Can Dogs Really Be Vegetarian?

by Nancy Boland

Understandably, it must cross the mind of any vegetarian pet owner from time to time to question whether or not their dog could also be fed a vegetarian diet while remaining healthy and adequately nourished.

Can dogs eat a vegetarian diet and stay healthy?

Theoretically yes. In terms of fulfilling your dog’s complete nutritional requirements, feeding a well thought out and researched vegetarian diet or pre-packaged complete vegetarian dog food would take care of their nutritional requirements sufficiently. Also, as dogs are hunter- scavengers, their instinct to hunt for food is much lower than that of cats, and so you are unlikely to come across any problem hunting behaviour in a dog which has not shown much inclination to hunt before.

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Is it natural for dogs to eat a vegetarian diet?

It is fair to say that it is certainly not ‘natural’ in that sense of the word to feed dogs a vegetarian diet, but what exactly does it mean to feed ‘naturally?’ It is not ‘natural’ to feed a dog a pre-packed complete food of dry food or a mixed meat-based food from a tin any more than it is to feed a vegetarian diet, but both of these practices are considered to be totally acceptable to the vast majority of pet owners today, providing the food provided is nutritionally complete and fit for purpose.

Is it ethical?

The question pertaining to dogs, however, is much less cut and dried, as dogs can apparently stay healthy and well on a complete vegetarian diet. The ultimate answer to the question is down to the individual dog owner. When trying to come to a decision, think about the following aspects.

  • Is it fair to impose your beliefs about food upon your pet, which would certainly choose to eat meat out of choice?
  • Will your dog know or care whether or not there is meat in their diet?
  • Are you able to make a significant commitment of time and money into finding, researching and buying a suitable vegetarian food, or making your own nutritionally complete meals?
  • How can you be sure that the food you are planning to feed is fit for purpose?

Ultimately, the moral and ethical trade off on feeding your dog a vegetarian diet is not a decision that somebody else can make for you- but it is important to research thoroughly and seek advice from a nutritionist and/or vet before you decide to go ahead.

What should I do if I do decide I want to feed my dog a vegetarian diet?

First of all, speak to your vet and ensure that there are no health issues or nutritional imbalances which may mean that a vegetarian diet is unsuitable for your particular dog. Ask for your vet’s advice on how you can ensure that any vegetarian food that you feed is definitely complete and fit for purpose, and how to introduce it into the diet. Make the transition slowly and monitor the reactions of your dog to note any apparent changes to their health and behaviour. Feeding your dog a vegetarian diet is a lifestyle choice, and not one that should be taken flippantly. If your dog doesn’t thrive eating a vegetarian diet, this should be a major sign to go back to their former diet.

Does your dog eat a vegetarian diet? Have you ever considered it, or is it a complete no-no?

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