Can (should?) dogs survive on a vegan diet?

Illustration for article titled Can (should?) dogs survive on a vegan diet?
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Now that humans are spurning meat, even at KFC, it probably follows that we would want to share the joys of vegetarianism and veganism with our very best friends. By which I of course mean dogs. (Unlike cats, they believe that their collective survival depends on pleasing humans.)

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So now, according to USA Today, veganism is the very latest thing in the dog nutrition. They even cite a scientific study from AVMA:“Interest in, and availability of, plant-based diets, are growing in popularity in the North American pet food market.” And indeed, there is now plant-based dog food and plenty of vegetarian offerings on Chewy. The piece goes on to quote a number of human vegans who are raising their dogs vegan because they can and because they heard that commercial dog food may be made with meat from diseased or dying animals. (The article cited to support this claim mentions this only twice, by the way, and concludes that it’s far better to feed our pets waste from human food production instead of sending it all to landfills.) The dogs are healthy and happy.

I personally know just one vegan dog, who happens to live next door to me, and she, too, seems healthy and happy, although I’d be willing to bet that a lot of that health and happiness comes from going on three-mile walks every day. Also, her human is a vegetarian. But she is atypical, as I learned a few years ago when I experimented with cooking for my own dog, the incomparable Abby.

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Abby’s vet, Dr. Natalie Marks of Chicago’s Blum Animal Hospital, told me that dogs are omnivores and that they need a balance of proteins, starches, and fats in their diets.

All those things can be found in meat.

Marks added that if you’re going to make major changes in your dog’s diet, you should definitely consult with your vet first so that she or he can recommend supplements to make sure that the dog is getting all the nutrients she needs.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Some people should absolutely not be allowed to own and keep animals.

I’ve heard stories about vegans killing cats (who are obligate carnivores) with this brainless ignorance of animal physiology...and to say dogs are omnivores is technically correct but fails to account for the fact that dogs are sorted into order Carnivora on the taxonomic chart for a damn good reason; in the wild, no wolf/dog/coyote/fox who can acquire meat (via hunting or scavenging) tries to subsist on plant matter.

To feed a dog a vegetarian diet would be like, I dunno, trying to sustain a human on Ensure drinks or army survival rations indefinitely. Last-resort food.