#17 Is vegan food right for your dog or cat?

Dr. Marybeth Minter shares a case with us, a dog I’ve heard about over the years, long suffering with horrible allergic skin disease. Kali, the middle aged Border Collie had lost all her coat, had open sores, was regularly plagued with fleas, and Chrystal, her owner had tried everything without success.

Kali was on various raw food diets, healthy supplements, and had been prescribed for by two other well qualified homeopathic vets in the past without much improvement. When Dr. Minter was called upon, in addition to using the constitutional prescribing approach, she suggested that toxins might be playing a role and recommended a radical diet change: a plant based diet, based on recipes from Dr. Richard Pitcairn.

Chrystal rolled up her sleeves and began feeding Kali this way, thinking she had nothing to lose: she’s tried everything else and her poor dog had suffered long enough!

Tune in to hear what this radical idea has resulted in. Regardless of your views on “right vs wrong” feeding, this is worth your time.

Pictures: worth 1000’s of words

Here’s Kali as she appeared “before,” in Jan 2019:

Horrible skin disease, before

and here’s Kali in her “after shot,” October 2020:

Normal, healthy skin and ears

Your comments are welcome below, as always.

Links for this episode

Contact Dr. Marybeth Minter
Two vegan brands mentioned: V-Dog and WildEarth
Two books Dr. Minter recommends:
Dr. Pitcairn’s 4th edition The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
Jan Allegretti, D.Vet.Hom, The Complete Holistic Dog Book

Want to detox your dog without a radical diet change? My sister company, Vital Pet Health, has you covered:
Vital Animal Detox, made with safe, effective 100% natural ingredients.

Thanks for listening!

If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to Vital Animal Podcast so you don’t miss a single episode.

Are you finding value from this podcast? Want to help spread the word? Take a moment to leave us an honest review on Apple Podcasts!

Next week: Colostrum vs Transfer Factor: What’s Wiser? An episode of special interest if your goal is the best immune support for your animals. These two are far from equal, though they both have their place. Tune in to learn how to make the wisest decisions for those innocents in your care.

Tell us what you think about vegan food in the comments below.

Print This Article

Click below, press print, and enjoy offline reading.


  1. Darlene Bernier on December 22, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    I love the approach you have taken to this very controversial subject.

    Since I am vegan, mostly because of ethics, (I cannot kill an animal to eat, nor would I want someone else to do it for me), I have always hated that i still have to buy it for my dogs & cats.

    Over a decade ago, I asked my integrative vet if she had any clients who fed their dogs vegan or vegetarian diets and if so, how did that go. She said not too well, as the dogs had problems and it was a constant effort to feed them what they need and keep them strong and healthy. I never went into any detail with her about it, I just accepted that I didn’t want to go there and cause illness to my animals just because of my ethics which could not support their needs.

    So I especially was interested in hearing this podcast.

    I currently have a 13 yr old (approx.) mixed breed dog that has been on a raw food diet since I adopted her 6 years ago. She was overweight at that time, had very bad teeth, had been kept inside for about a year and a half so never got to enjoy the earth and sun and had probably been over-vaccinated and all the rest.

    She of course improved and became a happy healthy dog after dental work, put on a raw diet and raw meaty bones, all organic and wonderful (I could get these with ease in Northern CA) and exercise and social exposure. She has always had an easy personality and great to travel with.

    At 13, I think she is showing toxicity. Her ears have become inflamed and she tries to bite me if I clean them with cotton ball..uggh. I was successful in just giving her homeopathic remedy for the ears but after listening to this, I think she needs to detox! We moved to Idaho 3 years ago and I no longer have an affordable source of organic meat and bones, especially since the supply chain is disrupted. I have been feeding raw meat from the grocery store and supplying extra freeze-dried toppings and meat to fill in the gaps as well. I have never been able to get raw chicken necks here which she enjoyed so much when we lived in CA.

    So thank you for this information, I just bought Dr Pitcairn’s 4th edition book for my Kindle, so I will also check that out and will probably try your detox product.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2020 at 4:17 am

      I appreciate your cautious approach, Darlene. What’s right for a human might not be for a dog. That’s what has long held me back on this issue.

