Is It Okay for Dogs to Go Vegan? An Expert Weighs in on Katy Perry's Proposed Diet for Her Dog
In a recent Twitter post, pop star and new mom Katy Perry tweeted that she's about ready to embark on a completely vegan diet, adding that her dog Nugget—whose groomer we know—has been joining her vegan "journey" for the past several months.
The reaction from fans was immediate, and opinions varied wildly. Many fans tweeted their encouragement, and some said it had inspired them to try a vegan lifestyle. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) retweeted Perry's post, adding the text: "Wonderful news! We're SO happy for you—and for Nugget, too. You'll both love how it feels eating clean and helping animals."
Other reactions called into question the safety of Nugget's new plant-based diet, with some of Perry's followers tweeting their concerns to the pop star.
"Please Katy it's so amazing if you want to be vegan but don't force your dog to join you. It's really selfish," one such reply read.
So—Is a Vegan Diet Safe for Dogs?
We talked to Dr. Richard Butterwick, global nutrition advisor for WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute, to find out the science and safety behind a meat-free diet for dogs.
"While it's possible to create a vegan diet for dogs, this requires a high level of nutritional expertise and skills to find the right mixture and balance of ingredients," Butterwick says. "To date, there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to indicate any health benefits from feeding a dog or a cat a vegan diet and no vegan diets are made commercially on a large scale."
Each pet has her own individual needs, so it's hard to make a blanket recommendation, and Butterwick recommends talking with your own vet to discuss the individual supplementations and precautions you would need to transition your pet to a diet free of animal-based ingredients.
"Dogs, unlike cats, are not strict carnivores; however, they do derive most of their nutrients from animal origin materials," Butterwick says. "In many cases, vegan diets for dogs require the addition of supplemental nutrients to make up for those nutrients that are not found in non-animal origin ingredients."
Dogs require more than 40 essential nutrients, and some of those—like some omega six fatty acids—only come naturally from animal-derived sources. Though it can be supplemented, it's a meticulous process. There are no vegan pet diets commercially available on a large scale, and there isn't peer-reviewed scientific evidence to suggest that there are any health benefits from feeding your pet a vegan diet.
"In theory, it is possible to formulate a diet for dogs based entirely on plant-based ingredients," Butterwick says. "However, because dogs are different from us and have specific nutrient needs, we advise owners to consult with either a qualified veterinary or animal nutritionist."
Butterick also told Daily Paws that vegan dog foods should be checked to ensure they are complete in arginine, lysine, methionin, tryptophan, taurine, iron, calcium, zinc, Vitamin A and some B vitamins.
We're happy to know that with professional guidance and the right resources, Nugget may be able to navigate a new vegan diet safely. But if you're considering a vegan diet for your dog, it is highly recommended that you check in with a vet beforehand to make sure you'll be able to adequately supplement everything your dog needs. For more information about a balanced pet diet, check out the Daily Paws Dog Nutrition & Diet section.