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Are Plant-Based Foods Right for Your Dog?

Carolyn Kennedy, Director, CK Nutrition, Global Consultants for Pet Food, consulting pet nutritionist for CLIF PET™.

The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian before beginning your pet on a new food.

Is your best friend a carnivore or an omnivore? If your dog could talk, they’d probably answer an enthusiastic yes to both.

The carnivore/omnivore debate has been raging on for quite some time. A quick stroll down the pet food aisle would have us all convinced that dogs are strictly carnivorous, with many labels calling out high levels of animal protein.

The pet food industry likes to draw a straight line between domestic dogs and wolves because it’s a great way to sell more meat-focused foods. Wolves are carnivores, so their doggy descendants must be carnivores, right? The truth isn’t so simple.

Dogs and wolves share similar DNA but display important differences in behavior, instincts, and digestive and metabolic traits. Modern dogs evolved to eat all kinds of foods tossed aside by our human ancestors. And science shows that dogs are actually omnivores — or, more specifically, opportunistic carnivores. (If you’ve ever taken a dog to a picnic, you’ve probably seen an opportunistic carnivore in action.)

Dog eating a carrot

Fruits and veggies and fiber. Oh my!

Opportunistic carnivores gravitate toward meat if it’s available, but they thrive on a diet that features a variety of foods, including meat, fruits and vegetables, and carbohydrates. Fruits and veggies provide an abundant source of antioxidants as well as both soluble and insoluble fiber. And as we all know, fiber helps support digestion. It keeps things moving through the digestive tract — which makes your dog’s “output” easier to pick up!

Choosing foods that are complete and balanced is the most important aspect of your dog’s diet, but you also have to make sure your pup loves the food! A complete and balanced food has all the nutrients your dog requires, but in addition to the required nutrients, choosing foods with good levels of fiber have also been shown to support well-being.

Switching foods can take upward of two weeks and should be done slowly to monitor your pup for any digestive issues. Changing the only food they eat doesn’t happen overnight. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about switching foods.

While treats can be changed a little more easily, always monitor your pet and watch for any digestive issues when it comes to feeding treats. And remember that only 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake should come from treats.


Bosch G, Hagen-Plantinga EA, Hendriks WH. Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition?. Br J Nutr. 2015;113 Suppl:S40-S54. doi:10.1017/S0007114514002311 (

de Godoy MR, Kerr KR, Fahey GC Jr. Alternative dietary fiber sources in companion animal nutrition. Nutrients. 2013;5(8):3099-3117. Published 2013 Aug 6. doi:10.3390/nu5083099 (