One of the biggest ongoing debates in the animal loving community is which type of diet we should be feeding our dogs. On one hand, some believe that dogs are born to be carnivores and should mostly consume meat. But on the other, many are beginning to question the humanity and science behind animal-based dog foods.
For dog owners who are vegan, there’s an even bigger question over whether purchasing dog food that contains meat is an acceptable part of a vegan lifestyle. Not only is most meat intended for canine consumption factory farmed, where animal abuse and cruelty run rampant, but many dog foods are tested on animals using inhumane methods before being put on the market. Meat production for dog food also puts an incredible strain on the environment – it’s the source of 25 to 30 percent of all animal farming-related carbon emissions.
With the larger discussion about canine meat consumption, we’ve seen wider availability of vegan and vegetarian dog foods designed to provide pets at home with sustainable, plant-based nutrition. We’ve put many of these foods to the test and have compiled a list of our top seven favorites.
These foods have been developed by scientists and veterinarians to provide your pup with the full spectrum of nutrients he needs, without harming any other animals in the process.
The best vegan and vegetarian dog foods
1. Wild Earth
Protein from fungi? You bet! Wild Earth’s Clean Protein Dog Food sources an impressive amount of protein from a most unlikely source: yeast. At 31%, its protein content rivals that of animal protein-based dog foods, and provides the same nutrients and amino acids as many types of meat.
Wild Earth is also free from corn, soy, or rice, which are all main ingredients in the majority of vegan and vegetarian dog foods. Instead, they use high-quality plant-based carbohydrate sources such as oats, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas. And it gets better: you won’t find any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in Wild Earth’s recipes, which is good news for dogs with any type of skin issue, digestive problem, or other sensitivity.
Check out my Wild Earth dog food review – my dogs absolutely love this dog food! They did not take any time to adjust at all, they love the flavor.
2. Wysong Vegan
Wysong is a holistic pet food company that offers a range of all-natural foods for dogs, cats, and ferrets, including Vegan, its plant-based recipe. You’ll find protein from soybeans, peas, and potatoes at the top of this ingredient list, along with brown rice and corn for essential carbohydrates.
Since Wysong is a small holistic pet food company, it owns all of its research and production facilities, allowing the company to closely monitor every step of the production process. Wysong also works with a small group of trusted suppliers to ensure maximum quality of all ingredients. The brand performs no animal testing on any of its foods and supports animal welfare through every step of the production process.
100% vegan dog food brand V-Dog offers two dog food and two treat options, all of which are entirely plant-based. The food derives its protein mainly from peas, which are a great source of fiber and a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. These veggie powerhouses are packed with vitamins A, B, and K, in addition to iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
If your dog has any food sensitivities, V-Dog is a great vegan option. Their food is entirely free from corn, wheat, gluten, soy, and fillers, all common triggers of skin and digestive issues in canines. Instead, they use easily digestible ingredients like brown rice and quinoa, which are also more nutritionally complete than the cheaper carbohydrates used by some popular dog food brands.
4. Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe
Nature’s Recipe is a fairly well-known dog food brand readily available from Petco, PetSmart, Chewy, Amazon, and more. While most of their recipes contain meat, they do offer one vegetarian option: the Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe. Soybean meal is the main source of protein, which is ideal for dogs that have trouble digesting animal proteins. The food is rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, zinc, and linoleic acid, and uses no corn- or wheat-derived ingredients.
Pet owners who feed their dog Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe rave about its positive effects on skin and coat health and say their pups even prefer the taste over other animal-based recipes. This is also a great option if you want to switch your dog to a plant-based diet but are working with a tight budget. Starting at just $1.60/lb, Nature’s Recipe is by far the least expensive of the vegan and vegetarian dog foods on our list.
5. Petcurean Gather Endless Valley
From sensitivity-friendly dog food brand Petcurean comes Gather Endless Valley, a USDA organic-certified food that gathers the bulk of its protein from peas. But peas aren’t the only source of protein and nutrients in this veggie-packed recipe; Petcurean includes a wide variety of sustainably grown plants to make sure your pup is getting the full spectrum of amino acids they need for a long and happy life.