      I’ll just mention that, while diet changes can make a difference, I’ve found a certain percentage of animals that still need more. That’s where skilled homeopathic prescribing excels. It doesn’t matter where you live, either, as many of my colleagues work by telephone. If/when you decide you might want to add this to your care regimen, I’ve outlined a way to sort out the most likely vets to help you reach cure, a magical place of “all’s well” without needing to continue medicines.

      There’s a video on my Rec’d Resources page, at the AVH listing that explains how to choose a qualified homeopathic vet. I wish you the best and applaud your dedication to your companion’s health.

      • Darlene Bernier on December 23, 2020 at 1:26 pm

        Thank you, Dr Falconer
        I will be checking this out.

  2. Susan Echelman on December 22, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this podcast of your interview with Mary Beth’s experience working with Cali. I’ve already been working on transitioning my 2 dogs to a homemade plant based diet after having fed them commercially prepared frozen and freeze dried raw for the last 6 years. I particularly appreciate learning about the calcium supplement which I think I’ll purchase from “Compassionate Circle”. I’ve fed my 2 girls V Dog before as well as Natural Balance, Halo, and a few other commercial brand kibble dog foods. I understand that it’s lower on the food chain, but it’s still kibble, and I really want to do my very best to stick with homemade foods. I’m actually currently following a rotational diet promoted in a Facebook group hosted by Nora Lenz. This protocol consists of 1-2 fast days/week, 3-4 plant days, and 1-2 meat days. She suggests on the plant days if the person is not going to feed exclusively fruit, to feed the dogs cooked quinoa and sweet potatoes with various cooked veggies mixed in. I have to admit, I’m personally not feeding my dogs any meat, and am opting out of the fasting days because my 2 girls are little poodles who do not do well when fasting.
    I’m still in the experimental phase, so it’s too early but me to say for sure how they will do long term on this feeding program. What I can say is that Katie and Lilly absolutely love fresh fruit as well as cooked quinoa, sweet potatoes, and al kinds of veggies. They always have—even when I was feeding them a raw meat diet.
    As a matter of fact, they both literally beg for raw vegetables every time I’m in the kitchen cutting them up for myself to eat. So, I must confess that I do give them pieces of raw zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, etc—even though I recognize that dogs are not suppose to have the ability to break down the cellulose. Honestly, though, they seem to do ok with the raw veggies-at least from what I can observe.
    Anyway, I’m still learning, and like the rest of us, I only want what’s best for my girls.
    By the way, I do have a cat who I feed a frozen and freeze dried taw meat diet as well as some canned cat food. I’m just not convinced that she would thrive on vegan food., and in fact wouldn’t eat it anyway. I’m not sure how she’d do on a diet which included dairy and eggs.
    Anyway, thanks again for continuing to share thought provoking information with usI always learn so much from everything you share with us.

    • Claudia Townsend on December 22, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      I have just started the rotational diet by Nora Lenz. Ive feed home cooked for years and still have itchy dogs so I thought I would try this new approach. In just a week I’m seeing less itching an a sense of calmness in them.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2020 at 4:32 am

        It sounds like the approach mimics what wolves would do in the wild. Fasting and grazing when game is scarce, followed by hunting and gorging on prey before the cycle starts again. This resonates with me, as does anything that speaks to the ancestry that still very much lives in the dog, in my mind.

  3. Keiko on December 22, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Hi Dr. Falconer!
    Wow, very interesting…thank you for sharing a very different perspective. I think this interview really urges us to keep an open mind and be willing to explore various options especially when faced with a health challenge for our companion animals.

    I did adopt a very itchy dog 4 years ago. He was about 2.5 years old and had been on all the typical things. He would attract fleas and would get raw oozy skin…and itch all night. I noticed right away he was extra sensitive to chicken. I did a mixture of adjusting his food, watching him carefully, manually catching fleas, homeopathics (for itchy skin, fleas, food sensitivities, etc), and liver support. He started to improve but I think it took almost two years before he was a big fluff ball and non-reactive to most things. I agree a lot about detoxing the chemicals they were exposed to and figuring out the right diet for each specific dog.

