Turns out, dogs and wolves aren’t as similar as we thought socially. Diet, however, is a different story. Dogs are technically omnivores, which means they can extract nutrients from both meat and plants. Although, we typically associate all canines with carnivorous diets, visualizing them enthusiastically ripping like wolves into carcasses.
But can canines eat plant-based dog food and treats? More specifically, can dogs survive on a plant-based diet?
While dogs have evolved to be able to digest and utilize plant matter to a certain extent, their nutritional requirements are usually met through a diet that includes animal-based protein sources. Dogs have specific dietary needs, including the following:
- certain amino acids
- vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12
- iron and zinc
All of these nutrients can be more challenging to absorb solely from plant-based sources – but not impossible. There are commercially available vegetarian or plant-based food for dogs that is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs.
Plant-based everything is a growing trend for both people and pets. Many pet food companies are expanding into the plant-based market, and even more are focusing exclusively on it thanks to the growing environmental and ethical concerns associated with factory farming.
Plant-based Dog Food for Allergies
Specially formulated plant-based dog food can also be useful for addressing a variety of food allergies – a growing issue with our pets. (I have two cats with unique food allergies requiring special food. Cats, however, are pure carnivores).
Of course, embarking on elimination diets, or switching to plant-based food or treats for dogs requires professional input. Obviously, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that your dog’s nutritional requirements are adequately met.
Alternative Protein Sources for Dog Food
Plant-based dog diets and treats often rely on plant proteins, such as soy, peas, lentils, or grains. But if you’re looking for non-animal products to feed your pet, we can add insects to the list of protein sources. That’s a growing protein source in North America (for people too) and more environmentally sustainable.
So what is all this plant-based stuff leading to? An exploration of the plant-based trend in the pet industry – specifically, plant-based or alternative protein food and treat products I discovered after exploring the multitude of options at SuperZoo in 2022. SuperZoo is an extremely large pet-industry trade show that fills Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas every year and – so far – dogtrotting.net attends almost every year to keep up with all the trends and changes … and receive some samples to try. (#sponsored)
Here are some plant-based pet food and treats we discovered:
8 Alternative Protein and Plant-based Dog Food & Treats
1. Natural Balance Plant Powered Vegetarian Recipe
“Our plant-based dog food is actually our best seller in Canada,” a Natural Balance representative tells me when I introduce myself at SuperZoo 2022. Why? Maybe it’s a matter of availability because other pet food companies don’t have shelf space at major retailers like PetSmart, but Natural Balance does. That’s were I found the food for my spaniel.
Natural Balance Plant Powered Vegetarian Recipe (affiliate link) is available in both kibble and cans. According to the company, it’s a balanced vegan diet with the same level of protein as a meat-based diet including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This limited-ingredient formula contains whole-grain brown rice, oats, barley, and green peas. Also available: plant-powered Crunchy Biscuits dog treats.
2. Open Farm Kind Earth Plant-based Dog Food
Similarly, Open Farm offers both plant-based dog food and insect-based dog food identifying the ingredients according to what they don’t contain: no meat, poultry, or dairy. Called Kind Earth, Open Farms claims alternative protein sources in this line of food are good for dogs with sensitive stomachs, a source of Omega 3s and fatty acids, are easily digestible and contain quality proteins that promote muscle growth.
3. Bright Planet Better Dog Treats
Bright Planet offers a 100 percent plant-based line of dog treats that contains no corn, soy, wheat, or peas. Chickpea flour, brown rice, and sweet potato are the three primary ingredients.
Also, every time someone buys a bag, a donation is made to help plant a tree, and you’ve got four options to choose from, all imitating the taste of meat:
- Better Bac’n
- Better Brat
- Better BBQ Chick’n
- Better Burg’r
If you’d like your pup to try all four – or need an interesting dog birthday gift – you can try all four flavours in the Training Treats Variety pack.
4. Jiminy’s Puffs Dog Treats
Promotes itself as the company that helps you fight climate change while feeding your dog. We’ve been following the evolution of this company’s products since my previous dog tried both the crunchy and soft versions of Jiminy’s original cricket cookie (see here), and they keep adding new product lines, including a dog food with crickets (affiliate link) – a very sustainable protein source – as the main ingredient.
Most recently added to the Jiminy’s family is the Puffs in two flavours: peanut and nooch. As treats, these are low calorie, made from cricket protein, and great for dogs with food sensitivities – add some probiotics into the mix and you’ve got most of the pet food trends covered.
5. Moochie Vegan Formula
Moochie, a company based in Thailand, has a range of pet products, but the vegan formula canned dog food is one among an assortment of meat-based foods and treats. Moochie vegan canned food is available in four varieties, but each one is formulated to address a particular health issue:
- gut health
- weight management
- skin and coat issues.
Vegetables are the primary ingredient and not meat, corn or wheat. The company claims its vegan formula contains all the essential nutrients as the meat-based formula.
6. Hoppers Cricket Dog Treats
It should be no surprise what Hoppers are made from – the primary protein source is crickets. Crickets are easy to cultivate, sustainable, and have been consumed by people for centuries.
Made in the USA, Hoppers are available in two dog-appealing flavours:
- Peanut butter, banana, and honey
- Apple, pumpkin, cinnamon, and flax.
7. Because It’s Better Sustainable Dog Treats
Because It’s Better is a company focused exclusively on producing plant-based pet food, toppers, and treats. The products contain both plant-based and alternative proteins and are sustainably made in a 100 percent solar-powered manufacturing facility. The Field to Bowl dog kibble, for instance, contains sweet potato, flax seed, eggs, carrots, and chickpeas.
Because It’s Better also offers three types of plant-based dog treats:
- Peanut Butter and Apple Protein Bites
- Cheese & Apple Crunchy Biscuits
- Better Than Bacon chewy plant-based protein bars
Packaging is recyclable.
8. Vivus Plant-based Dog Food and Treats
Vivus is a Canadian company focusing on nutrient content rather than ingredients when discussing its 100 percent plant-based treats and dog food formulated by veterinary nutritionists. Like many plant-based pet food, Vivus is hypoallergenic – in other words, it doesn’t contain the most common canine allergens such as poultry.
Vivus plant-based dog treats (affiliate link) come in three varieties: Juicy Oven Baked Chick’n Bites, Smokey Maple Bacun Bites, and Farm Fresh Veggie Bites. Plant-based supplements in the form of chews focus on benefits:
- senior health
- puppy calming
- joint support
The company sells in some Canadian stores, but ships to both Canada and the US from its website, which offers a subscription service.
Did my dog eat the plant-based dog treats and food?
As a vegetarian, I was hoping for a resounding success but what I got was best described as ‘not unsuccessful.’ Granted, my dog is very picky nor food motivated. However, her response to plant-based dog treats and food was less than enthusiastic. For instance, my pup ate the Natural Balance vegetarian recipe, though preferred to eat it mixed with her other food. (We didn’t try any other plant-based dog food).
Plant-based dog treats – even if they were bacon flavoured or ‘better than bacon’ – were eaten, but only one at a time and she didn’t come running back for more. Cricket-based treats, however, were the most desirable. My pup did return for more Jiminy’s and Hoppers alternative protein dog treats. Overall, plant-based food and treats might work for my dog occasionally, but she prefers a meat-based diet no matter what I chose to eat.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research.Save 75.0% on select products from SwissSpin with promo code 75JAADVC, through 8/6 while supplies last.