In addition to being certified organic, Petcurean Gather Endless Valley uses only non-GMO ingredients, is free from wheat, corn, and soy, and contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. However, it comes at a price; this dog food is the most expensive on our list, starting at $5.00/lb. But if it’s within your budget, this is one of the highest quality vegan dog foods money can buy.
6. Walk About Canine Exotics
Searching for a dog food that’s both vegan and grain free? Look no further than Walk About’s Canine Exotics dry kibble. Since most plant-based dog foods get their carbohydrates from grains like rice and oats, it’s rare to find a quality vegan food that also contains none of these potential sensitivity-triggering ingredients.
At the top of the Walk About Canine Exotics ingredients list, you’ll find protein from peas and carbohydrates from sweet potatoes and lentils. Flaxseeds provide an additional nutrient boost through omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids, dietary fiber, and anti-inflammatory lignans. The ingredients list is much shorter than most dog foods, drastically reducing the chance that your dog will react poorly to anything in the recipe. If you’ve been pulling your hair out trying to find a food your sensitivity-prone dog can tolerate, this is certainly one to give a try.
7. Halo Holistic Garden of Vegan
We’ve already expressed our love for Halo, a holistic dog food company with a diverse product lineup that provides options for just about every canine diet. But their Garden of Vegan recipe is one of the best, delivering high-quality protein from chickpeas and peas. Carbohydrates come from barley, oats, and potatoes, without the use of rice, corn, or wheat. Since many of the vegetables used are sourced from Europe, where genetic modification is forbidden, all ingredients are kept strictly non-GMO.
Halo has received widespread praise for its Garden of Vegan food, including winning 2018’s Best Dog Food from VegNews. Garden of Vegan is available as both a dry kibble and wet food; if you’re looking for additional plant-based goodies, you’ll find two different types of vegan dog treats under the Halo Healthsome brand name.
Benefits of Vegan
So why are so many dog owners switching their pups to vegan kibble? There are many reasons being reported, from health concerns to environmental sustainability. These are just a few of the advantages your pup might benefit from.
Potential health benefits
Food intolerances are a common cause of ailments among dogs, and it can be extremely difficult to find a commercial pet food that doesn’t cause a reaction if your dog is unfortunate enough to suffer from one of these sensitivities. Food intolerances in dogs can manifest themselves in many ways; skin and coat irritation, digestive issues, and problems gaining or losing weight are just a few.
It’s been reported that switching to a plant-based diet can be highly beneficial to dogs with such intolerances. One study by the University of Winchester reported that dogs who had been switched to a vegan diet showed improved skin and coat condition and better stool consistency. This was accompanied by no detectable deficiencies in any key nutrients such as iron or vitamin B12.
Lower environmental impact
How much damage is your dog’s current food doing to the environment? According to a UCLA study, between 25 and 30 percent of carbon emissions caused by animal farming come from meat intended for pet food. This is quite substantial, given that close to 15% of global greenhouse gases come from livestock, which occupy 70% of all farmable land. In short, the growing worldwide demand for meat is a major contributor to our current environmental crisis, and dog food production is a leading culprit.
Just as many of those who eliminate meat from their personal diets do so for environmental reasons, a large portion of pet owners who purchase plant-based dog food wish to lower their carbon footprint even further. If enough dog parents caught on and adopted a vegan lifestyle for their pup, there could be a serious positive effect on the environment.
Sustainable food sources
As the worldwide food industry becomes globalized and the items we eat every day are being produced overseas at higher rates, consumers are growing wise and questioning where their food comes from. There’s an increasing demand for accountability and fair practice in the growing and manufacturing of food products. While vegan dog foods aren’t inherently sustainable, many of the companies behind them honor a larger overall commitment to ethical responsibility.
But what exactly is a sustainable food source? For the most part, the call for sustainability involves reducing the consumption of animal products, choosing items that are grown and produced locally, and practicing fair trade. Considering the fact that around half of pet food imported to the United States comes from Thailand and China, where regulations around pet food are virtually nonexistent, it’s definitely time to start asking where your dog’s food comes from. You’ll find that most of the brands listed on our Top 7 Vegan and Vegetarian Dog Foods list are transparent about their efforts to source ingredients sustainably.
