This Vet Recommends Plant-Based Dog Food

This Vet Recommends Plant-Based Dog Food
This Vet Recommends Plant-Based Dog Food

The following article is a letter from Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM on the evolution of the type of diet he recommended to his clients during his 50 years as a veterinarian. 


As the years advanced in my clinical work, my advice as to diet also evolved. I started, like most veterinarians, recommending what I thought was a good commercial food product and perhaps some vitamins. Then I moved more towards suggesting buying fresher products (or what I thought was more fresh).

When we first wrote our book, that came out in 1982, I was promoting home-
prepared diets as I had come to realize that this gave more control as to the quality of the ingredients. We included meat and animal products in our recipes, trying to mimic what we thought was a natural diet.

Towards the end of my 50 years as a veterinarian I was recommending primarily a plant based diet. Quite the change don't you think? These changes reflected the changes in our culture. During this time there were major new developments — things like regularly giving drugs to livestock, growing GMO crops, using new herbicides and pesticides, and the increasing number of drugs approved for use and entering our environment. If these things had not happened I might have stayed with my earlier recommendations, but I had come to realize that these developments had to be factored in as what we eat is so very important for our health.

tomatoes and strawberries in small green market baskets

I came to think that the most pure and healthy food was now to be found in the plant world. They can be grown organically, for example. This may not be perfect, but is pretty good most of the time. It is also the case that organically raised plants, especially from the local, smaller, farmers, are allowed to more naturally mature and thus develop more nutritional quality. I remember, when as a child, sitting in my grandparent’s apricot tree and eating the beautiful, soft, delicious fruits! It was wonderful. However, today, as most of us know, when you go to a markets and desire to buy fruit, it is difficult to find one that is not hard as a stone. It makes sense to the farmer to harvest them before they are mature, and thus soft, but it does reduce the nutritional quality and especially the enjoyment of eating it!

blonde dog eating a slice of watermelon
My clients had varied reactions to this advice. Many would say that a dog has to eat meat, this is their nature. Nonetheless, I had seen many dogs improve in health when they went through the change I recommended. How could this be? Interestingly, recently a study came out in a scientific journal reporting that the DNA of wolves and dogs had been compared. Turns out that dogs had long ago adopted to a varied diet and now had genes that allowed them to eat anything we humans ate, including plants and grains. So this explained it.

Other clients would accept the information but preferred to maintain a meat-based diet by buying organic meats. These were not readily available, and very expensive, and most often it was reduced to “pasture raised” instead. This likely was better, but did not get around the issue that animals accumulate thousands of times larger amounts of chemicals than do plants.

Another common response was to continue feeding a meat-based, raw food, diet but to compensate by giving them herbs or special nutrients that are said to enhance elimination of these substances. Again, that likely helps, but it does mean that your dog has to constantly deal with this — and it takes energy. Rather than use up some of the life energy, why not just not give it to them in the first place?

Well, makes the most sense to me. Wishing you the best in whatever you do.

-Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM

[Author of Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats]