Most people see their pets as part of the family. At Farm Sanctuary, this rings true for the 1,000+ rescued farm animals our staff care for at our sanctuaries, as well as the companion animals we care for at home. When it comes to taking care of our animal friends, proper nutrition is one of the best ways to promote general wellness and longevity—and for many species, this means following a plant-based diet. Most farm animals are herbivores by design (though pigs, birds, and waterfowl will seek out bugs and grubs to eat) so they get most or all of the nutrients they need on a plant-based diet. But can the same be said for our dogs?
Dogs are omnivores who can and do thrive on a vegan diet—of great comfort to many animal lovers hoping to provide what is best for their pets, without causing unnecessary harm to other animals.
Many of our staff members have found success with vegan dog food. Here is what a few of them have to say:
Gene, Pepe, & Winston
“It’s good to be able to avoid causing the suffering and death of farm animals by feeding our dogs plant-based food,” Gene says. “It makes it so much easier for me since I have been vegan for over two decades. Seeing how healthy and how happy they are, I am thrilled that a vegan diet also works for them!”
Maria & Denali
“I love that me and Denali can share this lifestyle,” says Farm Sanctuary Volunteer Program Coordinator Maria Jamison. The pair met at a farm animal sanctuary in South Africa, where Denali—a rescued animal herself—would help Maria comfort the piglets in her care. “She was always gentle and patient with them,” Maria says. “She would let them crawl all over her, and they loved playing together.”
When it came time to return home to the United States, Maria knew that Denali belonged right by her side. “She was my family, and we had been through so much together.” Now, the two go to work together each day—and when it’s time to go home, they bond over a vegan meal together.
“I love eating with her knowing no one had to die for our meal,” says Maria.“[Denali] has always gotten great reviews during vet visits. They always say she has a great body composition and is in great shape. She’s never had any health issues!”
Kamekǝ, Chaz, & Kaia
Farm Sanctuary Social Justice Coordinator Kamekǝ Brown also feeds her dogs, Chaz and Kaia, Natural Balance Vegetarian/Vegan food. The decision arose from her ethics—her desire to spread compassion and minimize harm towards others—and continues based on how well her dogs are thriving.
“My decision to feed them a plant-based diet was really a carry-over from a general intention I have to be thoughtful about how my personal choices contribute to or perpetuate harm,” Kamekǝ explains. “I often think to myself, ‘If I can make a choice that minimizes harm to other beings and is healthful for Chaz and Kaia, then why not make that choice?’”
To Kamekǝ’s delight, a vegan diet complements her values and her pups’ wellbeing. “When I first adopted Chaz, I’d been feeding him a plant-based diet for those first few months, and when I took him in for a check-up at the veterinarian, she said, ‘I’m not exactly sure what you’re doing, but he looks great—so whatever it is, keep it up!’ I also know a number of friends who’ve had dogs pass away from cancer, so I’ve had a lot of concerns about the potential toxicity of conventional dog foods that come from animals.”
Amy & Rodrigo
Farm Sanctuary Caregiver Amy’s dog, Rodrigo—an 11 to 12-year-old Chihuahua mix—has joint problems, and lost all of his teeth to dental disease. When Amy first adopted him, she sought to do whatever she could to give Rodrigo the best quality of life possible. “I hadn’t originally planned to have him on a vegan diet,” Amy explains. “I just wanted to try different foods for him and wanted him to be healthy no matter what he ate. I wanted to give him what he needed to be a happy and healthy dog. He actually prefers the vegetarian food over anything else he’s been offered.”
Rodrigo’s vets agree that he is on the right track. “Every visit, his vet comments on how healthy he looks and how great overall his health is, especially for his age. Everyone who has known him since I adopted him has commented on how much better he looks since I first had him. He is an older gentleman but has the energy of a puppy at times.”
Breezy, Napolean, & Goliath
Farm Sanctuary Tour Guide Breezy, dog mom to Napoleon and Goliath, also notes how a vegan diet—V-dog, in their case— has changed their family’s life. “My special needs boy, Napoleon, has a host of health issues (including a seizure disorder, heart condition, and gastrointestinal flare-ups), and therefore has to undergo blood tests regularly, to check how his body is functioning. Even his specialty veterinarians have allowed him to stay on a vegan diet, stating that his dietary health is incredible and his vegan diet has nothing to do with his health issues.” As for Breezy’s younger dog, Goliath: “She has never had any health problems, and has been on a vegan diet for nearly a decade.
“Sharing a vegan diet with my dogs is extremely important to me, [but] I’ve agreed to change [Napoleon’s] diet if the vets felt it was necessary for his health. Fortunately, that’s not been the case. The care and health of the dogs I share my life with is most important in my life, and I truly love that my care for my companions does not have to implicate my ethics in any way.”
As our staff members have observed, it is possible to share a vegan diet with our canine family members—and to do so with the knowledge that we are not only helping our furry friends but the farm animals to whom we dedicate our life’s work.
We advise consulting with your veterinarian before making any dietary or lifestyle changes for your dogs.