Here is the latest "Ask the Vegan Vet," featuring common questions from dog parents who are curious about a vegan diet for their pup. Dr. Lorelei Wakefield has the answers!
"I keep getting mixed messages all over the internet....Does my dog need meat?" -Colleen A.
No. Dogs are in the Order Carnivora, however physiologically (in body function) they are omnivores. That means they can thrive on a wide variety of foods. This is an evolutionary advantage that they developed as they ate scraps from our ancestors. Dogs can be healthy on a plant-based diet. For instance, dogs in India are often vegetarian because their caregivers are often vegetarian. This has been going on for centuries. Dogs do not require animal flesh to maintain health. They just need a nutritious, well-balanced diet such as V-Dog.
"Ok, but my vet told me that my dog needs protein from meat. Are you sure they'll be ok without it?"
Great question! Protein is important. I am pleased to report that dogs can absorb protein from plant-based sources. V-Dog has sufficient protein for dogs as recommended by AAFCO standards (American Association of Feed Control Officials). According to the NRC (National Research Council), dogs require specific nutrients such as protein, not specific feedstuffs such as meat. So, they can get their protein from meat-free sources and still satisfy their bodily needs for wellness.
"How do I best switch from a meat-based diet to a vegan one?"
Any diet change is best done gradually over a 1-2 week period (or longer for dogs with very sensitive stomachs). Start with 10% new food to 90% prior food, or about 1 Tbsp. of V-Dog mixed in the old food the first day. Gradually increase the amount of V-Dog each day: 20/80, 30/70, etc. If your dog is hesitant about the mix or has a sensitive stomach, just slow down the process and go at a pace that is comfortable for both of you. Most dogs transition to a new diet over a week beautifully!
"What does the vegan food need to contain?"
Make sure the vegan diet meets AAFCO nutrient standards for adult maintenance. This is an exhaustive list of requirements that the food must meet to ensure proper nutrition.
"I've never met a dog that is actually vegan. What are vegan dogs like?"
I’ve met many vegan dogs. On the whole, the vegan dogs I’ve seen have shiny coats and are energetic. They also appear very fit (I have yet to see an obese vegan dog).
"Have you ever met a dog who was eating a complete vegan diet and was malnourished?"
I have not encountered this. However, it is possible to be malnourished on any diet. Malnourishment can occur due to not eating or not being fed enough. Some dogs have diseases such as lack of proper digestive enzymes (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) or inflammatory bowel disease and aren’t able to absorb nutrients as well as other dogs. In those cases, they may require additional enzymes or medications to facilitate proper food absorption with any diet.
"What is a good study on vegan dogs that I can check out?"
The most comprehensive review of evidence to date was veterinarian Dr. Andrew Knight’s paper, Vegetarian versus meat-based diets for companion animals. This study is inclusive of most other articles and studies on
the subject this century. It will tell you all you need to know! Read the paper here.
"Are there other vets who are ok with this type of diet for my dog?"
There are. There are some other vegan vets out there, such as those mentioned on this site, who support a vegan diet for dogs. Some vets may be uncomfortable with the idea because they are not taught about this diet specifically in veterinary school. For this reason, they may recommend a conventional meat diet if they feel that is in your pet’s best interest.
Most open-minded vets though know that dogs are physiologic omnivores who can fare well on a plant-based diet. These vets will discuss any concerns they may have and may want to know more about the diet to ensure optimal nutritional balance. In the end, your dog’s health and nutrition choices are in your hands. A caring vet will offer the best care for your dog and take an interest in their nutrition. Be open and start a conversation about diet with your vet!
Thank you for your questions, Colleen!
Dr. Lorelei Wakefield, DVM