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Food & Diet

Unleashing the Debate On Plant-Pawsitive Pups

At A Glance

Vegetarianism and veganism are controversial topics, especially when it comes to dogs. Although there are ample studies on humans, what does the research say about vegetarian or plant-based dog diets? And can dogs be vegan?

  • Studies show that vegetarian diets may be beneficial, even for extremely active dogs, like competitive sled dogs. The key is a nutritionally balanced and professionally formulated diet.
  • Dogs have genetically evolved to adapt to human diets, equipping them to benefit from plant-based diets, unlike their wolf ancestors.

Last Updated on: May 25, 2023


Veganism has been and will continue to be debated among humans, let alone dogs. And varying opinions are here to stay.

If you’re a pet parent considering a vegan diet for your dog, you may wonder, “can dogs be vegan?” And all the noise can be confusing, if not downright overwhelming.

To answer the question – yes, yes, and yes!

Dogs can indeed follow a vegan diet. Dogs are omnivores by nature and can thrive on plant-based diets. However, it doesn’t mean just feeding your dog an odd assortment of leaves and berries.

Instead, experts suggest that even vegetarian and/or vegan diets for dogs must be carefully balanced to ensure your pet gets all the nutrients needed.

Let’s look at all that entails a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet. Let’s also explore the risks and benefits associated with putting your pet on a vegan diet so you can make an informed decision.

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History Of Plant-Based Dog Diets

The earliest account of a dog following a vegan diet is that of Bramble, a Welsh collie who lived for 25 years! Vegan activist Anne Heritage’s book “Bramble; The Dog Who Wanted to Live Forever, The Somerset Notes” recounts her pet’s life.

The book talks about how Bramble, even at 20 years old, remained “alert and active and went for a walk four times a day and swam once a week.” As you might have guessed, Bramble’s diet consisted of homemade vegan food since vegan food wasn’t commercially available in the 1970s.

Heritage’s dogs ate a mix of organic brown rice, lentils, homegrown herbs and vegetables, and textured soya protein once a day. They walked for 3-4 hours daily as part of their exercise routine.

Bramble’s rescue “siblings” also lived long lives, with two of them living until they were 19 and 20 years old.

Commercially-available vegetarian dog food started appearing on shelves in the 1980s and early 2000s, making vegan diets for dogs much more accessible to pet owners worldwide.

Today, plenty of vegan dog food brands promise complete nutrition and simple feeding instructions. However, read each label carefully to ensure you’re getting the best for your dog.

Some well-reviewed vegetarian and vegan food brands include:

  • Wild Earth
  • V-Dog
  • Bramble Pets
  • PawCo Foods
  • Halo
  • Wysong
  • Petaluma

dog eating veggies

Dietary Needs Of The Dog

In order to thrive, dogs require various types of nutrients, including proteins for amino acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and water:

Proteins and Amino Acids

Proteins are essential to dogs because they cannot produce amino acids naturally. Protein also aids in muscle building and repair, tissue growth, hormone health, and other bodily functions.

Fats and Fatty Acids

Dietary fats from seed oils and animal fats provide energy and facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. They are essential for cell structure and function and healthy skin and coat.


These serve as a source of energy and come in the form of starches, dietary fibers, and sugars.

Vitamins and Minerals

A balanced diet with essential vitamins and minerals will help maintain healthy eyesight, immunity, joint mobility, cardiovascular health, and more.


Dogs should always have access to fresh, clean water. Tap, bottled, or spring water is fine, too, as long as the dog remains hydrated. Sufficient water eliminates waste and potential infections.

Among the vitamins and minerals dogs need are:

  • Vitamin A: For vision, immune function, growth, and fetal development
  • Vitamin D: For balance with minerals ingested
  • Vitamin E and Selenium: To combat oxidative damage
  • Calcium and Vitamin K: For bone and blood health
  • Thiamin and Pantothenic Acid: For carbohydrate and energy metabolism
  • Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, and Niacin: For proper enzyme functions
  • Vitamin B6: For blood health, cell function, nervous and immune system health, hormone regulation, and gene regulation
  • Folic Acid: For protein synthesis and metabolism
  • Choline: For proper fat metabolism
  • Phosphorus: For skeletal integrity, gene health, and metabolism
  • Magnesium: For muscle and nerve stability, hormone health, bone health, and proper enzyme functions

I’d suggest reading the National Research Council’s handy nutrition guide for a comprehensive discussion on the recommended canine doses.

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Benefits Of A Fresh Food Diet

Several studies support the theory that a diet rich in fresh, plant-based food benefits dogs. A 2016 study, in particular, confirmed that dogs on balanced plant-based diets could be healthier than those on traditional, meat-based diets.

Dogs on vegetarian and vegan diets also have a lower risk of cancer, infections, hormonal diseases, and even ectoparasites, like ticks, fleas, mites, and lice. In addition, vegan diets may also improve dogs’ coat condition, weight, and allergic reactions.

