Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dog Nutrition: Vegan Diet For Dogs?

"Sometimes we get so focused on whether we could, that we don't stop to think whether we should."
—Jurassic Park
A friend of mine, over from Canis bonus, recently asked me about my opinion on vegan diets for dogs. Shen then wrote quite an awesome post Dog: Vegan Dog or Raw Meat? She did a great job, the article is worth reading.

My answer was, "if you want to feed vegan, get a rabbit".

She went right ahead and quoted me on that.

I also asked Jasmine, what she thought, and her answer was, "put down the cauliflower and nobody gets hurt".

All kidding aside, I believe, that with perhaps some exceptions, dogs need animal protein in their diet.

It is one thing to argue whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, but turning them into herbivores? Seriously?

I asked my veterinary friends what were their thoughts on the subject.

"Dogs are omnivores. I've seen dogs survive on little more than luncheon loaf and socks. So which protein source you choose (vegan protein vs. cooked animal protein vs. treated raw animal protein) matters little to me. As long as the diet is balanced, and free of pathogenic bacteria or parasites, and most importantly, the dog does well on it, I'm content."
Greg Magnusson, DVM (Leo's Daddy), Leo's Pet Care


"I think a vegan dog diet can be done well, but it would be difficult to balance well. Get your veterinarian's blessing, and involve a veterinary nutrition specialist and go for it!"
Dr. Shawn M. Finch, DVM, Riley & James


"The answer, of course, as in so many questions in veterinary medicine is, it depends.

If we have a patient with uric acid bladder stones which is related to problems with purine metabolism, then protein from vegetables can help reduce the problem.

If we have a patient with allergy to animal based proteins, then vegetable proteins can help.

If we have a patient that requires a specific urine pH that only a vegetarian diet seems to provide for that patient, a vegetarian diet would help. 

Apart from patients in those categories, I cannot remember any of my patients that otherwise would have benefited from a vegetarian diet.

Challenges facing vegetarian diets are mostly technical in nature. It takes a pretty good nutritionist and a competent food company to formulate a diet that is balanced down to the amino acid levels using only plant based sources. It can be done, and it is done, but make sure any vegetarian diet used has been subjected to feeding trials to confirm it does work in the real world with real dogs, and not just on the computer. (Actually good advice for any food selection) Plant based proteins tend to be less digestible as a group, and that needs to be allowed for. 

In the absence of any disease issues, that a vegetarian diet may help control, households making the choice to use vegetarian over animal based proteins, are making a philosophical decision and not a scientific one. Dogs do not make philosophical decisions, which makes them  so easy to love."

Dr. Rae Worden, DVM , Fergus Veterinary Hospital


"I don't feel that vegan diets are the appropriate sole food choice for dogs.  Dogs are omnivores that lean towards the carnivorous end of this eating scale, so they are able to survive on a variety of nutrients, originating from either plants or animals.  In the wild, dogs would scavenge on whatever food sources are available. This may be blades of green nutrient-rich grass, a rotting animal carcass, raw eggs discovered in a nest, or a live caught field mouse.

Incorporating whole food based, fresh vegetarian ingredients (fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.) in a dogs diet can have many health benefits.  This is especially true for pets that consume processed dry or canned commercial dog or cat food, which is cooked at high heat (which typically deactivates vital amino acids and enzymes) and is often devoid of nutrients as nature intends food to contain."

Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD CVA, Patrick


"Vegan wouldn't be my first choice of diet for a dog because I think they do better on animal proteins than plants. However, that being said, some dogs can do okay on a vegan diet and some actually do better than on other diets. In short, in many cases, it depends on the dog.

You didn't mention cats but I'm going to say it anyway. Vegan diets are never appropriate for cats!"

Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM, Pet Health Care Gazette

Dr. Lorie wrote an article on the subject, Vegan Diets for Dogs and Cats and also referenced a CNN article about vegan dog diets, Vegan diet for dogs: A question of thriving vs. surviving.


A carnivores' digestive system is not designed for efficiently digesting plant material. 

Our dogs are carnivores, they are not strict carnivores and can eat vegetables, however just because dogs fed plant-based diets can stay alive does not make it the best for them. 

An optimal biologically appropriate diet for a carnivore is to have a meat based diet. An optimal biologically appropriate diet allows the dog to thrive not just survive. It provides them with the nutrients needed for a healthy immune system and a solid base for a long healthy life."
Dr. Daniel Beatty, DVM, Dog Kinetics

Dr. Dan also wrote an article on the subject, Carnivores are not vegans.


"If domestic dogs lived in a zoo, they would be fed fresh meat and bones with the rest of the carnivores."
 This is a quote from a video series What Do Dogs Eat by Dr. Conor Brady, Dogs First


"From a purely veterinary perspective, you’ll find very few veterinarians who’d recommend a vegetarian diet for a dog or cat, and even fewer who’d describe it as optimal nutrition for these pets."
 Dr. Marty Becker, VetSTREET


What do you feed your dog and why? Is your decision based on their best interest or your philosophy?


  1. I can't say I'd be open to feeding wither of my dogs a vegan diet. Except in very specific circumstances (some of which were outlined below) where the dog has health factors that make meat a poor choice, I believe our pets were designed by nature to process some foods better than others. Nutrition should be species appropriate. (Brilliant response to the question.)

    1. Thank you for the comment! Yes, biologically appropriate. Dogs are not cows! (or rabbits) Beats me why this is such a difficult concept to grasp. Or why so much denial around it.

      Did you check out the videos referenced at the end? Very cool.

    2. PS: We are so focused on whether we can, that we don't stop to think whether we should.

      (that is a quote from Jurassic Park)

  2. What an excellent collection of extracts, Jana. As ever, this is superbly researched.

    I particularly love the comment by Dr. Rae Worden.

    And of course, that broccoli quote by Jasmine is still making me chuckle ; P

    1. Thank you. Actually, I can't take much credit, all I did was to think of asking - they [my veterinary friends] did the rest of the work; except the last quite which I added myself.

      Dr. Rae is actually Jasmine's vet! Little peak into why we love him so much. :-)

  3. Hi Jana,

    I love Carrots, but it doesn't mean I want to give up my meat!! :)

    I think my Mum would be happy if I did though as she's a vegetarian, but Dad likes meat so he's always in my corner - phew!!

    Great, informative post :)

    I hope you're having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

    1. Hey, Snoopy, thank you for stopping by! Veggies certainly do have a place in dogs' diet, for a number of reasons. Jasmine gets them in her food also. But not as a source of protein.

      Go daddy! :-)