    I have raised quite a few different breeds and mixes- and I do see different food preferences. My adopted Chihuahua can handle a lot of variety and I can totally see him ok on a vegetarian diet. He tends to prefer his food cooked, especially now that he is 17 years old 🙂 But I have a really hard time seeing my working dogs who are Great Pyrenees/Anatolian mixes on a vegan diet… they catch wild rabbits if there are any they can catch… they know not to eat my hens…but most of my working dogs are rescues and have made “mistakes” (from a human perspective) on my farm or in the past 🙂

    Whatever the case, I think it’s beautiful to be able to consider bio-individuality when considering the best foods for our companions 🙂 and definitely the well-being and sustainability of farm animals raised for food. Thank you for your many thought provoking information!

    Much Love and Gratitude 🙂

  4. Lorraine Sullivan on December 22, 2020 at 9:05 am

    I found your interview with Dr. Marybeth Minter very interesting, however, there was nothing in it that would make me consider feeding a vegan or vegetarian diet to my dogs. I am seeing other well respected vets going this route and I just cannot understand it. I had followed Dr. Richard Pitcairn for many years and read all his books and I remember when he took the jump to feeding a dog a vegan diet. Even after reading all his information on why he believed it’s a better option, I never agreed with it.
    I have heard the word “Bioaccumulation” used a lot when it comes to the promotion of vegan diets. Maybe I’m not fully understanding it because in my thoughts, the pesticides, insecticides, roundup and other toxins used to grow the crops and used to feed the livestock is how the toxins get into the meat. So actually, the ingredients being used for a vegan diet, grown with the use of these toxins are still going to get into your dogs body because the toxins originate from the plant matter. So like feeding meat, if you do not spend the time and extra money for home grown or organic plant matter then your dog is getting the same toxins in the plant matter that’s in the meat. Plus, If you feed a plant based diet, you’ll need to process it to make it bio available. Dogs don’t have the digestive amylase or flat grinding molars to break down the cell walls of plants. So you will have to cook, or pulp/puree the raw ingredients. If an animal needs to rely on a human to cook or puree food in order to get any sort of nutritional value from it, does that sound like it is something appropriate for them to eat?
    I fully understand the issues involved in attempting to get healthy meats incorporate into a raw diet. I try my best to obtain the cleanest meats I can get, meats without any additives, antibiotics, beef from grass fed cows, pasture raised chicken and eggs from local farms. And even if cannot always get the cleanest meat possible, what I can get is 100% better than any commercial dog food product. I think it’s important to stay away from any commercial made dog food regardless if you feed a vegan diet or a raw meat diet. Preparing your own diet for your dogs gives you control over the quality of the ingredients. Since I lost a beloved dog in 2007 due to the Melamine issue, I have never trusted a commercial dog food product. To find a dog food company that considers your dogs health more important than their “bottom line” is just about impossible. All their advertising, all their promises about quality ingredients, all their statements regarding the source of the ingredients doesn’t matter, the amount of profit on each bag or can of dog food is what matters to the company.
    My personal opinion is to feed a species appropriate diet (for my dogs that is meat, organs and bone) ditch the vaccines, never give chemical flea/tick products, find a natural way to protect against heartworm, stop with the prescription drugs unless it’s a matter of life and death, stop using toxic products in your home or on your property (like chemical lawn fertilizer and chemical cleaning products) and give a good supplement to detox the body…. the animals in your home will reap the rewards.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 22, 2020 at 9:12 am

      Sure makes sense, all the processing you’d have to do to get those veg foods digestible. Thanks for those thoughts, Lorraine. The kibble idea still sticks in my craw. Highly processed, by definition.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2020 at 4:27 am

        Addendum: it appears I (and my guest) were misusing the word “bioconcentration.” What we should have said instead is “biomagnification,” which is the increasing concentration of toxins the higher up the food chain the eater lives. That’s what I was referring to with the DDT and bald eagles example that I grew up with as a budding biologist.

        Wikipedia does a decent job of explaining both, for those interested.

