A single trip to the grocery store reveals just how many vegan products are available to those who choose to avoid ingredients from animals. The aisles are brimming with 100% cruelty-free sausages, cheese wedges, lunch meat, yogurt, too many non-dairy milk products to count, and…
vegan dog food?
Yep, it’s true!, which means that it’s more convenient now than ever.
In addition to the convenience factor, purchasing a vegan dog food that’s been certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials means you can have peace of mind that all your dog’s nutritional needs are being met by their diet. It takes a lot of the guesswork – and pressure – off of you, and ensures that they’re eating a sound diet that will sustain their health.
But how do you know which brands to give to your beloved pet?
We’ve rounded up the top five brands below:
List of Vegan Dog Food Brands
Evolution Vegan Diet kibble is made in the U.S. and includes non-GMO ingredients like soy, oats and potato flakes. The formula also includes essential nutrients for dogs like taurine as well as plenty of minerals and vitamins for healthy digestion.
What We Love
Dogs love the stuff! This kibble has a 94% 5-star rating and is considered one of the best foods for transitioning your dog to a plant-based diet. Many reviewers note that they would feed their dogs meat if they thought it would harm them, but the blood tests and checkups while their dogs are eating this kibble come back pristine.
If you can find this dog food locally, it may help you save a few bucks – shipping for a 40-pound bag of food can add up quickly, and the item is not usually available on Amazon Prime.Check Price on Amazon
Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food
Founded in 1989 by actor and animal activist Dick Van Patten, Natural Balance meat-free dog food comes in both wet food and dry kibble forms. The formula is 100% complete, so there’s no need to supplement your dog’s food with extra vitamins or nutrients, except by suggestion of your vet. The dry kibble is made from brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, and green peas,
What We Love
Another winner as far as being dog-approved, many reviewers note that Natural Balance dry and wet foods helped their dogs’ itchy skin, loose stools, and gas (especially in flat-nose breeds like pugs). Also, both the dry kibble and ultra premium canned food are available on Amazon Prime, which helps save you time and money on shipping.
Some reviewers note that, while their dogs love the taste and texture of the canned variety, some cans delivered via Amazon were badly damaged.
A “kinder, healthier, greener” kibble, V-Dog is a highly rated brand that packs a dog-friendly 24% protein formula into their kibble. Amazon Prime members can have this 30-pound bag of kibble shipped for free to their doorstep in just two days.
What We Love
Out of 107 Amazon reviews, 83% are 5-star reviews – this formula is vegan pooch-approved! Additionally, V-Dog kibble packs a super wholesome ingredient list with recognizable components like peas, brown rice, oats, lentils, and millet. In fact, almost the entire ingredient list is easy-to-read, and even sounds tasty to people! Like Natural Balance, users also report that this food helps solve irritating skin and digestive issues in dogs.
The bag the kibble comes in isn’t resealable, which can be frustrating when you’re buying in bulk. You’ll need a chip clip or a container to keep the food in to keep it fresh.Check Price on Amazon
Halo Vegan Garden Medley Dry & Wet Dog Food
Marketed as “stew for dogs”, Halo Dog Food is available in both wet and dry varieties. You can find both textures available on Amazon Prime, which gets the food to you faster, without having to pay expensive shipping fees.
What We Love
Halo’s Vegan Garden Medley blend is perfect for dogs with multiple food sensitivities. It’s made from nutrient rich chickpeas and peas, contains no animal or dairy fat, and is corn, wheat, and wheat gluten free. Owners of dogs with sensitive digestive systems, sleep issues or gas problems can use this food to alleviate those negative symptoms and help keep their food-sensitive dogs as healthy as possible!
The dry food seems to be much more highly rated than the canned option. While it’s worth a try, some users note that the wet food tended to make gas and digestive problems worse, while the dry kibble seemed to alleviate those problems. If your dog is very sensitive to certain foods, choose the dry option.
Nature’s Recipe uses healthy soybean meal as a primary source of high-quality protein. Their dry kibble blend is recommended for dogs with dermatological problems like itchy skin and a dull coat.
What We Love
Owners of itchy dogs, rejoice! This food formula has a solid 5-star review average, contains no corn, wheat, or artificial flavors, and boosts omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and fur. This is a great specialty blend for your dog without breaking the bank, as it’s one of the more affordable vegan dog blends available.
While Nature’s Recipe is available on Amazon with free shipping, it is not available on Amazon Prime, so it may take a little longer to arrive on your doorstep.
UPDATE – September 2017: Since posting this article, it has been brought to our attention that Nature’s Recipe is now available on Amazon Prime!Check Price on Amazon
But Aren’t Dogs Carnivores?
It’s a little-known and much-confused fact that, while man’s best friend belongs to the order Carnivora, the domesticated dog is an omnivore. This means Fido can lead a healthy, happy life on a plant-based diet – just like us!
Dogs’ bodies have the ability to transform certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into the proteins they need, meaning their amazing little bodies can create them from plants while completely avoiding meat.
It’s important to note that while dogs can lead happy, healthy lives without meat, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot get the nutrients they need from plants alone. It is not safe to feed your cat a diet that does not contain meat.
