Yellow caution tape

The risks of vegan pet food

TRUTH: feeding a pet a vegetarian or vegan diet can be risky… especially, if you’re unwilling to spend the necessary time researching and properly preparing their diet.

There are serious consequences to feeding pets food that are poisonous to them, or to not giving them all the nutrients they need. To make sure you do it right, you need to be aware of the risks of vegan pet food – then you can avoid the pitfalls.

Nutritional deficiency

The most likely problem is that the food given won’t meet your pets nutritional needs. This is not necessarily the case – it is possible to have a vegan diet that meets your pets needs – but to make that happen you need to put some thought and time into getting the balance right.

The requirements for dogs and cats are different. To learn more about what’s required see the pages on vegan dog food and vegan cat food.

Cats, for example can easily become nutritionally deficient in taurine, B12 or some other micronutrient that is vital for health and wellbeing.

The easiest way to avoid this problem, is to use a commercial vegan pet food that has been designed to include all the nutrition needed. Luckily, there are a growing number of vegetarian and vegan cat food options available to consumers.

Otherwise, vegan pet food supplements can be mixed with a homemade diet, which can majorly help with regulating micronutrient levels.

Inadvertently feeding poisonous ingredients to your pet

Do you know which ingredients a dog or cat can’t eat?

Before you share your people food with your pet, become aware of the ones that can harm animals.

For a quick summary, avoid these:

  • avocado
  • chocolate
  • coffee and caffeine
  • citrus
  • coconut products
  • grapes and raisins
  • nuts
  • onions, garlic & chives
  • salty snack food
  • artificial sweeteners including xylitol
  • yeast dough

Learn more at ASPCA.org

vegan puppy looking at food

Problems with transition to a vegan diet

As with any change to your pets diet, there could be issues arising during the transition stage. When your pet’s stomach is used to a particular type of food, it may need some time to adjust to the change.

Always change your pets diet slowly. Take a couple of weeks to slowly phase out the old food and introduce the new food. Pay careful attention to your pets health during the process.

Urinary stones

Further complications can arise from cats developing stones in their urinary tract as a result of their urine alkalizing, causing blockage, pain and a host of serious problems down the line.

As recommended by Dr. Andrew Knight, it is important to regularly check the acidity of your cat’s urine during the vegan transition and it’s strongly advised to take the transition gradually.  This means that you slowly replace foods in the cat’s existing diet with vegan alternatives.

This will provide enough time for your cat to properly adapt, without becoming seriously ill in the process. There are a variety of options available for checking your cat’s urine pH level, including brands of cat litter that have color indicators or testing a sample with an indicator swab.

Allergies

As with any diet, there is the risk of the pet being allergic to or having a sensitivity to one of the included ingredients. This isn’t something particular to a vegan pet diet, but something to be aware of anyway.

If there is an underlying allergy to an ingredient commonly found in vegan pet food, such as soybeans, this could spark health issues seemingly out of the blue. At the first sign of any complications arising during the transition to a vegan diet, it is important that you get your pet checked by a vet to outline the cause and not speculate.

 

Conclusion

There are certainly potential hazards of transitioning your pet to a vegan diet. The risks can, however, be managed and worked around.

There are also potential benefits that are seemingly very worthwhile, not to mention the benefit of reducing your contribution to the meat and dairy industries.

Provided that you take the necessary care and steps to ensure that your pet transitions to vegan pet food successfully, there seems to be no reason or scientific justification for not feeding your pet a vegan diet.

The risks of vegan pet food can easily be overcome by buying commercial pet food that has quality ingredients in the right balance. To help get you started, we’ve reviewed the best vegan dog food and vegan cat food brands available on Amazon.

vegan dog outside

Vegan Dog Food – Is it Cruel or Kind?

Is vegan dog food cruel or kind??? This one question can raise a heated debate!

Everyone seems to have an opinion on vegan diets – especially when it comes to feeding a vegan diet to those who haven’t chosen it, such as children or pets. Often these opinions have little knowledge behind them and are based on their own assumptions and cultural norms. So lets take a look at the question.

 

Questioning traditional dog food

Veganism is one of the fastest growing movements of 2017. As people get used to changing their own diet to plant based foods, they question other areas of life and the assumptions we make.

