If you are vegan and follow a plant-based diet, then you know it’s healthier for you, better for our earth, and certainly kinder to animals. But did you know dogs can also eat a plant-based diet? In the same way, many parents are raising vegan kids, some are raising their canine fur babies on healthy and cruelty-free plant-based diets. Although calling dogs vegan may not be exactly accurate since pups can’t participate in the ethical side of veganism in the same way humans can; having a plant-based pooch is becoming more common around the world, especially with new research debunking old myths and now backing up the fact that dogs can thrive on a healthy and balanced plant-based diet. Keep reading to learn how your companion canine can live a healthy and happy life without eating animals.
Myth: Plant-based diets for dogs are unhealthy and commercial meat diets are the best option.
Fact: Dogs can live long, healthy lives without eating animals and can get all their protein from plant-based food.
This topic is often a heated argument on social media and can lead to some confusing and incorrect information being shared. It’s a myth that dogs cannot be healthy without eating animal meat. The fact is dogs can get all their nutrients from plant foods and this is now backed up by the largest study of its kind out of the UK. Last year The Guardian published an article about a study led by Professor Andrew Knight, which consisted of a peer-reviewed analysis of 2,500 pets and concluded that “vegan dogs visit the vet less often and require fewer medications.”
The study was published in the journal Plos One and researched vegan versus meat-based dog foods and included conventional meat, raw meat, and vegan pet food.
“Our study is by far the largest study published to date,” said Prof Andrew Knight, at the University of Winchester, UK, who led the study. “It revealed that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.” – The Guardian
The Plos One study concluded; “…when considering health outcomes in conjunction with dietary hazards, the pooled evidence to date from our study, and others in this field, indicates that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs, among conventional, raw meat and vegan diets, are nutritionally sound vegan diets. Regardless of ingredients used, diets should always be formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced, without which adverse health effects may eventually be expected to occur.” – Plos One
The Guardian summed up the results.
“Among the findings were that 17% of dogs on conventional diets had four or more visits to the vet over the course of a year, compared with 9% for those on vegan diets and 8% for those on raw meat diets. The percentage of dogs reported to have suffered from health disorders was 49% for the conventional diet, 43% for the raw meat diet and 36% for the vegan diet.” - The Guardian
Mr Bean at a Toronto Pig Save vigil. Photo taken by Anita Krajnc.
Myth: Dogs are carnivores, so it's unnatural to feed them a plant-based diet
Fact: It’s a common debate if dogs are carnivores or omnivores, but there’s a problem with calling them carnivores. Other animals falling under the Order Carnivora like dogs, include bears, raccoons, and giant pandas. Pandas are mainly herbivores and eat primarily bamboo shoots to stay healthy. There is plenty of documentation to prove dogs are in fact, omnivores and can thrive on a plant-based diet. Even major commercial pet food companies state dogs are omnivorous when you examine their “anatomy, behaviour and feeding preferences.”
On the website Plant-Powered Dog, founded by vegan Canine Nutritionist Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS, the debate of dogs being omnivores or carnivores is addressed, and she examines a few of the traits that separate dogs from true carnivores.
The following points are from Plant-Powered Dog;
“Dogs can convert linoleic acid (LA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid found in plant-based sources, to arachidonic acid (AA). Therefore, dogs can meet their need for AA by consuming plant-based foods.”
“Dogs can convert plant-based beta-carotene (also known as “provitamin A”) to Retinol, the pure form of vitamin A.”
“Dogs have evolved to digest starch.”
“Dogs can convert the essential amino acid tryptophan to niacin, as can humans.”
Mishel with her vegan Benevo food. Photo credit: Anita Krajnc.
Senior vegan dogs. Photo Credit; Louise Jorgensen
Myth: It is hard to fund nutritional vegan dog food.
Fact: It is becoming more common and accessible to find healthy vegan dog food.
Just like it used to be challenging to find plant-based alternatives for humans such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk, burgers, fish, and eggs, now you can walk into any grocery store and the shelves are overflowing with vegan alternatives to these items. Similarly, as it becomes more common for dogs to eat plant-based and new pawrents are switching their doggies’ diets, it’s also become more accessible to find healthy well balanced vegan dog food.
But what do you feed a vegan dog?
Toronto Cow Save co-founder and organizer, Louise Jorgensen, has been feeding her four senior canine family members a plant-based diet since she adopted them many years ago.
“Their meals generally consist of a mixture of whole foods including vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, and home-made stews, with plant-based kibble. Some of their favourite treats are apple slices with peanut butter, air fried tofu, dehydrated sweet potato, mango, oat-based yogurt, and raw carrots which are great for healthy teeth, gums, and anal glands. Not only do they love their food, but they go absolutely crazy for it!”
Jorgensen continues, “they have had almost none of the health issues that most dogs this age experience.”
Animal Save Movement’s Executive Director, Anita Krajnc, has adopted several canine companions over the years, including the famous Mr. Bean who co-founded Toronto Pig Save and brought comfort and joy to activists in attendance at vigils bearing witness to pigs. Mr. Bean, as well as her two current rescue dogs, Daisy and Mishel, eat organic vegan wheat-free dog food from Vecado.
Vecado sells many vegan pet food brands such as Benova, loved by Mishel and Daisy.
Other brands making innovative vegan dog food include V-Dog, run by compassionate ethical vegans; Wild Earth that created vet-developed cruelty-free recipes; and Halo Pets makes a vegan line for dogs called Garden of Vegan. Bright Planet Pet has created healthy vegan dog treats that help save the earth.
By eating a plant-based diet your pooch lowers their carbon pawprint by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, rainforest destruction, and the mass extinction of wildlife that happens in the animal agriculture industry.
Disclaimer: When switching your companion’s diet, it’s important to do it gradually by replacing a portion of their current food with new food for approximately 10 days or as directed by a veterinarian. Always monitor them closely to ensure the new food agrees with them and be on the lookout for any health issues. It’s important to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about their diet.
How you can help:
- Check out plant-based dog food available where you live, including chews and treats.
- Download your free vegan action starter kit to get started with a plant-based diet.
- Sign the Plant Based Treaty. Your signature will help put pressure on national governments to negotiate an international Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement. The treaty calls for system changes such as an end to the expansion of animal agriculture, the redirection of subsidies and public information campaigns, and restoration and reforestation on land and sea.