I’m a manager at a pet store and I’m continually trying to improve my knowledge on pet food so I can help people as best as I possibly can. My problem is that I have a lot of customers that feed their dogs vegetarian dry dog foods and every seemingly factual article I find advises against it. I wanted to know if there is anyone on the forum that does and if there is any proven benefits to it.
This is not scientific, just what I’ve read but dogs need meat. IF there is some medical issue that a dog can’t have meat or fish, then maybe. Unfortunately, every single dog I hear of who eats a vegetarian or vegan diet is because the owner is a veg or vegan.
Hi Matt –
Dogs are scavenging carnivores – they are designed to thrive on a diet of primarily meat but can eat plant matter if necessary. Surviving is not the same as thriving – a dog can thrive on a meat based diet, while it can merely survive on a plant based diet. If you looks at a dog’s design – their teeth, jaws and G.I. tract are those of a carnivore. Nutritionally speaking, dogs have a requirement for 22 amino acids – however their bodies are only able to produce 12 of these amino acids on their own, the other 10 must be obtained through their diet. These amino acids are most readily found in animal-based protein. Dogs and cats also do best on animal-based fats, they are inefficient at converting plant based fats into a usable form. I agree with Marie that it seems every dog that is fed a vegetarian diet or vegan diet is fed as such because that’s how their owner eats. While I have complete respect for humans that decide to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it is my personal opinion that it is extremely selfish and irresponsible of them to force this same lifestyle on their dogs or cats.
Thanks. I’ve read all that and I agree with both of you. I just didn’t know if anyone on this site had any proof or reasons why a vegetarian diet would be better. I agree that the reason most people feed their dogs vegan is for their own personal reasons and not to help the canine. Obviously I can’t tell the customers that. I guess I’ll just keep trying to convince them to change there dogs diet.
Thanks a lot, I especially like your comment about the difference between surviving and thriving. I’m gonna use that one!
Like others I think most people who want to feed a vegetarian diet to their dog do so because they themselves are vegetarian. I do though recall vegetarian diets sometimes being rec. for Dalmatians to prevent stone formation. My own dog was raised on a meatless diet because of a liver condition.
Dogs do not have any requirements that can not be met by plants so it is possible to have a dog be a vegetarian and thrive. By blending plant proteins there is no reason why the full AA complement can not be met. BUT where my concern comes in is are the commercial vegetarian diets always adequate?? Is the dog getting out of the diet what it needs to? Considering that not to long ago there was a problems found with lamb and rice diets leading to heart problems, I always keep in the back of my mind that what a dog gets out of a diet may not be what we think it does. That applies to all diets, not just vegetarian diets but there is less margin for error in a vegetarian diet.
As far as your customers, if you advocate against vegetarian foods they may just go elsewhere so as to “avoid the lecture”. If this is what they have chosen then it may be best for you to advise them how they can best do it, just as you would advise someone how to feed a raw diet properly instead of saying “don’t feed raw”. For me that means rotating companies and protein sources often so that if one company diet is deficient the others may make up for it. Advise them to use diets made by large companies with nutritionists on staff, that do feeding trials (Purina, Royal Canin), vs a small company with “a vision”. Inquire if they are looking for vegan vs vegetarian. ( Is a diet that is based in egg /dairy acceptable in their rotation?) JMO but I think your customers would be better served by sharing concerns and helping them make good choices vs just advising against a vegetarian diet.
Very nice Aimee thanks. I try not to push for that same reason you suggested, plus I wouldn’t want someone telling me I’m wrong about my dog. So I simply try to ask why they use that diet and then suggest the best vegetarian fromula my store carries. It’s still not a high rated formula but hopefully it will supply all the nutritional requirements their dog needs. I try to upgrade people but if they are happy with what they are feeding then I leave them be. I never try and talk anyone out of any dog food . . . . except Beneful
Thanks for the help guys. I’m glad I joined this forum.
Glad I could help. I prefer to see soy as a protein source in a veg. diet as it has a decent AA profile. I think (???) Nature’s Recipe has been through feeding trials and they have a canned version which is a little higher in protein than most dry veg. diets if you carry that brand.
One of the concerns with vegetarian diets is getting enough sulfur containing AA into the dog. If the diet is marginal in those AA and the dog’s energy intake to maintain a good body score is on the low end, the dog may not be consuming enough food to meet it’s AA needs. ( Newfoundlands have much lower energy requirements than other breeds which is why I think they were the ones to suffer from the effects of the aforementioned Lamb and Rice diet.)
When looking for something else I came across this paper which I think is a well done objective look at feeding dogs a vegetarian diet.
Thank you again. That was extremely informative and helpful. That gives me much more to relay to my customers.
