A Vegan Diet for Dogs

Last year at around this time, I reported about our transitioning Maizy (the dog with whom we share home) to a vegan diet. Maizy had struggled for years with an allergic skin condition, early onset arthritis, diarrhea, ear infections and weight gain. When she first came to live with us, we went through every low-allergen dog food out there, trying to find one that would be suitable. Finally, we settled on a prescription hypo-allergenic dog food recommended by the vet. Because she was overweight, though, we were supposed to feed her very little of this food. Her skin improved on this diet. But she was still overweight, her arthritis was routinely a problem, and her digestive system was unpredictable. During this time, I was also reading about the content of commercial dog and cat foods and I was horrified by what I learned. Most dog and cat foods are made from the products of rendering plants. Rendering facilities are spaces where dead animals and parts of animals are rendered into usable products. Low-quality meat products are made from these body scraps, like food for animals, canned meat products for human consumption, bone meal, etc. ‘Euthanized’ dogs and cats from shelters are routinely sent to rendering, which means that along with the other animals in dog and cat foods, there are dogs and cats making it into the foods. This is particularly worrisome because. of course, dogs and cats are eating their own kind, but also because the chemicals used to kill animals in shelters are most likely making it into the foods as well. This knowledge, compounded with concern for Maizy’s health, caused us to seek out other options for her food.

At the beginning of last summer, we transitioned her to a whole-foods, plant-based diet.  She eats breakfast and dinner and every meal contains a whole grain, a green vegetable, a pureed orange vegetable, a high-protein item like legumes or tofu, nutritional yeast, flax oil, and VegeDog powder. For snacks throughout the day, she eats raw carrots, broccoli stems, dehydrated yams, watermelon, apples, cucumber, and peanut butter glucosamine treats to help her hips. Maizy has an enthusiasm for eating like she never had before. She would always eat whatever food we gave her (she’s a lab after all), but now she gets excited when I prepare her meals. She licks the spoon and then dives into a big bowl of delicious food.

The breakfast pictured above is quinoa, pureed yams, raw broccoli, black beans, nutritional yeast, VegeDog powder and flax oil. As a rule of thumb, her meals look like this:

1 whole grain (choose from: quinoa or brown rice)

1 high-protein (choose from: beans, lentils, tofu)

1 green vegetable, raw or lightly steamed (choose from: broccoli, zucchini,green beans, kale, chard, spinach, cabbage, etc.)

1 orange vegetable, cooked and pureed (choose from: yams or sweet potatoes, butternut or acorn squash, or carrots)

recommended amount of VegeDog

nutritional yeast

flax oil

other optional add-ins are sea vegetables, blueberries, extra veggies or beans, etc.

This diet can be a bit high maintenance to prepare—certainly it’s more work than ripping open a bag of kibble or opening a can of wet dog food. But it’s so worth it and we have figured out ways to make it more stream-lined. A couple of times a week, we cook a pot of grain and keep a big container in the fridge. We do the same thing with beans or lentils. We also cook a large pot of yams/butternut squash, puree it and keep a separate container of that in the fridge. We always have green vegetables on hand, and tofu. VegeDog powder can be purchased online or we get it at Sidecar for Pigs Peace. Nutritional yeast is available in the bulk section of your local health food store. Flax oil is in the refrigerator section at the health food store (the best price I’ve found for flax oil is the 365 brand at Whole Foods, FYI). Keeping all of the ingredients on hand makes it easy to mix up a meal in 5 minutes.

For Maizy, this diet has worked amazingly well. She has reached and maintained her “perfect” weight (according to the vet), her arthritis hardly ever acts up (probably due to the combination of flax oil and glucosamine treats), her skin is clear and itch-free, her fur is so soft and shiny, her bloodwork was great, and her digestive system functions normally now. The vet was very supportive of her diet when he saw the results. He said that every dog is different and that every dog should be on a diet that works well for their body. For Maizy, this is a whole-foods plant-based diet. If you are considering transitioning a dog in your life to a vegan diet, it’s a good idea to work with a vet to make sure their blood work is good on the diet, and their body is reacting well to the change. It is essential that they get all of the nutrients they need, just like any human transitioning to veganism. Also, it is essential to do research ahead of time and make lists of foods that are toxic to dogs. Keep this list in the kitchen and avoid all of those foods. Once you’ve gotten used to what is okay and not okay, you won’t need to refer to the list as frequently.

AVOID THESE TOXIC FOODS (SOURCE): avocado, alcohol, onions and garlic, coffee, tea and other caffeine, grapes and raisins, milk and other dairy products (can cause allergies and digestive troubles), macadamia nuts, candy and gum, chocolate, persimmons, peaches and plums (just the pits of these fruits), salt, sugar, yeast dough, baking powder and soda, nutmeg and other spices, and raw potatoes.

Have any of you had experience with vegan diets for dogs?

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  1. Can dogs produce their own taurine? I know cats can’t, so I’d be interested to know if it’s possible to feed a cat a similar diet (perhaps with taurine supplements).

    1. Great question, Chris! I’m not sure if dogs “produce” their own taurine, but the VegeDog powder we add contains a vegan taurine. The VegePet company sells a comparable powder supplement for cats that is formulated for their physiology. I’ve heard that cats are obligatory carnivores, though, whereas dogs are omnivores. For this reason (and the fact that one of our cats is an extremely picky eater), we’ve not moved the cats to a vegan diet. I’d like to learn more about this subject, though! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. my canine companion Ms Olivia has been Vegan since I first took her home as a pup 12 years ago. She has never had any significant health issues, and usually has high energy and good spirits. I noticed your article mentioned that dogs were not supposed to eat persimmons, peaches, nectarines or plums. Uhh why not? Ms Olivia has eaten plenty of these fruits over the years, and she appears to be doing very well..

    1. It’s really the pits of these fruits that are toxic, not the fruits themselves. I’ll revise the post now to specify this. Sorry for the confusion!

  3. hi Katie, can you please email me private? re my dog:), as it is very lengthy, and I would take up a ton of your space here, lol
    but I do have a cocker, who is very sick…

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