For dog owners, this involves the question of vegan dog food. To meet the demand, several brands of vegan dog food have surfaced in the market. (We’ve reviewed some on this page.)

Once you’ve eliminated meat from your own diet, the thought and experience of serving up canned dog food becomes quite repulsive.

This can be the trigger to ask:

  • Is meat-based dog food really necessary?
  • Do dogs have to eat meat to be healthy?
  • Why am I condoning cruelty to one animal in order to help another animal?
  • Is there a way to treat my pet well without treating other animals badly?
  • If there are health benefits to humans from eating a whole food plant based diet, might the same benefits apply to dogs?

 

Why do we love some animals and eat others?

Have you come across the research of Melanie Joy on the topic of carnism? She explores the question of why people treat different types of animals differently. We have all been raised with invisible belief systems about the value and role of certain animals, and these beliefs differ between one culture and another.

This video on carnism is well worth watching for anyone interested in the topic of veganism.

 

Vegan food eliminates unnecessary suffering

The majority of dog food contains by-products from the meat and dairy industry, including meat that is considered unmarketable for human consumption. This speaks volumes about the quality of the food that most people feed their dogs, but also of the untold cruelty behind the branding of a happy puppy and fictional grassy farm.

Vegan food takes the initiative to exclude the unnecessary suffering and slaughter and, consequently, the cruelty imparted on other animals.

Additionally, many vegan pet food brands aim to provide higher quality ingredients, meaning that your dogs are getting healthier without having to harm others in the process.

 

Common arguments against feeding a dog a vegan diet

Vegan food is missing key nutrients

A common misconception regarding vegan food for dogs is that it is nutritionally deficient by default.

That’s not the case – there is healthy and unhealthy vegan dog food. For humans,  you may have heard of the term ‘junk food vegans‘ whose diet, while lacking animal products, also lacks nutrition. The same thing CAN happen to a pet fed random low quality food. But if a dog is fed nutritious vegan dog food then it can in fact thrive.

Some people assume that a lack of meat will mean a lack of protein or some other vital nutrient.  Despite what the meat and dairy industry may have you believe, there is no vital nutrient that is exclusively found in meat-based dog foods. All the nutrients a dog needs can be met from plant based sources.

To ensure a vegan dog is fed well, you should either plan a vegan diet in consultation with your vet, or use a quality commercial vegan dog food that has been designed with the correct balance of macro and micro-nutrients.

A terrier eats a pear for vegan dog food

Occasionally (I emphasize, occasionally) dogs can have allergies to foods like soybeans. This poses an issue, as many vegan dog foods use soy in some quantity, meaning that such an allergy may reduce your options in terms of what you can feed your dog. Although, there are dog foods available that exclude these problematic ingredients, which would be worth looking into if your dog is showing signs that are symptomatic of an allergy. In such cases, a trip to the vet is always recommended as the underlying issue could be more serious, especially, if an allergic reaction to fleas has already been discounted.

 

Dogs need meat because they’re carnivores

In fact, dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. Their digestion can handle both plants and animals.

 

Dogs love meat so it’s cruel not to give it to them

This is like saying children love ice-cream and lollies so we should give that to them each meal.

Just like it is possible to teach your children to learn to expect, eat and like healthy foods, it is also possible to give your dog meals that are vegan and that your dog will learn to love if you transition them to it gradually.

 

In summary

Overall, the argument for whether vegan food for dogs is cruel or kind comes down to factors – is it cruel to YOUR PET? and is it cruel to OTHER ANIMALS?

The answer to the latter is definitely yes.

Whether or not it’s cruel to your pet depends on how you handle feeding your pet vegan dog food. If you do it correctly, it doesn’t need to be cruel at all. To do this introduce your dog to vegan food gradually, know which foods to avoid, look out for allergies, and choose food that is nutritionally sufficient and good quality. These are all factors that you have control over and with a little research, you can find vegan dog food that is not only kind in terms of promoting vitality and health, but also kind towards other animals and ultimately our environment.

To read more about making the transition to vegan dog food, see our page on vegan dog food, treats and supplements.

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Vegan dog smelling a cow in a paddock

The pros and cons of a vegan diet for dogs

Are you a pet owner considering a vegan diet for dogs?

It can be a prickly topic that some people get heated over. To help you work out what’s right for you, we’ve put together some of the advantages and disadvantages to think about.

