Can Dogs Be Vegan?

October 16, 2019

Don’t dogs need meat? Is it ok to even reduce the amount of animal protein a dog eats, because don’t they need it? That’s the first thing we wondered when we asked ourselves whether we could create a healthy vegan diet for dogs. First and foremost, we put our dog’s health first. So we turned to veterinary nutritionists to ask whether it was possible to reduce, let alone remove, animal protein from a dog’s diet. (You can read about our founder’s journey to find out!)

It turns out that, YES, dogs can eat a vegan diet and thrive. Here’s why. Although technically classified in the Order Carnivora, dogs have evolved alongside humans over thousands of years to become omnivores. That’s right – dogs are omnivores, which means they derive all of the essential nutrients from both plant and animal sources!

To put it another way, dogs have nutrient requirements, not ingredient requirements. As long as your dog is getting all the essential amino acids and other nutritional requirements, there is no physiological difference between whether their nutritional needs are met from plant or animal sources.

Let’s break that down into plain English. Protein supplies amino acids, which are the building blocks of your dog’s body. When your dog eats protein, his body breaks the protein down into amino acids. Your dog does not require protein so much as your dog requires those essential amino acids. And, different kinds of protein, such as animal protein, contain different amino acid combinations. But, as long as your dog eats and digests the correct, required amount of each of those amino acids, it does not matter whether the source of those amino acids was a plant or animal protein.

In fact, very few ingredients, including animal protein, contain all the amino acids your dog requires. That is why you see combinations of protein and supplements in dog food.

What matters most is whether you feed a complete and balanced diet. Meaning, your dog is getting all of the essential nutrients, including amino acids, required.

Most importantly, why would we choose a vegan diet for dogs over an animal protein diet? For all of the same reasons that we thrive in our own human diets by eating more plants and less meat. Plant proteins are reliable, clean sources of protein free of all the contamination-risks and diseases associated with animal protein. How many pet foods can claim a high-protein diet that contains no antibiotics, growth hormones, and other harmful contaminants.

Low quality meat leads to a plethora of health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Our companion animals suffer from the same degenerative diseases as we do from our human consumption! The vast majority of animal products in pet food is not high quality — even “human-grade” meat doesn’t mean anything with respect to its quality or how the animal was raised. By swapping plant for animal protein, you can ensure high quality protein that is also sustainable and better for animal welfare.

Let’s not forget, it is not just animal products that can lead to health problems. The biggest category in pet food is dry kibble. Indeed, many of the dog food brands and pet owners who claim that dogs need animal protein — because dogs are supposedly carnivores and thus it is somehow more natural and in line with their ancestral diet —are feeding kibble dog food! There is nothing natural about a highly processed dry kibble containing questionable animal by-products. It certainly isn’t what wolves eat, either. What is more, the intensive heat processing required to make those by-products safe actually denatures much of the nutrients. So, dogs aren’t actually getting the essential nutrients from the actual animal protein, but rather from the synthetic supplements. In contrast, a fresh food diet is easier to digest and meets a dog’s nutritional needs from the actual food ingredients.

We designed a healthier, cleaner, fresh pet food that delivers all the savory, meaty taste and texture without any of the health, environmental and animal welfare concerns. That’s a better pet food! You can shop our recipes here!