• Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN

Can You Feed Dogs A Vegan Diet?

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from animal-based foods and products. The vegan diet includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts/seeds, bread, pasta, and more. The vegan diet excludes dairy, eggs, meat, and fish.

Since veganism has grown so vastly among humans, this diet has leaked its way into pet food. But it's questionable whether this way of feeding is actually benefiting pets. There have been reports of deaths and severely malnourished animals due to vegan diets. So let’s get into what this diet really consists of and whether it sets up dogs to truly thrive.

Plant Protein

Looking at some of the most common vegan pet foods, you can see most of the ingredients are made out of corn, rice, soy, legumes, potatoes, etc. Plus, the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals to make the food “complete and balance.”

Although dogs are facultative carnivores and can consume plant matter, dogs require a source of complete amino acids. Complete amino acids are sources of food that provide the 10 essential amino acids that dogs require: Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine. Foods that provide complete amino acids for dogs are most abundant in animal products. Failure to provide these essential amino acids can result in malnutrition.

The most common plant protein sources that vegan pet foods and other kibble manufacturers use are very high in the glycemic index, such as brown rice. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore, insulin levels. High GI foods can induce hyperglycemia which causes oxidative stress and increases inflammation. This affects the body's insulin signaling, which can lead to insulin resistance.

Simply because a company uses plant protein and states that it provides “all nutrients” does not mean that the nutrients are bio-available and benefit the animal.

A study conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico evaluated the macronutrient fatty acids and amino acids profile of vegan dog foods to the AAFCO and FEDIAF nutrient profiles. It was concluded that "all foods analyzed had one or more nutrients below the recommended levels and some presented zinc and copper excess, therefore, these foods should not be recommended for dogs and cats, because dietary deficiencies found may lead to health risks for dogs and cats." In addition, some foods did "did not meet the minimum recommendation for methionine." Methionine is a precursor to taurine, and low amounts of these precursor amino acids have had a connection with an increase in DCM. Even when the supplement DL-methionine was added, it was still below minimum levels.