Vegan Dogs: The ONE Question.
Updated: Oct 7, 2021
When it comes to the topic of vegan dogs, there's a consistent, misinformed carnivore vs. omnivore sparring.
After years of heated debates, you can find dozens of articles and interviews questioning if a dog can (or should) be vegetarian, vegan or plant-based. Aside from a small few, they are all pretty much the same. No conclusion, really, just an ongoing “Let’s wait and see” debate, and frankly we are tired of having to address this over and over. It is deflection pure and simple.
In 2013, the respected and much-awarded research magazine, nature, published a groundbreaking study that found that dogs possess genes for digesting starches, which set them apart from their carnivore cousins - wolves.
Having said that, I have deep respect for veterinary professionals who are doing their best day after day and fielding questions from thousands of people on the topic of canine nutrition. There are no simple answers, and in fact, this subject (combined with plant-based nutrition) is extremely complex considering the diversity of breeds, genetics and the evolution of our domestic dog's diet to reflect their ability to digest starches.
In the nature magazine article, researcher Kerstin Lindblad-Toh suggests, as humans have also evolved to be able to easily digest starches, it possibly was the rise of farming, (beginning around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East), that led to the adaptations in both humans and dogs. “This is a striking sign of parallel evolution,” she says. “It really shows how dogs and humans have evolved together to be able to eat starch.” It is the ability to digest and process starches that make a plantbased diet feasible in dogs.
Future of Virchew
My intention as an entrepreneur and founder of Virchew is to ask new questions to find new, maybe even bold, solutions. I feel without a doubt, due to new demands from discerning paw parents questioning sustainability and ingredient transparency, in our case, plant-based options, it’s time to write a NEW story about our dog’s diet. Here’s a good start.
First, let’s compare this to the exact hot debate that has occurred in plant-based human nutrition in these three stages:
Resistance: “We need meat for protein and survival!” (Carnivore)
Reaction: “A diet high in vegetables, fruits and fibre could be beneficial.” (Flexitarian)
Research: “Research has shown that a vegan diet is considered one of the healthiest diets for humans.” (Vegan)
If you were to take this same trajectory and place it on the canine plant-based trajectory, the start of the two paths would be the same. Exactly the same. We’re somewhere between the resistance and the reaction.
I’ve been watching and experiencing this human diet debate for over 35-years, both professionally and personally. Instead of asking, “Show me the research that proves humans can be vegetarian (or vegan) and don’t need meat,” I ask, “Show me the research that proves we cannot thrive on a vegan diet.”
We Don't Need Meat.
Here’s the thing. There isn’t one study that proves or even indicates that we need meat to survive as a species. We don’t. Period. (Want to learn more about the intriguing philosophy behind this human condition? Google, “Beyond Carnism” by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.)
So, what about our dogs? Same, same. We wrangle across the virtual table and even witness outright bullying to caring animal lovers who dare to share their vegan dog success stories. These same misinformed people even challenge highly-educated and experienced veterinarians!
After 25-years of researching vegetarian/vegan dogs and interviews with dozens of veterinarians, I ask you this ONE question:
“Have you ever seen one study that proves dogs cannot thrive on a vegan diet?”