Is a Vegetarian Diet Safe for Dogs?

Dogs, like humans, are omnivores.

That means they can survive on either a meat-based or a plant-based diet. However, they need to consume a lot of protein, so keeping a dog on a vegetarian diet could be tricky. People remain divided over whether or not it’s safe for dogs to forgo meat altogether.

Some say that since dogs have been eating meat for centuries, they’re hard-wired to get their nutrients from meat. Others argue that, if done correctly, a vegetarian diet can provide just as much nutrients.

They often use Bramble, one of the world’s oldest dogs, as an example. Bramble was a Chocolate Lab in the U.K. who lived until 27, and she lived on an exclusively vegan diet of rice, lentils, and organic vegetables.

A few studies suggest that carnivores are the shortest-lived animals in nature, while frugivores (fruit eaters) live the longest. They believe that it’s because protein encourages fast growth, which can lead to premature aging and death. Being on a low-protein diet, especially during one’s later years, can prolong one’s life span. As far as a dog’s diet goes, many vets recommend that protein make 18% of a dog’s daily nutrient intake.

While it’s possible to give a dog all the protein he needs on a vegetarian diet, it requires a lot of work. The proteins found in vegetables, eggs, and other vegetarian ingredients tend not to have all the amino acids, so you have to get the right amino acids from various sources. That can be a little tricky to manage.

Meat also contains taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid that’s crucial to a dog’s diet and health. Pro-meat-based diet people say that dogs need to eat meat to get taurine, but AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)-approved vegan dog food companies reacted by developing synthetic (and vegan) taurine, which is absorbed just as readily as meat-based taurine. Dr. Jessica Waldman, a veterinarian from Santa Monica, California, thinks that it’s still unnatural. Dr. Waldman pointed out to Mother Nature Network that dogs in the wild eat a lot of animal protein. “I think that keeping your pet’s diet as close to natural is best for limiting disease and promoting health,” she said.

Dr. Waldman made a good point, but have you seen the kind of stuff they put in dog’s food nowadays? Some of those ingredients are deemed unfit for human consumption. The meat they use are by-products from dead, dying, diseased, or disabled animals… and they’re feeding that stuff to our dogs! Forget the juicy chunks of meat you see on the packaging of dog food. They’re actually using slaughterhouse waste that contains hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics, a concern that has led many dog owners to feed their dogs raw meat or vegetarian food.

It’s possible to successfully switch your dog to a vegetarian diet, but you need to do a lot of research or speak to your vet to ensure that your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs.

What are your thoughts on keeping a dog on a vegetarian diet? Please let us know in the comments below!