found the diet change did not negatively impact the dog’s health.[7]

Commercial vegan and vegetarian dog foods are manufactured to meet all dogs’ nutritional requirements and are AAFCO-approved, so you don’t have to worry about any deficiencies. But if you plan to cook vegan dog food at home, it’s essential to seek the supervision of a veterinary-trained nutritionist. You can also use this book on plant-based recipes for dogs as guidance.

Is Vegan Food Good For Dogs?

Let’s take a look at what experts and research say about it.

  • Improved coat, skin, stool, odors & more. A recent study of 233 pet owners (174 dog and 59 cat owners) whose pets had eaten an exclusively vegan diet for at least six months to almost seven years reported that 38% of the pets had healthier and shinier coats after transitioning to vegan diets. Some animals, previously prone to scaly or oily coats, no longer showed signs of dermatological problems. Sixteen owners described improved odors in their pets. Some also noted increased stool volumes and improvement in stool consistency.[8]
  • No allergies. Plant-based diets are naturally allergy-friendly, meaning dogs can get their proteins from plants without worrying about common food allergies typically found in meat-based dog kibble. Experts at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University reported that plant-based diets are less likely to produce an allergic reaction than animal protein, which is a big advantage over traditional dog food.[9]
  • Increased lifespan and other benefits. Lindsay Rubin, vice president of V-Dog (a popular vegan dog food company), told USA Today, “We’ve seen dogs live into their 20s on our formula,” Rubin also goes on to list the benefits of vegan pet food as being “increased mobility, decreased allergies, better bowel movements, and excellent weight maintenance.”[10]

Vegan Dog Food Benefits

Here are some health benefits you can expect when switching your pup to a plant-based diet.

  • Allergen-friendly food
  • Helps with digestive issues
  • Aids with loose stool and constipation to gas bad breath
  • Anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve joint pain and arthritis
  • Boost energy levels and vitality
  • It may prevent diseases such as cancer or hypothyroidism
  • Protects the environment
  • Healthy heart
  • Support a healthy weight
  • Help fight animal cruelty (It’s cruelty-free dog food)
  • Weight management
  • Potentially can increase lifespan*

What Does Research Say About Vegan Dog Food Benefits?

  • Detox. Veterinarian and former President of the U.S. Humane Society, Dr. Michael Fox, says dogs can benefit from a vegan meal at least once a week to detox.[11]
  • Reduces cancer risk. Dr. Richard Pitcain, DVM, notes that we may be putting our dogs at higher risk of cancer due to the bioaccumulation of toxins and chemicals found in the animal-derived diet that we most often feed them. Dr. Pitcain noticed an improvement in many of his cancer patients after switching to a nutritionally complete plant-based diet. Because veganism lacks the chemicals in bone and meat, it lowers cancer risk.[12] Research suggests that consumption of certain vegetables may prevent or slow the development of Urothelial carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) in Scottish Terriers.[13]
  • Improves gut health. A study found that 90 percent of dogs suffering from gastrointestinal issues had improved stool consistency when switched to vegan dog food.
  • Dandruff relief. Research revealed that 77 percent of dogs with dandruff found relief from the skin condition after switching to a vegan diet.
  • Better coat. 49% of owners feeding their dogs a vegan diet reported an improvement in hair coat glossiness, with 26 (26.5%) reporting a slight increase in shine and 22 (22.4%) reporting a significant improvement in shine.[14]

Dr. Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics and Director of the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester, says dogs can thrive on vegan or vegetarian diets if they are nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced.[15] While dogs can survive on a vegan diet, whether it is a “good” option depends on individual circumstances and should be approached with careful planning and ongoing veterinary supervision to ensure it meets all dietary needs. This approach helps minimize health risks and supports the dog’s overall well-being.

Veterinarian Researcher Explains Dog Vegan Veganism

Do Vegan Dogs Live Longer?

While research is still minimal, anecdotal evidence suggests dogs seem to live longer than their counterparts on meat-based diets. Dogs also tend to be healthier which leads to a longer lifespan.

Bramble, a vegan Collie from the United Kingdom, lived to 25 years of age and is listed among the world’s longest-living dogs in the Guinness Book Of World Records. Bramble’s owner, Anne Heritage, attributes her health to her vegan diet. For 25 years, Bramble dined on brown rice, lentils, textured vegetable protein, herbs, and yeast extract. Anne also notes she has raised seven other vegan dogs. Three of them lived to 19 years old, one lived to 20 years old.[16] [17]

Moreover, a scientific peer-reviewed analysis of 2,500 dogs found vegan dogs visit the vet less often and require fewer medications than dogs on a meat-based diet. The percentage of dogs reported to have suffered from health disorders was 49% for the meat diet versus 36% for the vegan diet.[18] This scientific evidence shows vegan dogs are healthier and can potentially live longer.

