Does Vegetarian Dog Food Provide Enough Protein?

Vegetarian dog food provides a sufficient amount of protein for the average dog. However, if you have a working dog or a dog that competes in dog sports, it might not be the right answer for your pet.

Advantages of a Vegetarian Diet

Dogs are omnivores, so they are capable of surviving on a vegetarian diet, unlike cats who are carnivores and not set up to consume plant matter. There is even an example of a border collie who ate a vegetarian diet of rice, lentils and organic vegetables and lived to be 27 years old. Many people who have their dogs on a vegetarian diet say they are thriving.

Many types of kibble that people feed dogs are very unhealthy. They are filled with cheap fillers such as corn, wheat and meat byproducts, which don't provide dogs with the nutrients they require to live a healthy life. Since vegetarian kibble is typically only produced by top-of-the-line companies, the kibble tends to be higher quality, which can improve the health of your dog.

For example, Natural Balance vegetarian formula provides 18 percent crude protein, which is the same amount of protein provided by senior and diet dog food formulas. It replaces nutrients normally obtained in meat products, through oatmeal, brown rice, carrots, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and biotin.

If you are concerned about your dog receiving proper nutrients, there are supplements available, such as Vegedog, which provide all the necessary elements in a pill or powder form.

Disadvantages of Vegetarian Diet

Dogs like meat. In the wild, dogs eat mostly animals, so vegetarian diet is not natural for them. They do consume plant matter, but usually from the tissues of their prey, since they usually consume herbivores. This is a small part of their diet, and they gain most of their nutrients from muscle and organ tissue.

Switching from a cheap kibble diet will always improve the health of your dog. However, people who feed a raw meat diet make the same claims of improved health and reduction in certain types of cancer. Many of the improved health claims made by those who feed vegetarian could just be the dog's health improvement once removed from the preservatives and harmful elements contained in cheap kibble.

Providing the proper amount of nutrients through a vegetarian diet requires a significant amount of research. Dogs need to receive at least 18 percent protein, along with a sufficient amount of vitamin D, calcium, L-carnitine and taurine. There are high-quality kibbles available that have done most of the research for you, but homemade diets can be a challenge.

If your dog competes in dog sports, you need a higher amount of protein to meet all of his energy needs. High protein diets designed for active dogs include 25 to 27 percent protein, which aren't met by vegetarian diets.

Dogs are well-known for being able to survive on any type of diet, including a vegetarian diet. Unless your dog is a canine athlete, he will do fine on a vegetarian diet if it is properly researched, and he may even see health improvements.