You are welcome Matt,
Glad you found it helpful
I think veg food also can make pets healthier. but remember even veg foods have equal and even more energy than meat food. None of the pet food manufacturers indicate which animal meat is used and what part of the animal is mixed. Also they add about only 5-15% of meat in the pet food. we can use veg pet foods which has equal or more proteins than meat mixed foods. we can feed freshly prepared meat to our pets when we cook for us. Its made by the pet’s owners and it assures quality. also as everyone knows meat easily decays. manufacturers adds some chemicals to make it useful for long period and it makes meat unfit since meat should be eaten fresh to get the energy from it fully. Manufacturers add meat just to inform people that they add meat which dog needs and likes.
As one of our friend said dogs belongs to carnivores category. But an animal is said to be carnivores only if it kills some other animal and eats flesh. best example is lion which eats only fresh meat. but we don’t feed our dog with fresh meat. isn’t it? so, nothing is wrong if we feed our dog with veg food but as others said be careful with veg food and check whether it has all the essential nutrition which FRESH meat has..
A vegan dog, to me, is as ridiculous as a carnivorous squirrel. It is true that combinations of plant based proteins can be combined to form a complete dietary protein
A dog lacks the digestive enzymes required to use plant based proteins. Dogs don’t require carbs for energy either. My dog will eat broccoli and carrots as a treat or snack. Put a bowl of broccoli and a bowl of hamburger in front of him, he will eat the hamburger every time.
“Put a bowl of broccoli and a bowl of hamburger in front of him, he will eat the hamburger every time. ”
I really hate it when people argue like dogshtcollector. Just because your dog will always choose the hamburger doesn’t make it the healthy choice, does it? Put a bowl of ice cream and a bowl of brocolli in front of a 3 year old child, and he will undoubtedly choose the ice cream every time – does that mean that children will thrive on ice cream?
I think there is a lot of debate on veggie diet for dogs, but I think we need to stick with the science.
- This reply was modified 5 years, 11 months ago by hw60.
What science proves a vegetarian diet is healthier for dogs than a meat-based diet?
I’m not against dogs eating vegetables by any means, but I don’t believe they should be the bulk of a dogs diet. My dogs eat about 80% – 90% meat and 10% – 20% vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds and dairy.
I joined as I have a problem with what to feed my Lab with yeast infections and itches. A small amount of fish and above ground vegetable are the only things that seem ok for her. I don’t think this is healthy long term, but maybe sometimes we have to choose between this or medications. She is down from 2 pred a day to 1/2 every other day since feeding this and looking good.
I am not a vegan or vegetarian. I love veges, but do eat meat and chicken.
She loves veges and at the market have to watch she doesn’t eat the greens. When I caught my other Lab in the refrigerator trying to get the ham and cheese, she was under the table eating a bunch of chard. I use beans as treats as she loves them so much.
Head on over to the dog food ingredients forum, I have a stickie of grain/white potato free pods, which seem to work best for yeasty dogs.
I happened across this thread while googling something and couldn’t help but registering just so I could reply. There are many well meaning but sadly uninformed thoughts here. I have a phd in animal nutrition and really encourage all of you to get your nutritional advise from your veterinarian not from a forum of people with opinions formed from the Internet. Dogs DO NOT “need” animal protein. There are several complete vegetarian diets on the market. Most dogs also do not “need” to eat a vegetarian diet. There are many dogs that have severe food allergies and their quality of life is greatly improved by a strict vegan diet. There are also MANY dogs whose lives are shortened by eating a diet too high in protein. It does not matter much whether that protein is from animals or plant based. A high protein diet is very hard on the kidneys and will eventually lead to premature renal disease. The trend of the pet food companies pushing a high meat diet is very scary. Especially for older pets. The argument that that is how our dogs ancestors ate is ridiculous. Their ancestors were not spayed or neuter, they were not on flea, tick or heartworm prevention, they were not vaccinated. There are reasons we don’t treat our pets as there ancestors lived. We love them, want to take the best care of them we can, and remember, their ancestors didn’t live very long. FYI, I’ve had dogs that have eaten foods with meat, 1 dog who eats vegan because of severe allergies, and 1 dog who ate vegetarian based on the recommendation of a veterinary neurologist for the treatment of a medical condition. They have all thrived. It’s not a question of meat or no meat for the average healthy dog. It’s a question of the correct balance of nutrients. Too much protein is just as bad as not enough. PLEASE consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist, not a random person with an uninformed opinion and an Internet education when it comes to the health of your pet.
“A high protein diet is very hard on the kidneys and will eventually lead to premature renal disease. ”
Looks like you need to go back to school. This has been disproven for quite some time. Your PhD is only a piece of paper if you don’t stay up with the latest science or if you try to use studies to prove your opinion rather than what the study was designed for.
BTW, you need to read Dr Mike’s commenting policy.
- This reply was modified 5 years, 10 months ago by theBCnut.