Much of our thoughts on dogs’ eating habits are influenced by dog food advertising, which touts meat and less “filler”, or images of wolves surrounding a kill. But even wild wolves eat the grains from the stomachs of their prey and are known to eat the occasional berry during their travels, meaning their bodies are equipped to process plant foods.
When you look at the inner workings of your dog’s digestive system, it lends some insight into why dogs can be classified as omnivores – because meat is very easy to digest and doesn’t require much effort to break down, the intestinal tracts of true carnivores like cats tend to be very short.
Humans, horses, pigs, and dogs have slightly longer intestinal tracts, as plant matter takes more time and effort to break down and extract every last nutrient from fruits, vegetables, and grains.
This means that, from a health perspective alone, your dog can thrive on a completely plant-based diet (of course, with the right ratio of nutrients to meet his needs). For vegans, the health and safety of their dog are only one side of the coin.
Animals Used in Pet Food
There has been a massive movement of people who want to know all the details of how animals raised for meat and other products are fed, treated, and housed.
However, the details of animals used for pet food doesn’t tend to be something on people’s radar (yet) – and the pet food industry takes advantage of its ability to operate behind “closed doors”.
Most dry or wet pet food is a veritable slop of animals unfit for human consumption. Society seems to accept the idea that dogs’ food can be a lesser quality that humans, but most people don’t realize just how bad it gets.
About 50% of an animal’s body is designated as “safe” for human consumption. The rest of the animal is comprised of “undesirables”, which includes things like skin, guts, hooves, bones, brains, udders, even feces – the stuff they’re not even allowed to make low-grade hot dogs out of.
It’s shocking, but think about the math here – if you can spend $15 for 15 pounds of dog food, chances are the quality of the ingredients is going to reflect the price. These leftover parts, along with things like expired meats from grocery stores (styrofoam packaging and all), road kill, dead zoo animals, and even euthanized pets from animal shelters, all make their way to a rendering plant.
You can think of a rendering plant as a giant meat grinder where huge amounts of random dead things are tossed in, and some ground substance comes out. The slop is boiled, the fat is skimmed off, and it is relabelled as “meat and bone meal”, which is an acceptable ingredient to be used in livestock feed, pet food, and fertilizer.
It’s one of those sneaky ingredients that might appear on the back of your dog’s food, and you’d have no idea that it might contain ground up dead dogs. Aside from being gross, this means your dog could also be ingesting everything those animals consumed before him – which include antibiotics, steroids, and even sodium pentobarbital sodium, which is used to euthanize shelter animals.
Traditional commercial pet food goes against nearly every aspect of veganism – ultimately, someone who is otherwise vegan is purchasing the leftover product from the direct exploitation of animals.
Vegan or not, if the ingredient list on the bag listed “ground up dogs and cats”, would you feed it to your pet, much less spend hard-earned money on it?
I wouldn’t either.
What Should I Feed My Vegan Dog?
So, knowing that dogs can not only survive, but thrive on an entirely plant-based diet, any self-respecting vegan wouldn’t purchase traditional commercial pet food knowing the horrors of what’s included in a seemingly innocent bag or can.
It’s totally possible to shift your dog to a completely vegan lifestyle.
But what about making sure your friend gets the necessary nutrients he needs?
Dog nutrition isn’t something we tend to think about very often, but if you’re thinking of making the switch from traditional to plant-based dog food, it’s of the utmost importance to do your research and make sure you’re giving your dog everything he needs to be healthy.
After all, your dog is completely dependent on you for his nutrition, and it’s the responsibility of every dog owner, vegan or otherwise, to ensure the health and safety of their pet.
Whether you plan to go a homemade option or purchase vegan dog food at the store, your first step should be consulting your veterinarian on successfully transitioning your dog to a plant-based diet.
While dogs can ultimately thrive on plants like you and me, their nutrition needs, like protein and micronutrients are different than ours, so you’ll want to consult your vet on exactly the right ratios and amount of food for your dog.
If you’ve talked to your vet, done your research, and are planning to make homemade vegan dog food, you should focus the bulk of the recipe on high-quality proteins and grains.
Dog-friendly plant proteins include legumes like lentils and pinto beans, while sweet potatoes and long-grain rice complete the protein and are good for your vegan dog. A little vegan-friendly peanut butter can help entice dogs who are used to a meat-based meal into digging in while you’re transitioning them from typical dog food.
For a recipe template, try this formula from PETA and adjust based on your dogs’ weight.
While you do have some flexibility as to exactly which foods you choose to include in your homemade dog food recipe, it’s important to note that some foods beloved by healthy vegan humans are toxic to dogs.
You should never include alcohol, avocado, chocolate, caffeine, citrus, coconut, grapes/raisins, nuts, onions, garlic, chives, xylitol, or yeast – the side effects of these foods can range anywhere from an upset stomach and diarrhea to death, so take care to avoid adding any of the foods on this list.
Thriving Vegan Dogs
With so many options for healthy vegan dog food, it’s easy to provide your beloved pet with a 100% healthy diet without having to support cruel animal practices. Whether Fido prefers wet food or dry food, has bad gas or itchy skin, or is just a plain picky eater, there is a convenient and affordable option for his dinner.
Remember to discuss any dietary changes with your vet, and to slowly transition your dog off traditional food to avoid any digestive irritation. By mixing a little more vegan food each day into his diet, you’ll be well on your way to raising a healthy, plant-based pet.