Vegan Dogs: Can Dogs Be Vegan? Is It Healthy Or Risky?

can dogs be vegan

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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 you the facts and the science behind both sides of this argument and weigh out whether dogs can benefit from plant-based nutrition or if it’s dangerous for them.

As more and 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?

According to research and anecdotal evidence, dogs can be vegan and thrive on a meat-free diet. A vegan or vegetarian dog diet is possible if they are nutritionally complete.

Dogs’ diet adaptation research shows 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 as long as 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] 

Can Dogs Be Vegan And Healthy?

Dogs can be vegan and healthy if they get all the necessary nutrients from their meals. 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 the dogs’ nutritional requirements and are AAFCO approved, so you don’t have to worry about any deficiencies. But, it’s essential to seek a veterinary-trained nutritionist’s supervision if you plan to cook vegan dog food at home. You can also use this book on plant-based recipes for dogs as guidance.

Is Vegan Food Good For Dogs?

What do vegan dog diet studies state? Let’s take a look at the evidence and what the experts say.

  • Improved coat, skin, stool, odors & more. A recent study of 233 pet owners (174 dog and 59 cat owners) where the 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. And sixteen owners described improved odors of their pets. Some also noted increased stool volumes and improvement in stool consistency.[8]
  • No allergies. It is known that the most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those derived from dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or gluten (wheat), all of which are typically found in meat-based dogs kibble. Food allergies can cause various symptoms in dogs, including rashes, dry and itchy skin, vomiting, and fur loss, among other issues. Plant-based diets are naturally allergy-friendly, meaning dogs can get their proteins from plants without worrying about allergies. Experts at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University reported that plant-based diets are less common 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 20’s 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]

So, is a plant-based diet good for dogs?

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 vegetarian diets as long as they are nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced.[11]

Vegan Dog Food Benefits

Plant-based diets (or meatless dog food) offer many health 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
  • 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*

Research-Backed 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.[12]
  • 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.[13] In fact, 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.[14]
  • 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 of these (26.5%) reporting a slight increase in shine and 22 (22.4%) reporting a great improvement in shine.[15]

Can Dogs Be Vegan? Veterinarian Researcher Explains

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, some risks are associated with feeding unbalanced plant-based meals to dogs.

  • 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, it is common for them to 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 they need. 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 of each, so the margin of error is wide. Also, generally, 15% of traditional dog kibble (non-vegan) 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 your 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.

best vegan dog food

Dog Vegan Diet Misconceptions

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

  • Myth #1: Dogs are carnivores and need meat to thrive. This is not accurate. According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, research by Hill’s Pet and other large dog food companies, dogs are biologically classified as omnivores and can eat and remain healthy with animals and plants.
  • Myth #2: Dogs need meat for protein. Not true. Protein is also found in plants. Plants can provide dogs with plenty of nutrient-dense proteins. Certain plants, like peas, are naturally high in protein.
  • Myth #3: Dog vegan diet is not healthy. False. As long as a dog’s diet is balanced, nutrition can come from 100% plant-based sources. In fact, a research study published by Cambridge University Press reported health checks on 12 sprint-racing Siberian Huskies (where 6 were fed a commercial diet recommended for active dogs and the other 6 a meat-free diet) for 16 weeks, which included 10 weeks of competitive racing. All dogs were assessed as being in excellent physical condition, and none developed anemia or other detectable health problems.[21]
  • Myth #4: Veterinarians don’t think a vegan diet is appropriate for dogs. Not accurate. Many veterinarians recommend and promote a vegan or vegetarian diet in dogs as long as it’s a balanced formula.
  • Myth #5: Commercial vegan dog kibble is not balanced. False. Vegan dog food brands are regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines to ensure their formulas meet all dog’s nutritional needs. AAFCO is the same regulatory body that regulates traditional dog food brands.
  • Myth #6: Vegan diets lack certain amino acids. No. All 10 essential amino acids for dogs can be obtained from plant-based foods.

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.

sustainable dog food

Why Dogs Should Not Be Vegan

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 of prescription, and there may not be a suitable vegan alternative.
  • 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

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 to feed their dogs a complete and balanced nutrition that is 100% cruelty-free and made from animal-free sources. Because they provide all the nutrients they need to thrive, this is far from being considered animal abuse.

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.

homemade vegan dog food

Need Veterinarian Vegan Dog Food Advice?

Here you can book a video appointment to chat with one of our vets for advice on vegan dog diets. They will be able to answer all your questions and concerns.

Can Dogs Be Vegan Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most commonly asked questions about vegan dogs.

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 your dog’s specific dietary needs. We recommend commercially available vegan dog foods as your first option if you want to switch your dog to a vegan diet. They are a safe option as they have been 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 diet for dogs requires careful attention to protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Ultimately, when considering any dietary changes for your pup, veterinary advice should be considered before putting them onto any new diet. It is important 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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Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check 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] V-Dog, [12] CNN, [13] Vegan Dog Lifespan [14] Evaluation Dietary Vegetable: TTC [15] Fortune Journal [16] Bramble the Collie, [17] Wired [18] Journal PLOS [19] PubMed [20] DATCP [21] British Journal of Nutrition

Editorial Team at Canine Bible | + posts

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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