I can’t imagine JamieZ had a degree in animal nutrition.
It really wouldn’t surprise me since I know what is being taught to vets these days, but to not keep up with current research is lame.
I don’t mean to be rude but what JamieK said is the exact opposite of what you should do. I see 100 to 200 pet parents a day, five days a week for years, and I can tell you Vets know just as much or less than the average person about pet nutrition. I meet people on a weekly basis that are feeding Beneful because their Vet told them to only feed foods that say “Complete and Balanced” on the label. Or that Corn is one of the best ingredients for a dog. C’mon, seriously? It’s not like the research or tests are hard to find.
Wow, some of you are just downright rude and closed minded. Until there is hard evidence, stop peddling what you just plain do not know for sure.
Everything JamieK said lines up perfectly to what little information there is out there.
Dogs are OMNIVORES, don’t let what you THINK you know about dogs get in the way of what they really are. They are adapted to be able to absorb both plant AND meat nutrients.
Am I saying dogs are meant towards one diet over another? No. But I am saying the lot of you have no idea what you are talking about and you should probably research before insulting a well researched opinion.
Dogs bodies do not produce the enzymes necessary to break down plant matter. Plant matter has to be specially prepared by humans for dogs to get much at all out of it. If their bodies can’t handle it without human intevention, then they weren’t meant to make a diet of it. Science that tells you how to survive off of something you shouldn’t eat in the first place is ridiculous. You can survive off of protein shakes. That doesn’t make it the right diet for you. That doesn’t mean that they will give you optimal health.
It is interesting that so much attention and concern is directed on the health of our pets whom we love so much, yet we disregard the inhumane treatment of the animals that are slaughtered for our pet’s food.
My dog and I became Vegan after we watched “Peaceable Kingdom” together.
Who’s disregarding the inhumane treatment of animals that are slaughtered for our pet’s food? I spent time every day scratching the ears and tailhead of the calf that me and my dogs are going to be eating next year. I’m very careful that he only gets the best natural foods, plenty of grass, and fresh clean natural water. My chickens are treated in similar manner.
Your dog can’t make the choice to be vegan and it is no longer hard to get grass fed, pasture raised beef or naturally raised chickens. So supposed treatment is not a reason to not feed a predator a prey based diet. They do cost more though.
I don’t know what animal kingdom you come from, but the one I’m aware of has a lot of killing going on in it and it is perfectly natural. There is nothing peaceable about the way canids and felid hunt.
What about the calf? Chickens? Treated well, fed well, but still slaughtered. Is there really a humane way to slaughter an animal? As long as we play into the acceptance of needless killing, we will be surrounded by it. Change begins within, with each person realizing every creature has a right to life.
Wild animals have their rules. Humans have free will and compassion. Domesticated animals love us no matter what we feed them.
Feeding a dog vegan makes as much sense as feeding a horse with meat. Have you looked at your dog’s teeth? Those suckers weren’t meant to chew grass! My dog can rip through a bone in mere seconds!
You bet ya! Treated well and then eaten. We are animals that were made to eat meat as well as other things. Dogs were made to eat primarily meat. Nothing you do or say will ever change that. Deny it all you like, but you can’t change it.
Dogs are Carnivores! If you can’t stomach the fact they they NEED meat get a freaking rabbit.
They are NOT adapt at digesting carbohydrates nor are they adapt at digesting plant matter. It goes out the same way it went in. Why? Because they are CARNIVORES! Seriously do some more research and study way more than you have been because all I’ve been pointed to is DOGS ARE STILL CARNIVORES.
- This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by DieselJunki.
I know this is more cat focused, but Dr. Becker just wrote this article last week about what can happen when you force a vegetarian or (worse yet) a vegan lifestyle on a carnivorous animal:
I just love Dr. Becker.
Actually I can’t even believe that this forum would have a sub forum for vegetarian dog food. Shame on this forum when you know it’s not right!
I remember watching an episode of “Animal Precinct” (NYC) where they dealt with a woman who fed her cats vegetables and rice. The cats were in poor shape, some were blind. Very sad. The woman was foreign and seemed a little “slow” (sorry) and I don’t think she realized what they were doing.
Dr. Mike isn’t saying the supports vegetarian dog food by allowing there to be a sub forum, it’s just here because the topic comes up a lot on the review section and there needs to be a place to discuss it.
Diesel, that is exactly what I was thinking, if a person has issue with the use of meat as food, they need to have an herbivore as a pet and not a meat eater as a pet. A rabbit is a good choice. Maybe a bird?
Most birds should be omnivores and need to eat bugs to get certain amino acids in their diet.
Well shoot that rules out the bird…miniature horse?
Rabbit, guinea pig, hampster, horse, goat, sheep, cow. As long as the vegan does not breed the rabbit, they make nice vegan pets. If you breed them they may go temporarily carnivore.
