What Do You Know About Vegan Diets for Dogs?

DrPaul -

What Do You Know About Vegan Diets for Dogs?

‘Going veggie’’ has been a trend for many decades - remember Claymore the vegetarian bloodhound in 1989’s smash hit movie, Shirley Valentine? However, it now has new significance as many contemporary pet owners opt for a vegan lifestyle and increasingly seek out a vegan diet for their dogs.


Popularity behind vegan dog diets


As a society we’re increasingly health and diet-conscious, particularly as our supermarkets, cafes and restaurants carry progressively more diet-specific options. As ‘pet-parents’ many health-conscious owners extend the same care to their dog’s diets - after all, if you don’t want ultra-processed meats for yourself, it’s understandable you might prefer an alternative for your dog.


So just as branded vegan-friendly food options have appeared on our supermarket shelves, so have plant-based pet foods.


Possible benefits


Whilst dogs can certainly enjoy a meat-based diet, they’re omnivores, so the meat itself is not essential. However, the protein it contains is. Proteins are an energy source and are also vital for muscle building and repair, and for creating enzymes and hormones. A vegan diet for dogs can certainly match the benefit of proteins with a wide variety of plant sources, such as lentils, peas, micro-algae and soya.


Another possible benefit of plant-based pet foods is their low-fat content. Studies by the University of Nottingham noted some commercial dog foods contain excessive levels of fat. With obesity in pets being a considerable health concern, reducing fat intake could certainly be beneficial.


Alongside the human-health argument about unhealthy highly processed, modified foods, there has also been debate about the ‘artificial’ nature of some pet foods - partly a reason why raw diets have proved so popular for humans and pets. For dog owners who are vegetarian or vegan themselves, plant-based pet foods provide an alternative option to handling raw meat, in a move away from highly processed dog food.


Besides the possible health benefits to dogs, another proposed benefit of plant-based pet foods is their sustainable and eco-friendly production. Research reports a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions in the production of plant-based dog food, when compared to meat dog food. Whilst health and eco-conscious humans take steps to reduce impact on the environment, there’s a very public, international discussion about how moving to a vegan diet can help save the planet. With 13 million pet dogs in the UK (source: World Animal Foundation) vegan diets for dogs certainly fits into this conversation.  


Why be wary


It’s always wise to be wary of trends, especially ones involving vital nutrition for our pets. When public gaze turns to a new idea, opinions can only be based on the latest information, research, and independent scientific study. 


In this latest area of pet nutrition, considerable research is being carried out to discover more about vegan diets for dogs - and other pets. Already vegan diets are not recommended for cats because cats are obligate carnivores, not omnivores like dogs. Across the pet food and pet health industries, new findings continue to emerge for debate by pet owners, veterinarians, and pet food manufacturers. 


Balanced diets are best


Diet and nutrition are cornerstones of all pet health and, particularly when it comes to a vegan diet for dogs, the focus should be on nutritional balance. If what you are providing for your dog is proven to be nutritionally balanced, there is no reason why it’s not a viable option. As always though, take independent advice when exploring options, including discussion with your veterinarian who will be able to offer insights into the latest research, breed-specific nutrition and your dog’s individual health needs.

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.