Our good friend, Kylie Squire, wrote this blog about vegan diets for pups!
She & her husband scooped up Kona, shown here wearing our BLM bandana, from the rescue group Compassion Kind when she was rescued from Puerto Rico. She's a potcake mix of sorts, 10ish months old & is living her very best life in St. Pete, FL.
These days, it can feel nearly impossible to decide which diet is optimal for yourself, let alone your animal companions. While many lifestyle diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and even some chronic skin and ear infections) can be attributed largely to diet, you may feel as if there is no real consensus on what is best for you or your pooch. Meanwhile, the growing pet food industry (and the animal agriculture industry at large) is objectively unsustainable and detrimental to the environment (1).
In fact, many people would ethically object to eating the very food they feed their pets... So as conscious pet parents, what are we to do? Although it may seem surprising, a plant-based diet is a truly fantastic option for our canine companions and has been repeatedly shown to provide optimal health without the environmental and ethical costs of animal-based foods.
Two of the highest recommended plant-based dog foods are V-Dog and Wild Earth, both of which are nutritionally balanced, formulated by veterinary nutritionists and backed & promoted by veterinarians. Nutritionally balanced is a term used to describe many pet foods meaning the food can meet all AAFCO requirements for dogs without any additional supplementation. Plant-based diets are fed the same way ‘traditional’ dry food is fed, with the same nutritional completeness, just derived from different ingredients.
Despite these diets meeting the AAFCO nutritional standards, many pet parents are still concerned at their safety. Marketing can condition us to believing our dogs require copious amounts of protein from meat to be healthy.
How do we know that a plant-based diet is safe for dogs? Fortunately, study after study has shown that as dogs were domesticated, they have adapted to a starch-rich diet alongside humans (1, 2, 3).
But what about grain allergies? My dog is allergic to grains…
Most pet owners begin their search for a better dog food after encountering suspected food allergies or intolerances, often in the form of skin issues, chronic ear infections, and digestive upset. Because of fads circulating in human diet culture, grains and carbohydrates have gotten an underserved reputation. Many people fear that their dog is allergic to grains, which is quite unlikely.
According to the AVMA, only 0.2% of dogs are affected by true food allergies (4) and the most common food allergens in dogs are beef, dairy, and chicken (5). Allergies symptoms are caused the immune system reacting to proteins, and because all life is built partially from protein, your dog could essentially be allergic to virtually anything.
The great news is it’s far less likely that they will develop an allergy towards plant-based foods (6) and there are numerous testimonials of chronic allergy dogs thriving and improving tremendously on plant-based diets (7) because they eliminate all of the common allergens and promote less inflammation than traditional, animal-derived diets.
Veterinary approved vegan diets check all boxes when it comes to long term health! While grain-free diets have been repeatedly correlated with increased risk of heart conditions, vegan diets have not (8). Dogs on plant-based diets have repeatedly shown normal bloodwork (9). This includes extremely active, working dogs (10) and often experience health benefits!
We all want our pets to thrive and we all want to do our part to make this world greener and more conscious. Brands like V-Dog and Wild Earth make mindfully feeding our pups easy and sustainable.
If you are interested in doing more research yourself, I highly recommend the resources below and following some of these veggie dogs on social!
A Few Cute Pups to Follow!
As always, transitions between pet foods should be done slowly and always consult your veterinarian for any medical advice!
V-dog Dog Food compiled an excellent list of studies –
Does my dog need meat?
What is actually in dog food?
- “All that meat in Pet Food Has a Big Environmental Impact” https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/503376/all-meat-pet-food-has-big-environmental-impact#:~:text=A%20study%20published%20in%20the,It%20also%20produces%20more%20waste.
- “The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet” https://www.nature.com/articles/nature11837
- “Amylase activity is associated with AMY2B copy numbers in dog: implications for dog domestication, diet and diabetes” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4329415/
- AMY2B copy number variation reveals starch diet adaptations in ancient European dogs” https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.160449
- “Banfield: Few pets allergic to food; flea, environmental allergies rise” https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2018-07-15/banfield-few-pets-allergic-food-flea-environmental-allergies-rise
- “Food Allergies in Dogs” https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/food-allergies-in-dogs#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20food%20allergens,the%20antigens%20and%20symptoms%20occur.
- “Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): Common food allergen sources in dogs and cats.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4710035/
- Testimonials – allergies: https://v-dog.com/blogs/testimonials/tagged/allergies
- “Amino Acid Concentrations and Echocardiographic Findings in Dogs Fed a Commercial Plant-Based Diet” https://v-dog.com/blogs/v-dog-blog/ross-university-abstract
- “Vegan Nutrition of Dogs and Cats” https://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/hochschulschriften/diplomarbeiten/AC12256171.pdf
“An experimental meat-free diet maintained haematological characteristics in sprint-racing sled dogs” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19480731/