    • Carly Stevens on December 29, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      This is my approach, too. My GSD was a rescue, we got her when she was 6 (at least) and were lucky that she was not vaccinated and not spayed. She was on a toxic diet of cheap kibble and tins. We transitioned her to raw fed, with fruit and veg (using ideas from Richard Pitcairn and Judy Morgan, I wasn’t precious about it but gave bones 2 or 3 times a week). In the first few months we had a horribly itchy dog, she also arrived with rough, greasy fur and severe behaviour issues (can a dog be ADHD?). After 3 months on her new diet her fur was like velvet. We did use homeopathy and some herbal products and eventually canine myotherapy and acupuncture for hip dysplasia. She lived to be nearly 13 (or possibly older) and for most of that time was really healthy.

      I’d opt for raw fed every time, because I saw the most incredible transformation in 3 months, related to diet change. I do have a local, free range, organic butcher, where I can buy offals, pull, heart, chicken carcasses. I think toxicity is an important issue and it might be that if you can’t get toxic free meat and have a dog with toxicity issues than vegan might be the best you can do, but I wonder how free of toxins that is. Judy Morgan suggests that some dogs do better with cooked, though, and I’ve come across one person who says this is true for their dog.

      I think we need to be pragmatic, flexible and open minded. Thanks for the interesting discussion!

      • Will Falconer, DVM on December 29, 2020 at 11:40 pm

        Nice work with your GSD, Carly! I saw a lot of ADD behavior and mostly associated it with vaccination, but I’m sure the junk in highly processed food could contribute as well.

        A big AMEN to keeping flexible and open, especially on food, where strong opinions tend to be the norm! Thanks for bringing that out.

  5. Terri Sider on December 22, 2020 at 8:35 am

    That was very interesting. I never thought dogs could be vegetarian and be healthy. After listening to this podcast I am going to read more about this. I agree that most meat dogs and cats are fed are full of toxins, which cause all this inflammation and skin problems, as well as flea and tick and heart worm medications and multiple vaccines! It is extremely important that if someone does want to feed a vegetarian diet to their dog or cat that they learn how to do it properly so it is well-balanced and nutritious.

  6. Johanna on December 22, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Dr Falconer, I used to be able to skim through the transcripts for your podcasts but I don’t see them anymore- is there anywhere I can go to see them? It really helps when I’m pressed for time 🙂 Thanks for the fantastic info always!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 22, 2020 at 9:06 am

      They lag a bit, off to the editor now. Stay tuned, they appear when they’re well cooked.

  7. Lesley Dolby on December 22, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Thanks Dr. Falconer for having Dr. Minter on your podcast and for starting to be more open minded to this subject. As a longtime vegan, I am raising my German Shepherd puppy since 8 weeks old (now 10 months) totally vegan and he is very healthy and happy, has lots of energy, great poops, good skin and coat and loves his food. I raised my last two GSDs almost vegan (except for eggs) and they lived good long, healthy lives.

    I believe the argument most people have about dogs needing to eat like their ancestors in the wild is bogus. Dogs have been domesticated for over 10,000 years and have evolved to be able to eat what humans have fed them. In any case, the vast majority of the meat available to today’s consumer is way inferior to the meat they had in the wild. Todays’ livestock being fed hormones and antibiotics and living a stressful factory farmed life does not make for healthy meat.

    I find it ironic that most holistic vets who are adamant that dogs are carnivores and should eat a raw meat diet, no grains, legumes or soy etc and should definitely not be vegan are all vets who highly respect and promote Dr. Richard Pitcairn, who himself advocates a vegan diet for dogs. :- )

    For much of history in populated places, people were too poor to include meat as part of their regular diet and they would never have typically fed their dogs daily meat anyway, which was at that time generally reserved for the rich.

    Let’s not forget one of the longest living dogs in the world was Bramble the Border Collie in the UK, who lived 25 healthy years on a vegan diet of lentils, rice and vegetables.

    I would normally only recommend a vegan diet for any human or animal if you have a good knowledge of nutrition, know what you are doing and have the time to prepare a well balanced whole foods diet (which I do).

Leave a Comment