 

Pro: A vegan diet for dogs minimizes suffering

Most vegans are painfully aware of the cruelty involved in animal agriculture. It becomes a source of discomfort knowing that the food you are feeding your own pet has involved cruelty to other innocent living creatures.

No source of meat is without animal suffering of some degree. But most dog foods use meat from animals kept in the worst circumstances – on factory farms so companies can keep costs down as much as possible. You’ve probably seen the documentaries already… but if you’re not yet aware of what happens to produce the meat in traditional dog food… or you need the extra reminder to motivate you to make the change… watch Earthlings.

 

Pros and cons of a vegan dog dietPro: Your conscience feels better

See above… You’re no longer contributing to that horror, so you know you’re doing what you can to make the world a more compassionate place.

 

Pro: No more smelly tins of meat in your refrigerator

You may have changed all your own food to vegan products, but you still have those tins of meat in the fridge for your dog. Lets be honest, that canned dog food has always smelt and looked really bad, but now that you’ve become vegan, the yucky feeling it gives you is even worse.

 

Pro: You’re supporting innovation into vegan products

Choosing a vegan diet for your dogs reduces the demand for the products that contribute to factory farming.

When you choose to buy commercial vegan dog food you support companies that are investing into providing cruelty-free options. This helps those companies stay in business, and encourages other companies to introduce vegan dog food lines into their product selection. Use your spending choices to improve the market so there are more options of vegan dog food in the future.

Vegan doberman at the vet getting a health check

Pro: A vegan diet can have health benefits

A skin condition can be a worrying sign of inflammation and potential infection, leading to expensive trips to the vet and an unhappy canine. The most typical causes of a skin condition arise from flea allergies and food allergies, more specifically, foods containing animal proteins such as chicken and beef. If a flea allergy has been ruled out by a vet, then there is a high chance you’re looking at a food related allergy. In such cases, a vegan dog diet could largely relieve the symptoms, preventing them from developing into anything serious.

Other reported benefits include

  • a reduction in skin parasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites) and skin allergies
  • reduced food intolerance reactions
  • improved coat condition
  • less offensive smells
  • reduced obesity
  • regression in signs of arthritis, diabetes, cataracts, and urogenital disease
  • improved vitality and well being.

 

Con: A vegan dog diet needs to be nutritionally complete

One caution is to ensure the vegan dog food you give your pet is nutritionally sufficient. If you don’t get the balance right it may lead to a host of illnesses and complications.

As vegan humans you’re hopefully aware that you should ensure you get adequate sources of key micro-nutrients such as omega-3 and B12, as well as a generally balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals and nutrition. You need to take the same care in making your dog’s diet a healthy one. For more info on this see our page on vegan dog food.

 

Con: Scrutiny from others

If what you feed your dog meets its nutritional needs, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business… But we know they’re going to judge. It happens. Everyone loves to have an opinion about how vegans live. I’m sure you’re used to that by now!

Some people are very opinionated with concerns about what we choose to feed our pets. This may be under the misguided belief that we are cruel for ‘depriving’ our canine friends from the nutrition found in animal products.  In fact there is ongoing proof that dogs are perfectly able to thrive on vegan/omnivorous diets. It is unfortunate that many are ignorant of this fact and choose to be judgemental of our choice.

Lead by example. As long as we continue to feed our dogs nutritionally complete diets, not only are we not being cruel, but we are making a continued effort to minimize all potential cruelty.

Signpost with 2 directions - do you decide to use a vegan diet for dogs or not?

Con: Commercial dog food may be more expensive

Unfortunately, as there is not as much demand for vegan dog food, you will rarely find commercial vegan dog food on sale or at a bargain price.

 

Con: It takes effort to change

The transition process will take you a week or two, as you gradually introduce the new food to your pet. You can also change the types of treats you give your dogs, to remove animal products used there too.

 

Con: Vegan dog food is not always available in shops

Choosing vegan options can take a bit of extra fore-thought and planning. Even if your local shops don’t have any good alternatives, there’s always delivery available from Amazon. We’ve reviewed the best dog food brands available on Amazon.

 

Pretty blonde girl with her pet on a vegan diet for dogs

What’s right for YOU and YOUR DOG?

