Dogs are like humans in that they need the basics in their diets including proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The burning question here is, can they get enough protein if they don’t eat meat?
Protein is an important part of your dog’s diet - as you’re probably aware, early dogs and wolves survived on diets primarily made up of raw meat, which is high in both protein and fat. But because your dog’s ancestors ate this way, does that mean it’s the healthiest diet for your dog currently?
The short answer is no.
Modern-day dogs have the ability to get all of the essential nutrients from both animal-based and plant foods.
Interestingly, protein itself isn’t simply what dogs need in their diets - it’s the amino acids they need, which are the building blocks of protein. To dive a little deeper, there are 22 different types of amino acids that dogs need in their diets, and a deficiency in any of them could be cause for health problems.
Dogs have actually evolved over time to be better-able to digest starches (i.e. vegetables) than their wolf ancestors. Furthermore, somewhere down the line dogs dropped the ability to eat exclusively animal-based foods, so when it comes down to it, you really shouldn’t be feeding your dog a diet full of raw meat.
Here’s where the experts stand: unless your dog has some kind of crazy vegetable allergies, he will probably both survive and thrive on a vegetarian diet. Unlike their ancestors, dogs are omnivores and can easily get all of the amino acids they need from eating a meatless diet.
A vegan diet, on the other hand, might be a little trickier and should be approached with caution. It’ll require much more planning and it’s best to talk to a pet nutritionist first to plan out an appropriate diet that’ll give your dog all of the nutrients he needs to thrive.
Nevertheless, the occasional vegan meal could be great for your dog, says Dr. Michael Fox, the former president of U.S. Humane Society. “Dogs could benefit from a vegan meal at least once a week to detox.”
And if you are thinking about making the switch to a vegetarian diet for your dog, keep in mind that he might at first turn up his nose at a meal without meat if he’s simply used to eating that way. Your best bet is probably to acclimate him to the new diet by gradually decreasing the amount of meat you feed him.