Best Vegetarian Dog Food

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best vegetarian dog food

Last Updated September 2020

Like humans, dogs are omnivores, which means they can thrive on a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet. If you want or need to feed your dog a vegetarian diet, a commercial vegetarian dog food is your best bet, as it will be complete and balanced to contain all the nutrients your dog needs. Many people feed dogs vegetarian food to align with their ethics, which is a totally valid choice, but it's also worth noting that meat protein is one of the most commonly allergenic foods for dogs, so you may need to cut meat out of your dog's diet for her health.

When searching for the best vegetarian dog food for your canine companion, there's plenty to consider. You'll need to find out what source of protein the food contains and look at the overall ingredient quality. There are also decisions to make, such as whether you want wet food, dry food, a complete dog food, or a mixer.

We've selected our top vegetarian dog foods for you to peruse. If you're not ready to buy yet, read on for our full guide to vegetarian dog food.

All vegan dog food is also vegetarian by default, but vegetarian dog food isn't necessarily vegan.

Key considerations

Protein

If you're a vegetarian or vegan yourself, you've probably been asked that classic question: "Where do you get your protein?” Now it's time to figure out where your dog will get her protein when eating a vegetarian dog food. The good news is, there are plenty of vegetarian protein sources.

Many vegetarian dog foods contain legumes such as green peas, chickpeas, and other beans. These are all excellent sources of protein, and they have the added bonus of being vegan, too. If you're not worried about your dog's food being vegan, egg is another great protein source. It's easily digestible, so it's ideal for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Of course, grains, starches, fruits, and vegetables all contain some protein, as well, so most of the ingredients in your dog's food will add to the overall protein content.

Wet vs. dry

You can find both vegetarian wet dog food and vegetarian dry dog food. You may choose to feed one type exclusively or a mixture of both.

Wet dog food is great for puppies, small dogs, and senior dogs who have trouble eating kibble, thanks to its soft texture. That said, any dog can eat wet food. Some dogs find it more palatable than dry food, so it's great for picky eaters. On the downside, it's more expensive than dry food and needs refrigeration once opened.

Dry dog food is easy to keep fresh, lasts a long time once opened, and costs less to feed than wet food. This is especially worth considering if you’re feeding large dogs who require a lot of food. Some dogs find dry food boring to eat, though, as every piece has the same flavor and texture.

Complete food vs. mixer

It's important to know the difference between a complete food and a mixer. A complete food contains all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your dog needs to stay healthy. If you feed a complete food, that's all your dog needs to eat.

Mixers can also be referred to as boosters or base mixes. These are foods designed to be mixed with other ingredients to form a balanced diet. Unless you're well-versed in canine nutrition, we recommend avoiding mixers.

EXPERT TIP

If you're concerned about the use of GMOs, don't worry. Many vegetarian dog foods are GMO-free.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

AAFCO statement

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has a list of nutritional requirements that dog food must meet. Any vegetarian dog food that has the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the package meets or exceeds these nutritional requirements. Avoid any dog food without the AAFCO statement, but know that some AAFCO-approved foods might not be high in quality. AAFCO approval simply means that the food meets the minimum guidelines.

Taurine and l-carnitine

Taurine and l-carnitine are both amino acids. They aren't listed as essential amino acids, so not all vegetarian dog foods contain them. However, current research suggests that a taurine or l-carnitine deficiency can be detrimental to heart health, particularly in breeds prone to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This includes Doberman pinschers, boxers, and golden retrievers.

Palatability

Dogs are individuals with their own tastes and preferences, so it's hard to gauge palatability just from looking at a product. However, vegetarian dog food tends to include natural flavorings like brewer's yeast to increase palatability.

EXPERT TIP

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are great for skin and coat health and are therefore often added to vegetarian dog foods. Sources may include flax seeds or hemp seeds.


Staff  | BestReviews

Vegetarian dog food prices

Dry vegetarian dog food usually costs between $1 and $4 per pound, but you're more likely to find options between $2 and $3 per pound.

Wet vegetarian dog food costs roughly $2 to $4 for a 13-ounce can.

Tips

  • Know that not all dogs thrive on all foods. Name a dog food that objectively has top-quality ingredients, and we'll find you a dog that simply doesn't like it. There can be some trial and error involved in finding the right food for your dog, so if she doesn't thrive on the first vegetarian dog food you buy, try another brand.
  • Avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Dog foods that contain these artificial ingredients don't tend to be of the best quality.
  • Find the correct portion size for your dog. Check the package to find the recommended portion for your dog's weight, but remember this is a guideline only. Keep an eye on your dog's weight for a few months after switching food. Adjust portion sizes accordingly if you notice unwanted weight loss or gain.
  • Don't be afraid of grains. In recent years, there's been a trend toward grain-free dog food, but there's no need to avoid grains unless your dog is allergic to them (which is actually far less common than meat allergies). In fact, current research suggests that a grain-free diet may be detrimental to canine health.
EXPERT TIP

Looking for a simple, healthful treat for your vegetarian dog? Try a whole raw carrot. Many dogs love the taste, and they're good for the teeth.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

You've seen our favorite vegetarian dog foods, but we came across some more excellent options during our research. Nature's Recipe Healthy Skin Dry Dog Food is specifically designed to support a healthy coat and skin, with added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The ingredients are predominantly vegan, except for the vitamin D3. There's a vegetarian recipe and a venison recipe, so be careful to choose the right one.

Natural Balance Vegetarian Dry Dog Food uses a completely vegan formula consisting predominantly of brown rice, oat groats, peas, and barley. It has added taurine and l-carnitine for heart health. Most dogs love the taste, and there are many reports of it improving allergies.

Halo Vegan Natural Wet Dog Food is a canned option made from plant-based ingredients including chickpeas, carrots, and potatoes. It also contains flaxseed, which is rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for skin and coat health.

If you want a totally vegan dog food, note that vitamin D3 usually comes from animal sources, whereas vitamin D2 is vegan-friendly.

FAQ

Q. Can there be problems switching a dog from a meat-containing diet to a vegetarian diet?
A.
When switching any dog's diet, you should do so gradually over the course of 5 to 10 days to help avoid an upset stomach. This is not more of an issue with vegetarian dog food than it is with dog food that contains meat.

Some people worry that their dog won't like the taste of vegetarian dog food when switching from a standard meat-containing dog food. Meat-containing commercial dog food actually doesn't contain a huge amount of meat — typically 30% to 40%. Therefore,  your dog might not even notice the difference, flavor-wise, between vegetarian and meat-containing dog food, especially if she's used to eating dry dog food, which typically contains large amounts of grains and starches.


Q. How can I tell if my dog is thriving on her new vegetarian dog food?
A.
It's natural to want to know if your dog's new food agrees with her. Luckily, there are some simple signs to look out for that indicate a dog is thriving on their current diet. These include a shiny coat, healthy skin, bright eyes, maintaining a healthy weight, regular bowel movements that aren't too hard or too soft, and consistent energy levels.
 

Q. Can I buy vegetarian puppy food?
A.
It's much more difficult to find vegetarian puppy food than vegetarian food suitable for adult dogs. Some vegetarian foods are listed as appropriate for all life stages, which means they should meet the nutritional requirements of puppies and adult dogs. That said, it may be better to start your puppy on a non-vegetarian puppy food if you can't find a vegetarian puppy formula, then switch to a vegetarian dog food between 6 and 18 months of age, depending on the size and growth rate of your dog.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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