No animal abuse or cruelty
If you know anything about the meat industry, it should come as no surprise that a concerning percentage of the animals raised as meat for pet food are treated inhumanely. In fact, animal welfare was found to be the top motivating factor in switching to vegan dog food by one study.
But what you might not know is that further animal abuse often occurs during the pet food testing process. PETA has uncovered multiple cases of inhumane laboratory tests carried out by major dog food companies, in which animals are confined to extremely small spaces and forced to undergo invasive testing. The organization has compiled a list of dog food companies that it has confirmed do not perform inhumane testing, although just because a brand didn’t make the list, doesn’t mean it carries out any abusive practices.
Drawbacks of Vegan
As with any diet, there are a few drawbacks to take into consideration if you’re thinking about feeding your dog a vegan food. This doesn’t mean you can’t make the switch to a plant-based kibble, but you should certainly have a discussion with your vet before making any changes.
Concerns over some protein sources
Recently, there has been some concern over the safety of certain alternative protein sources in dog foods following a 2019 FDA report that linked some grain-free pet food brands to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. The brands in question primarily used peas and lentils in their recipes, which are common protein sources for vegan dog foods.
Note that none of the brands on our 7 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Dog Foods list were named in the report, and there’s still widespread uncertainty over what exactly is causing the outbreak of DCM; significant further testing is needed. If your pup falls on the list of breeds that are susceptible to DCM, have a discussion with your vet over whether vegan dog food is a safe option.
Since vegan diets for canines are still relatively niche, most local pet stores and national chains aren’t stocking plant-based dog foods on their shelves. You’ll typically need to order online if you decide to start purchasing vegan kibble or wet food.
If this is the case, make sure to keep a close eye on your pup’s supply so that you don’t run out and end up having to wait several days for a new shipment to arrive. Better yet, consider signing up for autoship so that a steady supply is delivered to your door automatically each month, without you having to remember to log on and order more.
Overall, vegan dog food tends to be more expensive than the meat-based alternative. This is due to a higher quality of ingredients and more sustainable production processes.
Still, we realize that this can pose a serious barrier to those who want a healthier diet for their pet, but simply can’t afford it. If this is the case, remember that there are plenty of plant-based kibbles that are budget friendly; we found that Nature’s Recipe had the most affordable option at just $1.43/lb.
Vegan dog food is a fairly new concept, and most of the brands we reviewed have only been producing plant-based formulas for a few years at most. This means that we simply don’t know the long-term health effects of switching dogs to vegan diets.
Although veterinarians and scientists work hard to formulate each of the recipes we’ve included, there’s still plenty of studying to be done. For now, all we have is evidence of short- and medium-term health benefits and customer testimonials for each brand’s recipes. As always, you should work closely with your vet to choose the best diet for your pup’s health and happiness.
When it comes to vegan dog food, some brands are much more expensive than others. We found that on average, you can expect to spend about $2.79/lb on a plant-based kibble. Here’s how each brand compares:
|Wild Earth||Starts at $2.72/lb|
|Wysong Vegan||Starts at $2.19/lb|
|V-Dog||Starts at $2.37/lb|
|Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe||Starts at $1.43/lb|
|Gather Endless Valley||Starts at $5.00/lb|
|Walk About Canine Exotics||Starts at $2.20/lb|
|Holistic Garden of Vegan||Starts at $3.33/lb|
How much protein does your pup need, and can he get enough from a vegan diet? The protein contents of the brands we reviewed range from 20% to 31%, with the average around 24%. Most veterinarians recommend that dogs eat a diet that is 18% to 25% protein, which places all the foods on our list in the optimal range. Nevertheless, here’s how they stacked up:
|Brand||Main protein source||Protein content|
|Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin Vegetarian Recipe||Soybeans||22%|
|Petcurean Gather Endless Valley||Peas||22%|
|Walk About Canine Exotics||Peas||21%|
|Halo Holistic Garden of Vegan||Peas||20%|