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Can Dogs Thrive on a Vegan Diet?

If you’re like us, you treat your dogs as members of your family and will do whatever it takes for them to thrive and be happy. However, you probably also want what’s best for the planet.

Is it possible to care about your own health, the health of our environment, and the cruelty of the meat industry while simultaneously prioritizing your dog’s health? If you’ve ever considered feeding your dog a meat-free diet, you might be wondering whether it’s safe and which vegan foods to include in their meals. 

The good news is that many people, including scientists, have asked these questions, and there’s an ever-growing body of studies that illuminate the answers. So let’s take a look at the science to discern the facts from the myths. 

Dogs need protein. They don’t need meat.

There’s a misconception about what is best for dogs. Dogs need meat, right? Not exactly. Just like us, dogs need protein. And since they’re omnivores like us, they can digest protein from plant sources. So high-quality, meat-free proteins aren’t just acceptable replacements –they’re superior choices for dogs and humans alike. 

High-quality plant proteins from yeast, fungi, algae, legumes, grains, and other plants provide the ten essential amino acids dogs need in their diets. Plant-based proteins also help dogs build muscle, produce hormones, and fight infection. In addition, dogs have co-evolved and genetically adapted to express enzymes that omnivores have, and they convert amino acids similar to the way humans do. Studies demonstrate that dogs meet all of their protein requirements and may even enjoy long-term health benefits on a vegan diet.

Vegan vs. meat-based dog food

In a comprehensive study published in Animals Journal (July 2016) examining the effects vegan and meat-based diets have on dogs’ health, veterinarian Dr. Andrew Knight ascertains that “a significant and growing body of population studies and cases suggest that dogs may be successfully maintained on nutritionally sound vegetarian diets long-term, and indeed, may thrive. Such diets have been associated with benefits such as improved coat condition, allergy control, weight control, increased overall health and vitality, arthritis regression, diabetes regression, cataract resolution, and decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism, and ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice, and mites).”

Most conventional dog food products contain meat that isn’t fit for human consumption. Research in this area links pet food made from animal meat to obesity, kidney and liver disease, and certain types of cancers.

Nutritious, digestible protein formulated by vets, scientists, and nutrition experts

OK, so it’s safe to transition your dog from a meat-heavy diet to one that’s entirely vegan, but which plant-based kibble should you choose?

One company that we recommend checking out is Wild Earth, an innovative “clean” pet food company producing nutrient-dense, environmentally responsible dog food using 100% plant-based proteins. 

A few critical macronutrients and amino acids must be fortified or present in the ingredients of dog food for it to be nutritional; they are:

It’s the cornerstone of any healthy dog’s diet, so it should be easy to absorb and abundant in any commercial plant-based kibble. Wild Earth features yeast as their primary protein source. All ten essential amino acids that dogs require to be healthy occur naturally in yeast, as do crucial fibers called beta-glucans that promote healthy digestion. 

Amino Acids: Taurine and L-Carnitine
There are two amino acids typically found in animal products that must be present in vegan dog food: taurine and l-carnitine. While neither of these amino acids is technically considered “essential,” they’re both vital components of a healthy canine diet. Wild Earth fortifies its dog food with these important amino acids.

Dogs’ bodies can synthesize taurine from other essential amino acids (cysteine and methionine), but it should be added to dog food because it’s critical for overall health and supports heart, eye, and immune system functions.

L-carnitine has proven benefits. It supports fat metabolism, promotes healthy heart muscle development and function, encourages lean muscle mass, and according to recent studies, it may help with weight reduction in overweight dogs.

Wild Earth is not the only vegan dog food line to consider. Other popular choices include:

Watch Our Recent Presentation and Q and A with Wild Earth

The environmental impact of meat-based dog foods

Most people understand that vegan and plant-based diets have a lower environmental impact than the standard omnivorous diet. However, it’s a little-known fact that as much as 30% of the environmental impact of animal agriculture in the United States comes from pet food production.

Traditional, meaty dog kibble diets have a substantial carbon paw-print. The meat industry overuses and degrades farmable land, contaminates fresh and ocean water, produces greenhouse gasses, and is responsible for the suffering of billions of animals each year. Simply put, it’s unsustainable.

Plant-based eating: it’s perfect for you and your little dog, too!

Your dog’s health is dependent on the food they eat. Selecting the proper diet is an essential part of caring for them. Wild Earth’s kibble exceeds nutritional standards and alleviates many health issues caused by meat-based formulas.

We know there’s a learning curve when you transition your dog to a plant-fueled diet, so be sure to check out the collection of resources and FAQs published by Wild Earth, including nutritional breakdowns, in-depth information on ingredients and sourcing, and links to studies.

Click here to learn more about Wild Earth. A percentage of every order made through this link goes to support our ongoing mission at Holistic Holiday at Sea.