Wondering whether your dog can become a vegetarian?
Maybe you recently gave up meat yourself, or maybe you’re just trying to do your part to save the environment. Whatever your reasoning, you’ll be happy to know that:
Yes, dogs can healthily live a vegetarian lifestyle.
Just like humans, dogs who eat a balanced vegetarian diet can live long, happy lives. It’s important to note here that cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet and are obligate meat eaters.
Dogs as Omnivores
Dogs are omnivores which means they typically eat both meat and plant matter. Omnivores can’t digest all plant matter which is why dogs can’t survive on nothing but grass like cows. Dogs still have “carnivorous” traits like pointed canine teeth because they descended and evolved from strictly carnivorous ancestors. Omnivores have more food security in times of scarcity because they can eat both plants and meat.
Why Go Vegetarian?
There are plenty of reasons to consider starting your dog on a vegetarian diet. Some of the most commonly cited include:
- An owner who is vegetarian him or herself
- Concerns about the quality of meat included in commercial dog foods
- Ethical concerns over the treatment and production of animal products
- A desire to provide more plant-based nutrients to a dog’s diet
- An attempt to decrease inflammation, lengthen lifespan, or make a dog healthier
Proper Nutrition in a Vegetarian Diet for Dogs
Dogs are omnivorous because their bodies are able to convert amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) into usable protein sources for the body. The trick when switching to a vegetarian – or even vegan! – dog diet is to ensure the dog gets plenty of plant-based amino acids to replace the meat proteins he is losing.
A few of the best plant-based sources of protein for dogs include beans, legumes, soy, corn, and whole grains. Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense supplements to add to a vegetarian dog’s diet, and even low-fat dairy, preferable lactose-free, can be included in moderation. Of course, every dog’s diet should include plenty of vegetables for optimal nutritional density.
Should I Switch My Dog to a Vegetarian Diet?
That’s a question you and your vet should discuss. Your dog’s veterinarian knows your pet best; she can give you guidance on what kind of nutrition your dog needs and exactly how to make the switch if that’s what you decide to do.
Remember, there are plenty of options when it comes to your dog’s diet. Your vet can talk to you about supplements, for example, or about common food allergens you can avoid in commercial dog foods. You could also consider making your dog’s food, or buying premade fresh food from an online retailer. A full vegetarian diet may not be right for your dog (or for you!), so be sure to talk to your vet about the warning signs to look out for.