I’ve heard that, I wonder why they would do that? It must be something natural like the babies aren’t healthy and instinct tells them to kill them?
It is stress in some cases. It can be a case of mom’s dietary needs changing as she goes from pregnant to lactating. Feeding them some meat right after giving birth cuts it way down.
I have a vegan dog named Marley. She weighs 82 pounds. She is 17 years old. She is so healthy the vet could not believe her age.
If you have a choice, choose cruelty free. My dog is the perfect example of choosing cruelty free – for both the animals I am not feeding my dog as well as my dog. Look into it. Or at least look into how the dog food you feed your dog is made.
Just what does happen to all those dogs that are euthanized every day?
For me that was one of the catalysts for change.
“Just what does happen to all those dogs that are euthanized every day?”
Hopefully the vast majority of those have been buried or cremated by the owners. I do not know what shelters do with dogs that are euthanized. I know they do not go into the dog foods I buy.
I am speaking of shelter dogs. From what I have gathered, many are rendered into protein. The word ‘meat’ on dog food can mean any flesh from any animal. I am glad yours doesn’t contain that – blessings to you! I saw a video about this, plus did other research. I am still reeling from what I saw in the video sadly 🙁 I mean, it was not an article, of which I have read many, but a video which detailed the process 🙁
I actually know exactly whats in my dogs food. Chicken, Beef, Turkey, and Pork, including all their bone (well except for most of the beef, to dense), and organ! No euthanized pets in my dogs food! But then again I feed big chunks of raw meat and not kibble. I have watched that youtube video. It is very disturbing but something that will never stop until more people really start to care and research their CARNIVORES dietary NEEDS.
A dog is not an obligate carnivore. If they were, my healthy dog would not have lived to 17 years old. She is still thriving.
wow very heated discussion here, and creepy on the end. dog food literally? dog? seriously?!? I have nothing against people who feed their dogs with only vegies. If it made them healthy good for you. But the fact of the matter is dogs love meat. If your forcing your dog to eat vegies because its for their health and not their happiness then thats downright sad 🙁
No I would never force my dog to eat vegetables. When I put out kibble, bought before I knew what was in there, and I put out other food they would snub the kibble every time. It was never forced. I believe they can make their own decisions. They each prefer different foods. I would never force anything on any animal. I don’t think that’s right.my dogs are healthy but yeah they are really happy too. I want to emphasize that my vet says they are 100% healthy. But they are super happy too so there is no harm and lots of joy.
I have two vegetarian dogs, both relatively healthy. One has food allergies to animal protein and now that she’s solidly in her teens she has a bit of arthritis and some hearing loss. The other is blind from glaucoma she had before I adopted her and has had reflux for at least a couple years longer than we’ve had her (I was a humane society employee and my shelter had fostered her through heartworm treatments for a couple months with another employee when she first arrived there, then adopted her out to a home that we had to confiscate her from a year and a half or so later. Then I fell in love with her while working on rehabilitating her and wound up adopting her, so we know what she was like the first time she came through the shelter, but still have no idea about the first several years of her life). Aside from those specific issues, they’re in excellent health. When we first adopted our allergic girl, we tried all the atypical meat and carb sourced foods out there (duck and potato, venison and pea, etc). She reacted to everything, even plain fish. Her allergies are bad enough that when my brother was letting her lick out his empty individual serving yogurt cup, the teeny tiny amount of gelatin the yogurt he had contained was enough to cause her to have a flare up. Because of that, we switched to a vegetarian diet as soon as we found one that worked for her. She still craves meat 9 years later, but she just can’t have it even with twice daily antihistamines. An accidental mouthful of cat food is enough to cause a $300 vet trip for anibiitics, special shampoo, powerful antihistamjnes, and steroids and land her in an ecollar for a month because when she has a flare up, she’ll scratch and chew every inch of herself bald and keep right on chewing and scratching, crying as she’s doing it because she’s already gone through the skin. For us, vegetarian food is not a choice, it’s a necessity. Our other dog is vegetarian as well because the allergic dog will eat meat-poop if she can (thank god for top entry kitty litterboxes since cats are obligate carnivores) and flare up from that and even though we try to clean up as soon as poop happens, missing even one piece a month isn’t a risk we can take.
It would be amazing if there were more spaces where people with vegetarian or vegan dogs could go to exchange information about which of the vegetarian options are healthiest. You either won’t change their minds about the ethics or it’s a medical requirement for their dog, so isn’t it better to quit judging people and help them make the best possible choice within the parameters they’re working with?
- This reply was modified 5 years, 7 months ago by VegetarianDog. Reason: Edited for clarity
If the need is medical, then it is what is necessary. If its owner preferences I find it an unnatural for a dog
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