Vegetarian Diet for Dogs

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

Vegetarian Diet for Dogs
Reading Time: 7 minutes

joana garridoReviewed By Joana Garrido DVM

The topic of vegetarian dog food is often met with strong opinions and controversy in the dog community. While the concept of feeding dogs a plant-based diet originated from concerns about animal welfare and environmental impact, many pet owners have reservations about the ethics and safety of such a diet.

To help you make an informed decision about what to feed your pup, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of feeding your dog a vegetarian diet.

3 Advantages of Vegetarian Dog Food

a dgg is looking at a mixed of cooked vegetables

1. Reduces Carbon Footprint

Meat-based pet food production contributes to climate change due to large emissions of greenhouse gases. Some dog parents opt for vegetarian dog food for their dogs in an effort to minimize pollution and conserve natural resources.

2. Awareness of Animal Welfare

Another prominent reason why some dog owners prefer a plant-based diet for their dogs is out of concern for the well-being of animals farmed for meat.

By choosing vegetarian dog food, they believe it avoids contributing to the exploitation and suffering of animals.

3. Prevents Food Allergies from Cropping Up

Animal proteins are the most common food allergens in dogs. Canines with this type of food allergy can benefit from vegetarian food for dogs since it is mainly made up of plant-based ingredients.

However, keep in mind that a vegetarian diet excludes the majority of meat and animal products except for eggs and dairy. If your dog is allergic to any of these 2 animal proteins, you need to be meticulous in choosing vegetarian dog food.

4 Disadvantages of Vegetarian Dog Food

a dog is getting fed a vegetarian meal

1. Nutrient Deficiency Is a Big Concern in Vegetarian Dog Food

A survey indicates that 74% of the participating individuals expressed concern about the nutritional completeness of plant-based pet food.

These worries are not unfounded since there have been several cases of nutrient inadequacies in some vegetarian pet diets. A 2015 study conducted by Kanakubo et al. discovered the following:

  • 1 out of the 24 tested vegetarian food failed to meet the minimum crude protein concentrations.
  • 6 out of the 24 diets did not meet the minimum amino acid standards.

2 years later, a follow-up study was made by Knight and Leitsberger (2016). They reached out to all companies that participated in the past study, requesting them to provide evidence of their nutritional claims.

5 companies did not offer any response. Not one of them was able to provide independent lab verification as proof that the nutritional value of their products is precise and true. 1 company professed that their plant-based dog food is nutritionally inadequate.

In a 2014 study by Semp, various vegetarian and vegan diets for dogs and cats showed inadequate concentrations of certain nutrients such as potassium and protein.

In theory, dogs can thrive on vegetarian food. However, in reality, making a complete and balanced nutritional formulation that meets their needs is easier to get wrong than right. Thus, it can be very challenging to create a vegetarian diet that can support dogs’ health in the long term.

2. Homemade Vegetarian Dog Foods Are Tricky to Formulate

Vegetarian diets are relatively new types of alternative food options for dogs. So commercial plant-based dog foods are harder to find. This leads some dog owners to go for homemade vegetarian diets.

Many recipes are conveniently available on the internet. However, they do not necessarily provide enough amounts of essential nutrients.

A study published in 2021 analyzed the nutritional content of online homemade recipes, including vegetarian preparations.

According to the results, none of them were considered complete and balanced, even if supplementation was added to some of these diets.

Referring back to Semp’s 2014 study, one homemade vegetarian recipe for dogs was found to be low in sodium, vitamin B12, and amino acids methionine and cysteine.

Homemade vegetarian diets for canines are more difficult to correctly formulate compared to commercial vegetarian dog food. Dog owners cannot carry out this task without the help of a qualified vet nutritionist.

Or else they are putting their dogs in great danger of developing several nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to serious health complications.

3. Dogs Fed with Vegetarian Dog Food May Need to Have Regular Lab Tests

As we have mentioned, nutritional deficiencies are one of the potential major side effects of vegetarian diets dog owners need to stay vigilant of.

The vet may advise that dogs that are on a vegetarian food diet undergo regular checkups and lab examinations such as blood tests to monitor if some type of deficiency is occurring.

A 2021 study reports that canines that are fed with a commercial plant-based diet have a high urine pH level. Researchers believe that the reason behind this change is due to a lack of animal protein intake.

An increase in urinary pH can lead to renal issues such as kidney or bladder stone formations. Hence, urinalysis might also be recommended to ensure that dogs have stable pH levels.

These vet checkups and examinations are not a one-off thing. They must be carried out as long as your canine companion is on a plant-based diet to ensure nothing is amiss.

