Vegan Wonder

Unleash Your Vegan Pet’s Potential: Nutritional Secrets for Every Life Stage

Just as humans are ditching animal products, more pet owners are going vegan, too. A 2021 survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association found that 9% of pet owners in the UK feed their pets a plant-based diet, up from 4% in 2017. In the US, market research firm Packaged Facts projects that sales of vegan pet food will reach $1 billion by 2025. Dogs and cats, it seems, are going fur-free.

But feeding pets a plant-based diet is a relatively new concept, and many people wonder if it’s possible to give them all the nutrients they need without animal products. The answer, as you might suspect from the growing popularity of vegan pet food, is yes – but it takes some know-how.

Understanding Your Vegan Pet’s Nutritional Needs

Vegan pets can thrive on a plant-based diet, but it’s important to understand their nutritional needs – and to meet them. Different life stages require different nutritional approaches. A puppy or kitten needs more protein than an adult dog or cat, for example, while a senior pet may need more joint support. And all pets benefit from antioxidants, which support their immune system.


Protein is a crucial macronutrient – and one that gets a lot of attention when it comes to vegan pets. Dogs and cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require animal protein to thrive. Dogs can do well on plant-based protein alone, but cats have a unique metabolic need for an amino acid called taurine, which is typically found in animal protein. (Vegan cat food is formulated to include synthetic taurine.)

Puppies and kittens need more protein than adult pets to support their growth and development. A vegan puppy or kitten food that lists a plant-based protein – such as peas, lentils, or soy – as its first ingredient is a good choice. (Look for a protein source early in the ingredient list, as ingredients are listed in order of weight.) Aim for a protein content of at least 25% for puppies and kittens and 18% for adults.

When transitioning your pet to a vegan diet, it’s best to do so gradually, over the course of about two weeks. Start by mixing a small amount of vegan food into their old food, then gradually increase the amount of vegan food while decreasing the amount of old food. This will help your pet avoid digestive issues.

Calcium and Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are two important minerals that support bone health in pets. When these minerals are out of balance – too much calcium, for example, can lead to health issues. For this reason, vegan pet food is formulated to have the right balance of calcium and phosphorus for different life stages. Look for a food that lists the amount of calcium and phosphorus it contains, and make sure it’s appropriate for your pet’s age.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are essential fats that support skin and coat health in pets. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types that are important for pets. Omega-3s help reduce inflammation, while omega-6s support skin health. The best sources of omega-3s for pets are algae and flaxseed oil; chia seeds and hemp seeds also contain omega-3s.

Look for a vegan pet food that lists one of these ingredients – like flaxseed meal or algae oil – as an ingredient. You may also want to consider adding a vegan omega-3 supplement to your pet’s food. Cats, in particular, benefit from additional omega-3s in their diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vegan pet food is formulated to include all the vitamins and minerals pets need, so supplements aren’t typically necessary – unless your pet has a specific health issue. If you’re concerned about whether your pet is getting all the nutrients they need, talk to your veterinarian.

Aging Gracefully: Feeding Your Senior Vegan Pet

As pets enter their senior years, they may benefit from a few tweaks to their diet. Older dogs and cats can experience joint issues, so adding a vegan supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin can help support their mobility. Senior pets may also benefit from a food that’s lower in calories, to help them maintain a healthy weight. (Obesity can lead to a number of health issues in pets, including joint problems and diabetes.)

Cognitive function can decline in older pets, so look for a food that contains antioxidants and omega-3s, which support brain health. Some studies suggest that vegan diets may help protect against cognitive decline in older pets.

Finding the Best Vegan Pet Food

When it comes to vegan pet food, not all brands are created equal. Look for a brand that has been around for several years and has a good reputation. Read labels carefully, and look for a food that lists a plant-based protein as its first ingredient. Check the protein content, and make sure it’s appropriate for your pet’s age and life stage. (A food that’s formulated for puppies or kittens will have a higher protein content than a food for adults.)

You may also want to consider adding a vegan omega-3 supplement to your pet’s food. Cats, in particular, can benefit from additional omega-3s. Look for a supplement that contains EPA and DHA, which are the most beneficial forms of omega-3s for pets.

Homemade Vegan Pet Food

Some people prefer to feed their pets a homemade diet – and there are plenty of resources online for crafting plant-based meals for dogs and cats. But it’s important to note that a homemade vegan pet food needs to be balanced and complete, just like store-bought food. That means it needs to contain all the nutrients pets need to thrive, including protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Consult with a vegan pet nutritionist before switching your pet to a homemade diet.

When in Doubt, Consult a Vegan Pet Expert

If you’re considering switching your pet to a vegan diet, or if you have questions about how to feed your vegan pet, it’s a good idea to consult with a vegan pet expert. Look for a veterinarian who specializes in plant-based pet nutrition, or connect with a vegan pet food company to learn more about their products. There are also a number of online communities for vegan pet owners – join one to connect with other people who are feeding their pets a plant-based diet.