Among the top reasons for switching to a plant-based diet is allergy treatment. Many dogs get skin and ear infections from commercially-available grain-and-meat-based pet food. Plant-based dog food, on the other hand, is naturally low in common allergens, making them an ideal dietary solution for dogs with itchy skin and ears.

Here are some more benefits of feeding dogs fresh, plant-based foods:

Increased Energy

Unlike fresh, wholesome foods, overly processed foods can be difficult for dogs to digest. Switching to a vegetarian diet results in better endurance due to readily available energy.

Healthier Eyes

Fresh foods like carrots, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, which benefits eye health.

Lesser (and Firmer) Stools

Processed foods typically contain excessive fiber to “bulk up” prepackaged kibble.

However, that is difficult to digest. As a result, the body cannot absorb nutrients, leading to colon cancer and other digestive illnesses in the long run

Fewer Vet Trips

Vitamins and minerals keep a dog’s immune system healthy, reducing the need for medical interventions.

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Risks Of A Vegan Diet For Dogs

While a vegan diet can indeed meet a dog’s nutritional needs, there are also some risks to be considered. If not done right, transitioning to a vegan diet may cause more harm than good.

Among the potential risks of a vegan diet are:

  • Soft stools: Usually temporary and indicative of digestion problems
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Without proper supplementation, vegan diets can cause dietary deficiencies
  • Canine heart disease: Dogs fed an excessive amount of legumes like peas, and lentils may develop non-hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy due to certain compounds found in these foods
  • Amino acid deficiency: Vegan diets may also cause deficiencies of certain amino acids, such as leucine, methionine, and taurine

Alternative Sourcing Of Ingredients

To address dietary concerns, experts recommend commercial vegan food brands that meet AAFCO’s regulations. Alternatively, you can seek dog food options specifically formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.

If you are considering vegan food for your pet, you may want to consult a veterinary nutritionist for a well-balanced diet plan. In any case, sourcing alternatives to meat-based products shouldn’t be difficult, especially given the abundance of vegetarian treats, foods, and supplements now available in the market.

Vegan Food Dogs Can or Cannot Eat

To ensure your dog’s plant-based diet is healthy, it is important to balance its nutritional intake. Dogs need specific nutrients that are commonly found in meat. Therefore, you will need to seek out alternative sources of these nutrients to supplement your dog’s meals.

Foods Dogs Cannot Eat

You can incorporate vegan or vegetarian foods into your dog’s diet, even if you do not intend to fully adapt it to a plant-based diet.

A Persuasive Case For A Vegan Diet

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition examined 12 sprint-racing Siberian Huskies. They were fed either a commercial diet for active dogs or a vegan diet containing the same nutrient profile.

The results revealed that not only can dogs be vegetarian, but they can also thrive on a balanced plant-based diet – even incredibly active dogs! Researchers confirmed that plant-based diets could actually benefit pets.

Another interesting study revealed that domesticated pets have undergone key gene mutations that enable them to digest starches. Which means that arguments about dogs needing animal proteins like their wolf ancestors don’t really hold much water.

So, if you were to ask me, “Can a dog be vegan?” My answer would be yes! But the diet has to be well-balanced.

A diet tailored specifically for your dog can help. Commercial vegan food brands, for example, have been designed to meet the AAFCO’s regulations, so you can rest assured they are nutritionally balanced. That said, I’m not saying traditional meat-based diets are bad, either.

There are several high-quality dog food products out there that can provide your furry friend with all the nutrients they need. It’s really just about the right food that works for your dog – whether it’s vegan, vegetarian, or meat-based. As long as you consult a professional and ensure its dietary needs are met, your dog should be able to thrive and stay healthy.

“Dogs could benefit from a vegan meal at least once a week to detox”, shares Dr. Michael W. Fox, a well-known veterinarian and the former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States.

dog eating

Transitioning To A Vegan Diet

Switching your pet to vegan foods is just like introducing any new food. A transition period of about 5-10 days is recommended, beginning with 1/3 of new foods and 2/3 of old foods and increasing the proportion of new food gradually until it makes up 100% of your dog’s diet.

It’s a simple process and shouldn’t cause too much distress to your dog. Soft stools may occur during the transition, but everything should return to normal once your dog is fully transitioned, everything should return to normal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Ok For Dogs To Be Vegan?

Yes, dogs can be vegan as long as their diet is nutritionally balanced and meets dietary requirements, like protein, fiber, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins.

Can Dogs Eat Plant-Based Meat?

No, do not feed your dog plant-based meat, as these substitutes may contain high levels of sodium for a dog. Moreover, they may also contain garlic and onions, which are considered toxic.

Can Dogs Live Without Meat?

Yes, dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet, but only if it is balanced and contains all the necessary nutrients.

Like humans, dogs too may experience protein or vitamin deficiencies if their vegetarian diet is not adequately supplemented. So ensure your dog’s diet is well balanced.


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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

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