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  • Laura Simonson

Vegan Dogs: The ONE Question.

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

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're weary of having to address this over and over. It is deflection pure and simple. Unfortunately, our belief systems tend to over-rule evidence or facts. That profound topic is for another blog, but in the meantime, we appreciate if you would be neutral and open to this exciting topic about our dog's diet evolution while becoming our best friend.


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.


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 plant-based diet feasible in dogs.


Want to know more? Research and Reasons: Plant-Based Foods for Dogs


Future of Vegan Foods for Dogs


My intention as an entrepreneur and founder of Virchew is to ask new questions to find new, maybe even bold, solutions - along with the support of our veterinary partners. I feel without a doubt, due to new demands from discerning paw parents questioning sustainability and ingredient transparency - along with a rapidly growing interest in 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 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. The future is unleashed and coming to our world soon.


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? Check out, Beyond Carnism by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.) Or looking for more nutrition science evidence to support these statements? My trusted go-to resource for almost a decade is NutritionFacts.org founded by Dr. Michael Greger. This unparalleled service has no commercial ties.


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 and Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists!


Veterinary Professionals


After years of interviews and meetings, I have a 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.

After 30+ years of; researching vegan dog nutrition, interviews with dozens of veterinarians and working with a team of Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists - I ask you this ONE question:


“Have you ever seen one study that proves dogs cannot thrive on a vegan diet?”


UPDATE: NOVEMBER 14 2022 - See this blog for the new study.


Hungry to learn more about our dog's evolution and diet? We've dished up more here and here.


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Note: Aside from potential optimum health for your dog, our meals are a possible solution for your dog's skin, digestive or senior-related issues.

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