According to Hill's Pet Nutrition, manufacturers of prescription pet foods and Science Diet, dogs can be vegan and may even require a meat-free diet due to animal protein allergies.
Hill's explains that dogs have evolved to make use of plant foods in their diets. Their website states: "While it's commonly believed that dogs are carnivores like their wolf ancestors, meaning that they must eat meat to survive, this is incorrect. Although they're members of the order Carnivora — which, it should be noted, also includes the giant panda, a species that eats almost exclusively bamboo plants — dogs are actually omnivores. Canine digestive systems are quite capable of digesting and deriving nutrients from fruits and vegetables."
However, they quickly turn around to state that vegan diets can be "dangerous" for dogs. Let's take a deeper look at some of their claims.
Myth: Dog foods devoid of animal fats and proteins can be dangerous.
Fact: Dogs require fat and protein in their diets, but they can obtain these nutrients from plants.
According to Hill's, "A dog food plan devoid of animal fats and proteins is potentially dangerous and should never be fed without the supervision of a professional." While it's important to choose a complete and balanced food for your dog (i.e., one that has been expertly formulated to meet nutrition standards), like humans, dogs can obtain nutrients like fat and protein from a variety of sources, including plants and even fungi. According to the National Research Council, dogs require specific nutrients such as protein, not specific feedstuffs such as meat. (Learn more.)
Myth: Dogs require certain proteins, like collagen, elastin, and keratin, that cannot be obtained from a vegan diet.
Fact: Dogs require 10 essential amino acids in their diets as building blocks for protein.
Hill's states, "Proteins derived from animal products, like collagen, elastin and keratin — all of which are vital for healthy skin, muscles and joints — are difficult, if not impossible, to derive from a vegan diet." But like humans, dogs synthesize collagen, elastin, and keratin in their own bodies, using amino acids obtained from their diets. Herbivorous animals, who also use proteins like collagen for body functioning, build these proteins internally from amino acids just like dogs and humans do. (Learn more.)
Myth: As vegans, it is necessary to compromise our ethics and feed our dogs a meat-based diet.
Fact: Dogs can thrive on a plant-based diet without compromising their health.
Hill's advises pet parents to "consider compromising" by feeding your dog a food that contains eggs, dairy, fish, or "humanely sourced meats." (Learn more about the concept of "humane meat" here.) If you're looking to feed your dog a plant-based diet, companies like v-dog have done all the work for you. In partnership with veterinary nutritionists and PhD pet food formulators, v-dog created a nutritionally complete and balanced vegan dog food formula that dogs have been thriving on since 2005. Learn more about what we do here.
Questions about vegan diets for dogs? Check out our Vegan Dogs 101 page.
V-dog is a San Francisco-based dog food company that makes animal products without animal products. Since 2005, thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes have been thriving on our food. Check out their stories here! Our kibble meets AAFCO standards, is recommended by veterinarians, and free of byproducts, fillers, and common allergens. Learn more about what we do at v-dog.com and check out hundreds of rave reviews on our testimonials page.