We hope this list helps you think about the pros and cons of a vegan diet for dogs so you can come to your own conclusion about what’s right for you and your pet. If you’d like to learn more about  how to make the transition read our page on vegan dog food, treats and supplements.

 

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healthy vegan dog

Are there health benefits for vegan dogs?

Short answer: Yes! Vegan dogs can benefit from a plant based diet for many of the same reasons humans can.

If you believe that dogs are carnivores, then it leads to the assumption that they must eat meat, and the idea of a vegan diet gets dismissed.

BUT…. it’s not true that dogs are carnivores. They’re actually omnivores. This means they can eat a variety of foods of both plant and animal origin. In fact, dogs can thrive on a vegan diet, as long as the diet is nutritionally adequate and caters for any allergies and specific needs.

As veganism continues to grow at a meteoric rate, more pet owners are considering transitioning their dogs to vegan diets. After changing their own diets, this is often one of the next steps pet owners become interested in to further disconnect from the meat and dairy industries. It is hard to have a clear conscience feeding your pet meat, once you’re aware of what has happened to the non-pet animals that meat came from.

Apart from the ethical issues of changing to a vegan diet for dogs, there are also potential health benefits. Who doesn’t want happier, healthier pets and less trips to the vet?

Potential health benefits for vegan dogs

Just because your dog likes meat doesn’t mean it’s best for it

People wrongly assume that in order to thrive, a dog must be fed a diet that contains animal products.

Yes, dogs like meat and they may often choose it if given options. Similarly, a small child will choose ice cream and chocolate over fruit and vegetables, and we don’t jump to the conclusion that we should therefore give them to kids every meal! Just because your dogs (or kids) like a certain food, doesn’t mean that’s what is best for them.

This false conclusion that dogs must have meat probably comes the ancestry that dogs share with wolves. The assumption is surely encouraged by the pet food industry that profits from the stereotype.  In fact, dogs are omnivorous and don’t need meat to survive.

Reduce risk of diseases linked to meat consumption

There has been a recent increase in the incidence of kidney failure, cancers, and diseases in both cats and dogs, which some claim may be caused by the carcinogenic ingredients found in animal products and, in particular, pet foods containing meat. Reducing animal products in your pets diet can reduce this risk.

A vegan diet for dogs can be beneficial for many of the same reasons a vegan diet can be beneficial for humans.

Benefits commonly reported for dogs on a nutritionally sound vegan diet include:

  • decreased ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites)
  • decreased food intolerance reactions
  • improved coat condition
  • reduced obesity
  • regression in signs of arthritis, diabetes, cataracts, and urogenital disease
  • improved vitality and well being.

Unfortunately, there are very few studies conducted on the topic and, therefore, we do not know the full extent at which dogs can benefit from a vegan diet. If you’re interested in an academic paper that summarizes existing studies on the topic, take a look at “Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals” by Andrew Knight and Madelaine Leitsberger.

Brambles the vegan border-collie dog
Brambles the vegan border collie once held the Guinness World Record for oldest living dog

Inferior quality ingredients

It’s well known that the quality of meat used in dog food is questionable. The cheaper foods often contain inexpensive filler and have little nutritional value.

Traditional commercial dog food uses parts of animals that are deemed unfit for human consumption. This might include old and diseased animals, or the ‘undesirable’ parts of the animal with very high fat content.

In some cases, dog food can contain the meat from other euthanized dogs and cats, which have been obtained from animal shelters.

Vegan dogs might live longer

Vegan dogs may have increased longevity in comparison to their meat-eating counterparts and perhaps improved resistance to common illnesses. Until recently, the Guinness World Record for the oldest living dog was held by Brambles, a vegan border collie, that lived to 27 years old. That’s 189 in dog years!

What are the risks of a vegan diet for dogs?

It would be unfair to claim that owning a vegan dog is without potential risks and it is important that these are taken into consideration.

Transition to a vegan diet

The first potentially problematic issue is the process of transitioning a meat-eating dog onto a strictly vegan diet. This is a transition that needs to be implemented gradually, meaning that initially, you should be mixing the vegan food with food that your dog is already used to. This helps to prevent gastrointestinal disturbances including vomiting and diarrhoea. Some dogs can take longer to properly adapt to a vegan diet and it’s best to be patient.

