Humans domesticated dogs as far back as 40,000 years ago. Since then, they’ve been our erstwhile companions, whether cuddling at home or out on the hunt. And the reason we managed to convince them was simple: we gave them our leftover meat.
Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, love meat no matter which form it takes. For this reason, it may seem strange to hear talk of a vegan diet for dogs. After all, pet food might not be fresh meat, but dogs go wild over it because it has animal-based protein.
The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. Read on as we discuss the pros and cons of giving your pets vegan food.
Vegan Diet for Dogs: That Means No Meat, Right?
It’s important not to confuse vegans with vegetarians. Both vegans and vegetarians refrain from consuming meat, but these are two very different dietary habits.
Vegans go a step further with their diet: they only consume plant-based food. Anything derived from an animal is off the table–pun intended.
That means vegans avoid consuming milk, eggs, cheese, or anything else it took an animal to produce. That includes when the animal survived the encounter. Even if you harvest caviar without killing the fish, vegans would be opposed to eating it.
Instead, vegans supplant their diet with anything Mother Nature can grow. In addition to your standard fruits, vegetables, and legumes, vegans consume plant-based alternatives. These days, you can get vegan meat, cheese, and milk in almost any grocery store.
The Vegan Philosophy
For someone who enjoys a juicy, red steak, the concept of veganism might seem absolutely bonkers. To the surprise of some, though, many vegans enjoy that steak just as much as you. However, their moral and philosophical position compels them to abstain from it.
In essence, veganism is about ending cruelty against animals. This extends beyond the food they eat. Many vegans refuse to purchase products that contain leather or wool, among other things.
In other words, vegans wholeheartedly oppose the exploitation of animals for human consumption. So naturally, vegan dog owners may wish to do the same for their doggos.
Aren’t Dogs Carnivores?
Right out of the gate, it may seem like utter insanity to feed a dog anything but meat. Dogs come from wolves. Wolves are pack hunters that love a fresh kill… right?
Well, not exactly. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are omnivores. If you skipped Greek in high school, then here’s a linguistic refresher: the root omni means everything.
What Are Omnivores?
Omnivores are the happy medium between carnivores (meat eaters) and herbivores (plant eaters). They can eat basically anything.
Humans are omnivores, too. Our digestive tracts allow us to consume meat as well as plant material. Dogs these days are a lot more like us than their wolf ancestors.
This is our fault, unsurprisingly. When we domesticated wolves into dogs, they naturally began to consume our food–even when it wasn’t meat. About 8000 years ago, our canine companions converted to omnivores.
Evolutionarily speaking, animals have to adhere pretty strictly to their natural diet. A horse can only eat plants. Wolves can only consume meat.
You can test this yourself. Offer your dog something from your dinner plate that isn’t meat. They will likely accept it with gusto–and it won’t make them sick.
Can Dogs Really Have a Vegan Diet?
The short answer is yes. Thanks to the fact that they’re omnivores, they can subsist on a plant-based diet. However, we need to add a few asterisks before you sink your dollars into vegan food for dogs.
The Advantages of a Vegan Diet for Dogs
Going all vegan, or partially vegan, does have some notable benefits for dogs. Let’s discuss how your furry friend will flourish from plant-based pet food.
Reduction in Allergies
Some dogs may have allergies to certain products, such as chicken or dairy. This can cause them to vomit, itch, get constipated, or have uncomfortable gas and bloating. With a plant-based diet, this is less likely to happen.
Better Weight Management
Dogs will eat anything you give them, and they’ll chow through a whole bag of feed if you let them. If you are concerned about your dog’s weight, a vegan diet may help them to slim down. It replaces fatty meats with veggies and fruits that are still energy-rich.
Healthier Skin and Coat
Vegan food may also help your dog’s coat shine and remain thick–all while producing less dander. If your dog is looking patchy or is shedding more than it should, consider a vegan diet.
Less Risk of Disease (and Fewer Stinky Poos)
Meat, unfortunately, can increase the risk of cancer. It also has the nasty habit of acquiring E. coli and salmonella when left out for just a few hours too long. Plant-based food does not present the same contamination risk.
The quality of pet food is a regular topic of controversy in the pet community. Recalls for food cut with sawdust or contaminated with salmonella are common. Byproducts such as hooves and beaks may find their way into dog food and end up in Fido’s eating bowl.
Generally speaking, vegan food has a higher standard of quality. And even when it doesn’t, the risk of contamination and unsavory additives is far less likely.
And one other nifty benefit: poop after a vegan diet won’t smell so awful.
The Ability to Live a 100% Vegan Lifestyle
For many vegans, your pet is the only obstacle between you and a 100% vegan lifestyle. On a moral and philosophical basis, you may wish to live your commitment to the max. Giving your dog vegan food can give you the peace of mind that you are avoiding animal cruelty in every facet of your life.
The Disadvantages of a Vegan Diet
Unfortunately, the answer is not as cut-and-dry as “vegan = good.”
Dogs are omnivores, that much is true. That said, just because an animal can eat both things doesn’t mean they should limit themselves to one. The real benefit of being an omnivore is balancing your diet from multiple sources, not remaining celibate to just one.
While you can put your dog on a vegan diet–and many do–there are risks. Take caution and keep the following in mind.
Vegans often struggle to supplement their diet with the right amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and more. This is because animal products provides a lot of good stuff that is harder to find in plants. The same presents an issue for your dog.
In order to put your dog on a vegan diet, you need to plan it very well. You need to ensure that it’s getting all the iron, phosphorus, calcium, amino acids, and B vitamins it needs. These ingredients are plentiful in meat, but less so in vegan food.
Experts recommend that you get regular vet checkups if you plan to go down this road. Examinations and bloodwork will be necessary to establish if your dog is still healthy. It’s very easy to unintentionally fail to give them what they need.
It’s a Lot Of Work
Let’s cut to the chase: a vegan diet will take a lot of time. Be ready to spend many more hours than you currently do on planning and meal prep.
A large part of this will depend on what sort of diet you are going for. If you are making it from scratch with veggies and fruits, it will be like cooking for yourself.
Even if you go with premade kibble, you have your work cut out for you. You will need to carefully measure portions and ensure your dog eats all of it.
There will likely be some trial and error as you experiment with different brands. Your dog may simply refuse to eat that expensive vegan chow you just bought. And while we’re on that topic…
It’s More Expensive
Plant-based foods, at least for now, cost a lot more to make. This is because the popularity of vegan food has skyrocketed in recent years.
Mass-producing high-quality, affordable vegan food without animal ingredients takes time to scale. At least for now, you will have to spend a small premium to get it.
Keep Up With Your Dog’s Well-being at Pet Marvelous
A vegan diet for dogs may seem like an oxymoron at first, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility. Dogs are omnivores and can subsist on a plant-based diet without animal products. However, this will require a lot of planning and care to keep your dog in the best health.
Pet Marvelous is your source for everything dog-related. Visit our website for more ways that you can keep your pet friends happy and healthy.