Dog Vegan Diet Risks & Concerns

While a balanced vegan diet is safe for dogs, feeding unbalanced plant-based meals to dogs can pose some risks.

  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency. Vitamins such as B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron are typically obtained through meat or other animal products. Therefore, if your dog is vegetarian or vegan, they commonly lack these nutrients.
  • Fatty acids and amino acid deficiency. Taurine and L-carnitine are amino acids found only in meat. They are responsible for eye and heart health, reproduction and fat metabolism.
  • Inadequate protein intake. The dog may not get all the protein it needs. Proteins derived from animal products such as collagen, elastin, and keratin—vital for healthy skin, muscles, and joints—are difficult, if not impossible, to derive from a vegan diet.

A recent study on the labeling adequacy and nutritional nutrient concentration of 24 commercial vegetarian dog food formulas found that six of the 24 diets (25%) did not meet the minimum amino acid requirements. However, the study only measured two samples, so the margin of error is wide. Also, 15% of traditional dog kibble (non-vegan) generally doesn’t meet these nutritional requirements, according to The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).[19],[20]

Do You Have to Worry About Unbalanced Vegan Food?

No. This only means that 75% of vegan dog foods are nutritionally complete. 

Commercially available vegan dog food brands are formulated to address any potential nutritional deficiency in their recipes, including those mentioned above. Always read the label to ensure the formula meets the corresponding AAFCO nutrient profile. However, if you make vegan dog food at home or don’t see any of these ingredients included in your dog’s vegan kibble recipe, you’ll need to include supplements in his diet to provide a balanced diet.

Where To Buy Vegan Dog Food?

You can buy vegan dog food at many pet stores, as well as online retailers. Some popular brands that offer vegan dog food options include Wild Earth and V-dog. It is also available on large e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Chewy.

If you are looking for a plant-based recipe for your dog, read our best vegan dog food reviews article to find the best formula for your dog’s specific needs. Our researchers for nutritional adequacy have vetted the brands in this review, so you don’t have to worry about any deficiencies. We only recommend trusted brands.

Dog Vegan Diet Misconceptions

You’ve probably come across a wide misconception about vegan dog food. Here are the facts.

Vegan Dog Food Sustainability Helps The Planet

Vegan or vegetarian dog food also has positive ethical and environmental benefits, contributing reseasons for dog owners to switch their dogs to a plant-based diet. The vegan diet has the least environmental effect, and it’s considered a more sustainable dog food than traditional kibble. Why? Vegan dog food requires less land and water to produce and generates less greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based protein production. More importantly, it reduces the exploitation and cruelty of animals often associated with the meat industry.

Can All Dogs Be Vegan?

Here is why a vegan diet may not be appropriate for some dogs.

  • Heart disease. If your dog suffers from any heart condition, it’s best to avoid vegan food. Vegan food may lack taurine, which can lead to heart disease.
  • Specific health needs. While it may make sense to feed a vegan diet to a dog with special health needs, some health conditions require a particular diet prescription and a suitable vegan alternative may not be available.
  • Dog rejects or won’t eat the food. Some dogs can be picky and may have a meat bias. If you notice your dog doesn’t enjoy or eat his vegan meal, you should stop and feed him a regular meat-based diet.

Can Puppies Be Vegan?

While puppies can be raised on a vegan diet, it is generally not recommended. Puppies have specific nutritional needs best met by a diet that includes animal-based proteins and nutrients. Puppies require a diet high in protein, fat, and essential nutrients such as taurine and arachidonic acid, which are found primarily in animal-based sources.

There are limited vegan puppy food options. If you plan to feed your 5-month-old puppy vegan dog food, consult with your vet first. Puppies require different nutrition than adult dogs. Depending on the vegan formula you provide him, it may require supplementation because of the high nutritional requirements of puppies in their development stage.

These nutrients are essential for the puppy’s growth, development and overall health. A vegan diet may not provide the necessary balance of nutrients that puppies need to maintain optimal health. It is also important to note that puppies have a natural carnivorous bias and may not have the necessary enzymes to digest plant-based proteins effectively. It is best to consult a veterinarian before making any dietary changes for your puppy. A veterinarian can help you find a nutritionally complete and balanced diet to meet your puppy’s needs.

