Can Dogs Be Vegan? What Are The Risks?

Vegan dog food and raw vegetable ingredients
© Glenkar/

Written by Rebecca Mathews

Updated: November 17, 2022

Share on:


Veganism has grown in popularity over the past decade. There was so much interest in plant-based diets that The Economist dubbed 2019 the Year of the Vegan.

People choose veganism for different reasons ranging from health concerns to sustainability or cruelty objections. It’s become much easier to find ready-made vegan foods over the past few years. As a result, the question “can dogs be vegan?” is becoming more common.

Let’s take a look a whether a vegan diet is good for dogs and discover what the risks are.

Is It Safe For Dog To Be Vegan?

Dogs are omnivores that can eat and survive on meat and plant products. This means that, yes, technically, dogs can be vegan.

The debate is very active, with emotions running high on both sides. However, the subject is more complicated than a simple yes or no. Here’s what the professionals say.

The ASPCA says a vegan diet for dogs is possible, though challenging. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) doesn’t recommend it because it’s easier to get the balance of nutrients wrong than right, and there isn’t enough scientific evidence to promote a vegan diet safely.

On the other hand, scientific evidence is beginning to emerge that supports the health benefits of a nutritionally sound vegan dog diet.

The jury is still out on whether it’s safe for a dog to be vegan.

What Does Vegan Mean?

Donald Watson, the Vegan Society co-founder, created the term vegan in 1944. To begin with, it described a vegetarian who avoided dairy products. Still, it later developed into a person that excluded all forms of animal exploitation.

Vegans eat a plant-based diet without meat, dairy, or products that have exploited animals. Some dietary vegans also reject clothing and cosmetics created by the animal industry, such as leather and soaps containing animal fats or products tested on animals.

So, different types of vegans avoid animal exploitation at varying levels.

What is an Omnivore?

Humans are omnivores, like many birds, reptiles, fish, and even invertebrates. The term comes from the Latin word omni for all and vora for eat. An omnivore eats pretty much everything.

Experts think many animals evolved into omnivores because it provided further food security in lean times.  

Health Benefits for a Vegan Dog

Vegan dog food and raw vegetable ingredients

It’s important to ensure that your vegan dog food is supplemented with essential nutrients.


Some pet owners and scientists suggest there are plenty of potential health benefits for dogs following a vegan diet.

Weight Loss

Many dogs are fed a diet containing only meat, which some believe isn’t good and could potentially lead to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Eating various plants that naturally have fewer calories than meat can help dogs lose weight and maintain a healthy figure.

Protection Against Illness

A diet high in meat risks constipation and other bowel issues. A broader range of food may protect dogs and prevent illnesses such as cancer from developing.

Raw or undercooked meat can contain e-coli or salmonella, leading to bacteria in a dog’s stomach. Plant-based dog food doesn’t carry risks of infections.

Better Food Quality

Meat used in commercial dog food is not the organic prime steak illustrated on its packaging. Animals slaughtered for the pet food market may be diseased or unhealthy. By-products like beaks, blood and hooves often end up in dog food. In some cases, poor quality control has led to pet foods being recalled for salmonella or even foreign ingredients like sawdust.
Allergy Reduction

Dogs with an intolerance to animal proteins can benefit from a plant-based diet which may lessen symptoms such as itchy skin, gastric upsets, and skin infections.

What Are the Risks of Dogs Being Vegan?

There are potential health benefits for vegan dogs but also risks. The main risk is that the dog doesn’t get all the nutrients it needs.

Here are some of the possible risks:

  • Not enough amino acids, including taurine and L-carnitine, which can lead to heart problems
  • Lack of protein which is needed to build and repair muscles
  • Lack of B vitamins. B vitamins are prevalent in meat and harder to get from plants. A lack of B vitamins leads to iron deficiency and an impaired immune system
  • Commercial vegan dog food is relatively new to the market, and not all of them offer a balanced diet
  • There’s not enough scientific evidence to conclude whether artificial supplementation is suitable for dogs on a vegan diet
  • If meals are prepared at home, it takes a lot of work to provide balanced meals daily.
  • In some countries, malnourishment is considered animal abuse, and owners could be prosecuted despite believing they were doing the right thing.

Can Dogs Live Without Meat?       

Can dogs be vegan?

Dogs can live without meat if their replacement diet is well-balanced and contains all the nutrients necessary.


In short, dogs can live without meat so long as their diet is well-balanced and contains all the nutrients a dog needs to live healthily.

Gray wolves, our pet dog ancestors, are carnivores that eat pounds of meat in one sitting. This is a comparison made by people who consider a vegan dog diet insufficient. However, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. During this time, their digestive systems have evolved to eat starchy foods associated with human agriculture. Domesticated dogs produce an enzyme called amylase in far greater amounts than wild wolves, which allows them to digest rich starchy foods.

On the other hand, some experts disagree and believe dogs are predominantly carnivores due to their pointy canine teeth and short carnivore-type gastrointestinal tracts.

Can I Buy Vegan Dog Food?

In response to the demand for vegan pet foods, manufacturers are beginning to offer vegan dog food. It’s estimated that nine billion dollars worth of vegan pet food was sold in 2020 and rising.

However, there are some issues with commercial vegan dog food. Some research suggests they don’t contain everything needed to keep a healthy vegan dog. All the pet foods studied were nutritionally inadequate and had at least one nutrient lower than the recommended level. In addition, several minerals were higher than the legal limit, including copper and zinc.

Suppose you’re feeding your dog vegan commercial food. In that case, it’s best to consult your vet to ensure it contains everything a dog needs to thrive, and if not, what supplemental food you can provide to bridge the gap.

Do Vegan Dogs Live Longer?

The 2002 Guinness World Record for the longest-living dog was once held by a vegan border collie in the UK named Bramble. Her diet consisted of lentils, mashed veggies and yeast for vitamin B12. Bramble reached the ripe old age of 25 years before passing.

Emerging studies suggest vegan dogs may live longer, such as this study from the Journal Plos 1. In this study, researchers discovered dogs fed on a nutritionally balanced vegan diet lived longer. Still, more studies are required in this emerging field.

A long-lived dog eats a nutritionally balanced diet, has lucky genetics, plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and good veterinary care.

Can Cats Be Vegan?

In contrast to omnivorous dogs, cats are obligate carnivores, so they must eat meat to survive. The ASPCA says a vegan diet is not appropriate for cats. Commercial vegan cat food is available but not recommended by experts.

Can My Dog Be Vegan?

Yes, your dog can be vegan if fed a properly balanced diet. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can occur in vegan diets that are not supplemented correctly, so it’s essential to carefully monitor what your pup is eating.

Ask a veterinarian to consider any commercial vegan dog food or homemade food to ensure it’s comprehensive and safe before changing a dog’s diet.

To summarize, dogs can indeed be vegan but whether they should be is still debatable.

Up Next

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?

Share this post on:
About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.