If you’re noticing any peculiar developments from your dog through introducing vegan foods and eliminating animal products, either increase the ratio of animal product to vegan food or take a trip to the vet to discuss the complication.

happy dog on vegan diet
A plant based diet for dogs needs to be carefully calculated to include all the right micro-nutrients.

Ensuring nutritional requirements are met

The next potential issue lies in ensuring that the diet you’re feeding your dog is nutritionally adequate. This means that the diet contains ample calories and protein in particular, in order to keep your dog both healthy and happy. Additionally, you need to ensure that you’re providing all the right micronutrients.

To ensure you have the right nutrition covered you have 3 options:

  1. Consult your vet for a customized diet plan for your dog that ensures the home-made food you prepare meets your dog’s nutritional needs.
  2. Use a commercially prepared vegan dog food, which has been scientifically tested to provide the right balance of nutrients for dogs. You can read our reviews of commercial vegan dog food here.
  3. Use vegan dog supplements to cover any gaps in the diet you are providing. These are often provided in pill form and may require some encouragement with consuming. One easy solution is to mix them into food or coat them in an appropriate treat. Vegan dog supplements aren’t always necessary, however, it is better to be certain than potentially create problems from a diet lacking in zinc or B12.

When you changed to a vegan diet yourself, you probably took care to ensure your diet was nutritionally sufficient. Take the same care with your dog.

Summary

There is some existing evidence of health benefits for dogs who are provided a vegan diet. These health benefits are somewhat similar to those extended to humans when transitioning from the Standard American Diet to a plant-based diet.

Extra care must be used when attempting to transition a dog to vegan dog food, especially, if they happen to have any allergies or specific requirements. Vegan dogs can thrive just as well if not better than their meat-eating equivalents, though, only with proper care and consideration.

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Jonny Juicer and vegan dog Noah

What Jonny Juicer feeds his vegan dog

Jonny Juicer is a raw vegan & juicing enthusiast with tens of thousands of followers online. People have followed his experience of evolving from a standard American diet to becoming a fully raw plant-based vegan. This week he released a video outlining what he feeds his vegan dog, Noah, an adorable Yorkshire Terrier. Scroll down to watch the video yourself.

When Jonny adopted Noah, Noah was eating a raw food diet with both raw meat and vegetables. After doing his research JJ learned that dogs are omnivores and don’t need meat to be healthy, so he began to transition Noah to a healthy vegan diet.

While Jonny might prefer to have raw juices for himself, he notes that dogs can’t be healthy on raw juices alone, as they need a higher level of protein and fat.

Jonny says Noah seems to be healthier on a vegan diet than he was on his old standard diet. He says he has “crazy energy” and healthy hair.

Along with sharing some of his raw juices with Noah, Jonny also cooks for Noah too. As JJ is fully raw he didn’t own any pans and went out and bought one just so he could cook for Noah!

His recipes for Noah’s vegan dog food varies but usually involves a mixture of lentils, quinoa, sweet potato… always organic and non-GMO. He adds some other fruit and vegetables such as garbanzo beans (high protein), celery, carrot, capsicum, blueberries, spirulina, and hemp oil. The recipe includes a combination of cooked and raw ingredients.

 

The products Jonny Juicer uses

V-dog foodWhen Jonny isn’t home-cooking Noah’s food, the packaged vegan dog food he uses is V-dog Kinderkibble. See our review of V-dog food here.

 

 


Spirulina and chlorella supplements for vegan dogFor dog treats, Noah gets Sunfood Spirulina & Chlorella Tablets. These nutrient dense, high protein tablets are made from algae and packed with B vitamins including B12. These tablets are made for humans! Only the best nutrition for Noah!

 

 

NUTIVA Hemp oilJonny adds hemp oil to Noah’s home cooked meals to add Omega-6 and Omega-3 to his dog’s diet. He used the Nutiva organic cold pressed hemp oil.

 

 
Pure Hawaiian Spirulina powderJJ sprinkles this human grade “superfood” onto Noah’s home cooked meals for extra vitamins and nutrition. He uses the Pure Hawaiin spirulina pacifica powder.

 

 

Watch the video

 

I found it interesting to see what Jonny Juicer feeds his vegan dog. The meal looks delicious and uses top quality food and ingredients that humans could eat. In the video Noah looks really happy to be eating it all up!!

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