Can Dogs Be Vegan Reddit

Here are the top thread discussions real people are having on Reddit on vegan dogs.

Dog Eating Vegan

How to Create A Vegan Dog Diet Plan

Cooking a nutritionally balanced home-cooked dog vegan diet is highly challenging. Getting the right balance of essential nutrients can be difficult on an all-plant menu without careful planning. That’s why we’ve put together this homemade vegan dog food guide to help you understand how to cook balanced vegan meals at home properly. We’ve also included some recipes. However, before getting out your apron, you should get the guidance and supervision of a qualified veterinary nutritionist. Cooking unbalanced meals can result in inappropriate nutrition and have negative repercussions such as poor coat quality, poor growth, weight loss, lack of energy, and low litter size in whelping bitches.

Get Veterinarian Vegan Dog Food Advice

You can get personalized vegan nutritional advice from a registered vet nutritionist through Vetster anytime, anywhere. You can also chat with an online vet and ask them questions about your dog’s dietary needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

The elimination diet is your first step. You can also conduct a dog allergy test to determine which plant-based ingredients trigger the allergies.

Commercially available vegan recipes approved by the AFFCO do not need extra supplementation. However, if you make vegan food at home, you will likely need to supplement your dog’s food.

All commercial vegan dog foods described that meet AFFCO nutritional requirements provide all of a pet’s dietary needs. Never supplement your dog’s diet without prior vet approval. Adding a supplement on top of an already balanced diet may cause deficiencies.

PETA suggests that a growing body of evidence indicates that dogs can survive and thrive on nutritionally sound vegetarian and vegan diets. They refer to third-party research to state vegan dogs see no significant differences in perceived health status between vegetarian dogs and dogs on conventional diets. PETA also mentions that some dogs are sensitive to meat and do better without it. PETA also says that many commercial meat-based dog foods contain ingredients that are harmful to them, such as pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, poor-quality fillers, and parts of animals that are deemed unfit for human consumption. PETA suggests providing a nutritionally complete and balanced vegan diet for dogs by supplementing their diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, homemade dog biscuits, and superfoods such as spirulina, nutritional yeast, and nori. They recommend gradually transitioning to a vegan diet and closely monitoring the animal’s health to ensure that the new diet agrees with the animal companion.

Like commercial meat-based dog diets, your dog’s food will vary based on weight, breed, and specific needs. Follow the instructions on your dog food package, and check in with a veterinarian if you still have concerns.

Yes, dogs can survive and thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Nevertheless, there are a few things you should be aware of to ensure your dog gets the proper nutrition for his age, size, and general health. The main thing is that your pet’s food needs to be nutritionally balanced.

Protein is abundant in the plant kingdom. Protein sources in vegan dog food include potato protein, pea protein, Koji, grains such as rice or oatmeal, lentils, quinoa, barley, and flaxseed.

Can Dogs Be Vegan? — Conclusion

Can dogs be vegan? Based on our research and third-party research analysis, dogs can be vegan only if their vegan food is nutritionally complete and balanced and meets their specific dietary needs. We recommend commercially available vegan dog foods as your first option to switch your dog to a vegan diet. They are a safe option formulated to meet a dog’s nutritional requirements.

Pet owners must consult a veterinarian and a licensed veterinary nutritionist before making any drastic changes to their dog’s diet, especially if they plan to make a vegan diet at home. A vegan dog diet requires careful attention to protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. When considering any dietary changes for your pup, veterinary advice should be considered before putting them onto any new diet. It is essential to prioritize the health and well-being of our dogs when it comes to feeding them before any ethical or personal beliefs you may have.


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Sources

Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Heredity
  2. NPR
  3. Tuffs
  4. Hill’s Pet
  5. Research Gate
  6. Daily Mail
  7. University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
  8. NCBI
  9. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center
  10. USA Today
  11. CNN
  12. Vegan Dog Lifespan
  13. Evaluation of Dietary Vegetable: TTC
  14. Fortune Journal
  15. V-Dog
  16. Bramble the Collie
  17. Wired
  18. Journal PLOS
  19. PubMed
  20. DATCP
  21. British Journal of Nutrition
Editorial Team at Canine Bible

Canine Bible authorship represents the unified voice of our entire editorial team and our in-house veterinarians rather than a single author. Each article, blog post, and review published under the Canine Bible name undergoes a rigorous review process, involving all team members to guarantee accuracy and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. This collaborative effort is an integral part of our editorial process and aligns with our four pillars of content creation. This approach ensures our content is backed by expert knowledge and factual information, offering our readers reliable, actionable, and trustworthy content.

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