All dogs can be vegan, provided their nutritional needs are met. Dogs are omnivores, able to utilize nutrients from both meat and plant-based foods. Dogs require protein in their diet, but that protein can come from either meat or plants. And yes, dogs can digest carbs—it’s one of the key differences between dogs and modern wolves.
Research on Vegan Dogs
Overall, research on feeding a dog a vegan diet is limited. A study published in PLOS ONE in 2022 concluded that nutritionally sound vegan diets may be healthier than conventional or raw diets. Unfortunately, some of the study’s methods raised questions, such as the number and ages of the dogs studied. More work needs to be done.
A 2023 study from Veterinary Sciences determined there is little solid research about the impact of a vegan diet on a dog’s health, also citing small sample sizes. Still, said the researchers, there’s no evidence showing the vegan diet is bad on a dog’s health. This study recommended that if you want to feed vegan, you stick with a commercial vegan diet. We recommend that the food you choose is formulated to meet AAFCO nutritional recommendations.
Other nutritionists suggest sort of walking the line. Rather than going full vegan, include eggs, dairy, and/or fish in your dog’s diet.
And, for some dogs, vegan diets may help with some health issues. “For some dogs, such as those with food allergies, liver issues, and even some urinary stones, vegan diets can be considered therapeutic. There are some well-balanced commercial diet options available that have been helping the management of these issues for a long time,” said veterinary nutritionist Renee Streeter DVM, DACVIM, in an article in Cornell DogWatch.
It’s Not Easy to be Vegan
Feeding a dog a vegan diet is challenging. The diet must provide your dog with everything that she needs while feeding a vegan diet. Although there are commercial options—Natural Balance, Canidae, Addiction Foods, Halo, and more—many owners still prefer to make a homemade diet for their dogs. Homemade diets are notorious for nutrient deficiencies, including many recipes you find online, that can lead to health problems.
If you’re determined to feed your dog vegan, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a nutritionally balanced recipe or choose a commercial diet with an AAFCO statement on the label. In general, vegan diets are often lower in protein and amino acids than meat diets, and these nutrients are essential to good health. Nutritionists are skilled at being creative to meet the unique nutritional needs of dogs and can ensure that your dog is getting everything that he needs while still following your vegan preferences.