Should Dogs Eat a Vegetarian Diet?

Vegetarian pet food is rising in popularity, perhaps because of the same jump in the number humans who have turned to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  Someone I know recently switched her dog to a vegetarian commercial dog food because of chronic skin problems.  Was it a good idea?  Read on and decide for yourself.

Both cats and dogs are carnivores, but cats must eat meat in order to thrive.  Hence, they are called obligate carnivores.  This article will discuss only dogs and how a diet without real meat can affect them.

Dogs can actually survive on a diet of plants and grains.  That doesn’t mean they will thrive.  Those who want to their dogs to switch easily from meat to grains assume it won’t be difficult, but that isn’t necessarily so.  Keep in mind that dogs require a lot more essential acids, calcium and protein than do humans.  Plants don’t do a great job of meeting those needs.  Dogs also need certain vitamins that aren’t found in plants.

Dogs were created to be meat-eaters.  Canine teeth are designed to shred and tear animal meat.  The molars are pointed, perfect for ripping meat off of bone.

According to, a dog’s digestive system is meant for a carnivorous diet.  The stomach is short and designed to move food through it quickly.  Vegetables and plans need more time to break down in the gastro-intestinal tract and tend to come out of the animal looking much like they did going in.

“Dogs don’t produce the varieties of gut bacteria that break down cellulose and starch in plant matter.  This means that nutrients in plants are useless in terms of nourishing the dog.”

Should you still want to feed your dog solely a vegetarian diet, do so with care.  Please include your veterinarian in the decision.  It is crucial that your pet receive the required vitamins and other nutrients that are missing from vegetables, grains and plants.  At, they recommend that you consult with a veterinary nutritionist who can analyze your commercial or homemade vegetarian pet diet.  They also suggest that any dog eating a vegetarian diet should see the vet at least twice a year for blood work.

The friend with whom I discussed her pet switching to a vegetarian dog food chose Natural Balance® Vegetarian Dry Dog Formula.  The company’s website states that this food provides adult dogs with the same essential nutrients found in diets containing meat.  It does not contain any dairy or animal fat products in the formula.

Should dogs eat a vegetarian diet?

As you can see, there is nothing to dislike in this pet food.  But because I am not an expert on dogs eating only a vegetarian diet, I cannot recommend it.  It does seem that the spinach included could have been placed higher in the ingredients list.  Again, I’m no expert, but I would think that the inclusion of more green and yellow vegetables would have made the food healthier.

Talk to your vet and get his or her opinion.  Research the subject.  Know what you are doing before you use your dog as a test subject.

I welcome comments and opinions and suggestions on this subject from readers.



One thought on “Should Dogs Eat a Vegetarian Diet?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *