I am vegetarian (I don't eat meat and fish). I have had dogs as pets in my life. More precisely, when I lived with my parents we had dogs. It doesn't really matter, but they were German shepards. My parents are not vegetarian, and the dogs were feeded with normal dog food https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_food. I don't remember the type of meat this food had, but I assume chicken and similar things. It was ordinary good-quality dog food, sometimes of two types as suggested by the veterinarian.

Of course during our meals we would also give something to them (not the leftovers), and they basically tried everything we had that was not dangerous to them (all fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, pasta, etc.), in small amounts. This is to say that they were part of the family, and this is not a question about animal diet in general, or the ethic/moral problem of owning a pet if you're vegetarian/vegan.

A vegetarian doesn't eat meat and fish. More pragmatically, being vegetarian might be interpreted as a life choice that aims to stop the meat/fish mass production by not buying those products (this is the practical result that would be achieved if we were all vegetarian, whether one does it for ethical, environmental or other reasons) or buying them very rarely (this would have the same effect: you don't start producing a good if it's bought twice a year and it's not crazy expensive). Dogs are not vegetarian, and I don't want to consider vegan dog food right now - just pretend it doesn't exist. To survive, they must eat meat/fish. So the logical conclusion is that to live with a dog, you must buy meat/fish in form of dog food. This is in contradiction with your life choice.

The question is the following. To be coherent, do you think a vegetarian/vegan should never own a dog, or are there loopholes to my argument?

EDIT: some answers are focusing on the fact that dogs can be feeded with vegan food. I didn't want to consider this possibility simply because that's not possible for all pets. So if you like you can replace "dog" with "cat" everywhere in my question. I am interested in knowing if you think it's a coherent thing to do.

  • would you divorce your spouse if you became vegetarian and they did not?
    – jsotola
    Aug 18, 2023 at 15:48
  • Sorry, perhaps it was not clear from the question. The situation I have in mind is the one in which you are vegetarian/vegan and you don't have any pet. You are thinking about getting one and you ask yourself the question if it's coherent to do it.
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 18, 2023 at 16:05
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    Is that what you had in mind? Otherwise your question is not relevant in this context. You can decide not to get a pet even if you really want one, but if it's about a person you love, things get more complicated.
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 18, 2023 at 16:10
  • Sounds like everyone will have their own opinion here. We don't do well with those sorts of questions usually.
    – Robert Longson
    Aug 19, 2023 at 9:49
  • I'd like to hear other people's opinion. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this question, I just hope we can have a nice discussion.
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 21, 2023 at 7:23

3 Answers 3


I have extremely unpopular opinion. As vegan I don't think you can genuinely have a 'pet', because (for me) having a pet implies some sort of ownership over an individual.

I don't deny the fact that there's true love and respectful relationship between a human person and it's pet, but ultimately the (human) person makes all the decisions. For example when and what will the 'pet' eat and all the access to areas, medical care, entertainment etc. Even if there's no intention to keep a pet even for entertainment, in practice pets still 'serve' some kind of purpose and do not have a complete freedom.

That being said, I don't think you can have a pet as vegan. It gets even more complicated if the pet must consume animal products such as meat.

I am sure that many people who are part of the vegan community would disagree with me but I'm not aware of any straight lines established for such issues/questions out there. Please correct me if I'm wrong

  • 1
    You are not alone.
    – badjohn
    Aug 23, 2023 at 21:30
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    I think it's vegan to have a companion that is not owned by you yet is another species. If you're rescuing and feeding a dog that was abandoned by someone else, I don't think that's unethical. Aug 24, 2023 at 1:37
  • What do you mean by "not owned"? Does it live with you in your house? In modern society (i.e. you live in a town/city) you can't just go around with a dog without leash, living like you don't own it but still feeding it. Say the dog is small, it's winter outside, it'll die for the cold. You welcome it in your house, but then it depends on your decisions. I understand Sasho's thought that you can't have a pet as a vegan, but then you can't live with an animal in other ways, can you?
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:29
  • Nope, my dog definitely owns me and I am fine with it. The process of domestication is a horrible thing that I have not personally started and that I will never encourage. This is why it does not make sense as a vegan to buy a pet which has been bred. But mine is a street dog. In my opinion, we have a responsibility towards domesticated animals. It does not mean we own them.
    – CaroZ
    Nov 3, 2023 at 1:12

I don't want to consider vegan dog food right now - just pretend it doesn't exist. To survive, they must eat meat/fish.

Sorry, but asking a vegan to "pretend that meat eating is necessary" isn't going to work :D

We all know that dogs do not need to eat meat. Cats too.

Vegansim, per the Vegan Society, is defined as:

Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

If you already have food in your house that you can use to feed a dog (you do), then it would not be vegan to go out and buy dead animals to feed a dog.

  • The reason I did not want to consider vegan pet food is that it doesn't exist for all pets. If we replace "dog" with "cat" in my question, what's your answer?
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:20
  • My answer is that we all know that cats do not need to eat meat. Our cats are all vegan (it was a slow transition), and they're much healthier since the transition. Please actually read what I've linked-to. But I updated the question to be more clear. Aug 24, 2023 at 13:02
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    I'm still skeptical. Other answers in this website seem to suggest that's actually quite complicated to feed cats with vegan food, see e.g. pets.stackexchange.com/questions/1601/… or other answers in the question you linked. Also, frankly speaking, in that answer you give a recipe but you don't provide any scientific evidence that a vegan diet is equivalent or better than ordinary cat food, or that is even doable. You say "they became noticeably healthier", which is quite a vague statement.
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 24, 2023 at 14:07

A slight frame challenge to your question: dogs can be vegetarian.

  • Source 1: in this answer I already provided a link to a complete dog food (i.e. can be the primary part of a dog's diet) which is vegetarian, made by a mainstream pet food company in the UK. There are those who claim that it's impossible or unhealthy for dogs to eat only vegetarian food, but presumably this company wouldn't have survived for two decades selling vegetarian complete dog food if that were the case.

  • Source 2: personal experience. I had a dog who was (like myself) a lifelong vegetarian. She lived primarily on Wafcol vegetarian complete dog food, with of course other things to make her diet more interesting, such as vegetables and non-meat protein sources. She lived to a ripe old age (for a dog) and never had diet-related health problems as far as I know.

Essentially, it all comes down to a question of what essential nutrients (amino acids and so on) a given species requires. If you want to be sure, list them and figure out what vegetarian foods can act as sources for each of those nutrients.

  • Disclaimer: I don't know if it's possible for a dog to be vegan, and I've heard that it's impossible for a cat to be vegetarian or vegan. So this answer doesn't cover all possible pet/diet combinations, but you mentioned that you're vegetarian (not vegan) and you mentioned dogs as well as cats, so I hope this answer can be helpful for you.

From the British Veterinary Association:

The answer is more complex and more nuanced than TV debates or discussions allow for. From the veterinary profession’s perspective, there just isn’t enough scientific evidence currently to safely promote a vegan diet for dogs and cats.

[...] Dogs are omnivores, which means that they eat both meat and plant products. While it is theoretically possible, the British Veterinary Association does not recommend giving a dog a vegetarian or a vegan diet as it is much easier to get the balance of essential nutrients wrong than to get it right.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means it is much harder or even impossible to meet their nutritional needs without feeding them meat.

This strikes me as a carefully worded text, presumably to avoid the possibility of being sued as well as of saying anything wrong. They do not recommend vegetarian or vegan diets for dogs, but only because it's difficult, acknowledging that it is possible. (Presumably, a vegetarian diet would be easier than a vegan diet.) For cats, as mentioned above, it may be actually impossible.

  • So for cats what would you say? Is it ethically acceptable for a vegan to own a cat?
    – Rubilax96
    Aug 24, 2023 at 8:21

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