Vegan Diets for Dogs: Healthy or Animal Abuse?
"Feeding your dog a vegan diet is animal abuse" said some internet forum you stumbled upon. Yikes. Is it true that by choosing a vegan diet for your companion animal, you're causing them to suffer? Let's take a closer look at some common arguments against vegan diets for dogs.
"It's not ethical to force my own values upon my dog."
As vegans, is it morally acceptable to feed our pets vegan? Many people choose to live a vegan lifestyle to reduce the amount of suffering that they're causing to animals, and some claim that feeding a dog a vegan diet will cause their health to deteriorate. However, it's important to remember that whether your dog's diet includes animal ingredients or not, there's potential for it to be nutritionally inadequate. (We wouldn't recommend feeding your pup a 100% bacon diet, after all.) Feeding your dog a well-researched, balanced vegan diet like v-dog does not fall under the category of cruelty to animals.
We know what does fall under physical and intentional abuse towards animals: common industry practices of animal agriculture. Every year, billions of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other species are raised, confined, and killed for our (and our pets') consumption. Check out "If I were born a dog" by Mercy for Animals.
"Dogs are carnivorous because they evolved from wolves."
Does evolutionary ancestry determine present-day diet? According to Dr. Brennen McKenzie, MA, VMD, “The concept of 'evolutionary nutrition' ignores the simple fact that taxonomy and phylogeny are not destiny, nor do they reliably predict the specific details of a species’ biology, including its nutritional needs. Sure, dogs are in the order Carnivora, but so are giant pandas, which are almost exclusively herbivorous.”
Studies show that due to their evolutionary history alongside humans, dogs make excellent use of plant-based foods in their diets. According to researchers, "High amylase activity in dogs is associated with a drastic increase in copy numbers of the gene coding for pancreatic amylase, AMY2B, that likely allowed dogs to thrive on a relatively starch-rich diet during early dog domestication" [Animal Genetics]. These genetic shifts have resulted in the physiologically omnivorous canines we have as pets today.
"Feeding your dog vegan deprives them of the taste of meat."
A study published in Journal of Ethology found that puppies did not share the same preference for meaty-smelling foods that adult dogs do. The puppies were presented with various food options and favored them equally, which suggests that dogs learn a preference for foods with a high meat content through experience, such as by observing their mothers, rather than innately preferring the taste of animal flesh.
If you choose a balanced vegan diet and your dog loves the taste, it is unlikely that they're missing out. A diet that does no harm to animals, provides complete nutrition, and has your pup jumping for joy at mealtime? Sign us up!
Learn more: Do Dogs Prefer Meat?
"My dog has a strong hunting instinct. She's not meant to be vegan."
Some argue that a meat-based diet is the closest we can get to a "biologically appropriate" diet for dogs. Duplication of the AMY2B gene over the past several thousand years indicates that dogs' diets were becoming more and more starch-rich. This makes sense, since domestic dogs came to rely less and less on hunting as a food source. Many breeds were even bred specifically to hunt for us, but not to eat the animals that were caught - thereby preserving the "hunting instinct." Dogs may exhibit behaviors that do not necessarily indicate their optimal diet from a nutrition standpoint.
"Dogs cannot obtain all their nutrients without meat."
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 their nutrition 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: Does my dog need to eat meat?
Happy, healthy vegan dogs
Don't take our word for it! Meet hundreds of thriving vegan dogs on our Testimonials page.
"Once I made the switch and my Blue Heeler got to an optimal weight, his allergies and mystery ailments disappeared, my entire family switched all of their dogs to a vegan diet. I can’t say enough v-dog. So grateful to your company." - Jennifer B.
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.