Vegetarian pet parents often consider making their dog vegetarian too. The thinking is: What's good for you is good for your dog. It sounds like solid logic, but it has some major holes, especially when it comes to diet. You want the best for your furry pal. After all, who else has seen you at your 3 a.m. worst and still wanted to lick your tear-and-snot-streaked face? So you might be tempted to shift your dog to a vegetarian diet, especially since you've noticed more and more vegetarian food options on the pet food aisle.
Can Dogs Be Vegetarian?
Technically, yes. It’s possible for a dog to follow a vegetarian or even a vegan diet and survive. Unlike cats, dogs are not obligate carnivores. As omnivores, dogs have the ability to transform amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and these building blocks, specifically taurine and L-carnitine can be sourced from some vegetables.
But is Vegetarian Food Good for Dogs?
Just because dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet, doesn’t mean they’ll thrive. In fact, experts warn that the nutritional deficiencies in a vegetarian diet could lead to serious health problems for pets. Dogs can experience stunted growth, heart problems, skin problems, and low energy levels or lethargy. It’s very difficult for a veggie-only diet to retain the same balance and nutritional profile as one that contains meat.
And the scariest part, according to Gudrun Ravetz, former president of the British Veterinary Association, is that these health problems are often irreversible and can develop within mere months of a meat-free diet. Owners may not realize the problems before it's too late.
The bottom line is that dogs should be fed like dogs, not anything else. Just like it’s a bad idea to feed dogs as if they are wolves, it's equally dangerous to feed them as if they are humans. Dogs get important nutrition from the meat in their diet, something that is almost entirely impossible to recreate in a meat-free diet without severe supplementation. And why supplement a diet with pills and extracts prescribed and overseen by a veterinarian when the best form of this nutrition is in real, available foods?
Need Another Reason to Avoid Making Your Dog a Vegetarian?
Dogs love meat! Show any dog a piece of beef and he will go wild with delight. It’s our job as pet parents to make our dogs as happy as possible, so is it fair to deny them an entire food group that they love? A balanced diet of meat protein and vegetables is the best (and frankly, easiest) way to get your dog all the essential nutrients he needs for a long, healthy and happy life.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.