This also means dog owners will likely need to allot more money for vet expenses.

4. Plant-Based Diets for Canines Lack Long-Term Studies

Although a handful of research was made about vegetarian dog food, they are mostly short-term studies.

They do provide evidence that this alternative diet can be beneficial to dogs’ health. However, this is not solid proof that its positive effects are long-lasting.

Certain synthetic supplements and nutrients added to vegetarian dog food also require more scientific studies to verify that they are safe and bioavailable to canines.

More observations are also necessary to ensure that these synthetic compounds will not negatively interact with other nutrients and inhibit their function.

For this reason, there is a call for more lifelong studies of feeding pooches dog food with no meat so experts and dog owners can have a clearer grasp on how this type of diet affects dogs’ health in the long term.

Alternatives to Vegetarian Dog Food

Switching to vegetarian dog food entails serious consideration and commitment because this diet comes with its own unique challenges.

Much like other types of pet food, it cannot cater to the nutritional needs of all dogs in some cases. These include puppies, pregnant dogs, nursing dogs, senior dogs and dogs with certain health problems since they have special nutritional requirements.

Fortunately, there are other alternatives you can try out such as:

  • Incorporating fresh food such as fruits and vegetables into your furry pal’s meat-based meals as a form of supplementation. This method helps reduce his meat consumption without fully putting him on a vegetarian diet.
  • Instead of feeding your dog vegetarian food, go for a pescatarian option. This diet uses fish and other types of seafood as sources of protein for pooches.
    Look for Marine Stewardship Council-certified products to make sure they consist of eco-friendly ingredients.
  • Cows, pigs, and poultry are the most common livestock animal subjected to unethical factory farming. They are also the most common ingredients you will find in meat-based dog food.
    Consider switching to products that use livestock less prone to factory farming such as elk, venison, and bison.

Before making minuscule or significant changes in your dog’s diet, seek the vet’s advice along with a board-certified vet nutritionist. They will guide you on how to make food transitions or adjustments smooth and safe for your canine friend.

FAQs About Vegetarian Dog Food for Dogs

a dog is standing up to look at vegetables

1. Is Vegetarian Dog Food Good for Dogs?

Vegetarian dog food is good for certain dogs, particularly those with food allergies or sensitivities. Since this kind of diet has minimal animal protein, they are possible alternative options for canines that are allergic to some types of animal proteins.

Remember that vegetarian diets for dogs can have eggs and dairy in them. So if these are confirmed allergens for your dog, you need to be more aware of the ingredients used in vegetarian dog food.

2. Can Dogs Eat Only-Vegetarian Food?

Theoretically, dogs can survive on an only-vegetarian food diet. However, maintaining this type of diet can be difficult since it involves providing complete and balanced nutrition without meat, which is a prominent source of numerous essential nutrients such as amino acids like taurine.

The health status of your dog must be considered first. As we have stated earlier, puppies, pregnant or nursing dogs, and dogs with ailments have specific nutritional needs that plant-based diets cannot provide.

It is critical to discuss with the vet if you plan to switch your dog to a vegetarian diet or other alternatives.

3. How Can Dogs Get Protein Without Meat?

Dogs can get protein without meat from protein-rich plant sources such as green peas and quinoa. However, most of them do not contain all the essential amino acids.

This is where soy comes in, which carries these essential nutrients. To avoid nutritional inadequacies, it should be used in combination with other plant sources.

It should be noted, however, that nutrients from animal sources are more bioavailable than plant ones. Many types of plants produce chemicals such as tannins, which bind with certain nutrients, preventing them from getting properly metabolized in the body.

4. What Happens If Dogs Don’t Get Meat?

While it is possible for dogs to survive on a diet that does not include meat, it is still important to note that nutritional deficiencies may occur if their diet does not contain adequate sources of essential nutrients.

Meat, such as lamb, chicken, and beef, is an excellent source of high-quality protein that provides all the necessary amino acids that dogs require.


When considering transitioning your dog to a vegetarian diet, there are many important factors to consider. No matter what decision you ultimately make, it is important to approach the process with care and attention to detail.

Start by conducting thorough research on all available dog food options. Take a close look at ingredient lists and scrutinize labeling claims. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer for clarification. If they are unable to provide clear answers, consider looking for a different brand of pet food.

If you prefer to make your dog’s food at home, seek the guidance of a certified veterinary nutritionist. Creating your own formulations can lead to nutritional imbalances and other issues.

For more tips on optimizing your dog’s health through their meals, consider downloading our Can Dogs Eat It app.