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All you need to know about vegetarian dog food

Opportunistic carnivores

Dogs are classified as opportunistic carnivores due to their ability to subsist on a mixed diet of animal and plant-based material in their natural environments. In the past, wild dogs consumed plant material, primarily sourced from the gastrointestinal tracts of their consumed prey. However, these factors are of little relevance to domesticated dogs maintained on “artificial” diets. In fact, there is no scientific reason why a diet comprised only of plant ingredients cannot be formulated to meet all of the palatability, nutritional and bioavailability needs of dogs. Dogs can be healthy and in fact, thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as all necessary nutrient requirements are met.

Vegetarian & vegan explained

Before we continue, Yarrah will use the word “vegetarian” in this document to describe our products, but in actuality they are also all “vegan”. There is a marketing explanation for this because as we are communicating to humans for which these terms apply, they only describe their diet choices. All vegans are vegetarians, but not all vegetarians are vegan. A vegetarian does not eat animal protein (meat, chicken, pork) but will eat animal products such as milk, eggs and cheese. A vegan however will not eat anything that is part of, or comes from/made by an animal. There are more vegetarian consumers than vegan, so we communicate to the larger group of consumers.

First vegetarian dry food for dogs

Yarrah pioneered the vegetarian pet food market back in 1995 when it launched Europe’s (and quite possibly the world’s) first vegetarian dry food for dogs. Not only was it vegetarian, we took the additional step to go completely vegan while still applying to our organic principles and used only organic ingredients. The Yarrah organic vegetarian food is still a complete and nutritional recipe that is supplemented with vitamin B12, taurine and L-carnitine to ensure dogs get all the proteins, vitamins, minerals and amino acids they need for a happy and healthy life.

The organic quality vegetable proteins and starches derived from soybeans and wheat are highly digestible. During the production process of our vegetarian dry food, the combination of heat, shear, moisture and pressure ensures that a high degree of starch gelatinization occurs. This is extremely important because a dog’s digestive track is much shorter than that of a human, where all the food must be absorbed within 24 hours compared to a humans 48. The high gelatinization of starch ensures that a dog’s natural enzymes can absorb the food in the time available.

Vitamin D

In all pet food, vitamin D is essential and is needed for proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus in a dog’s intestinal tract. It is needed for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, protects against muscle weakness, and regulates the heart. However the traditional vitamin D3 that is added comes exclusively from animal origin, which means Yarrah can not use it in our vegetarian formula. We have solved this issue by replacing Vitamin D3 by Vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 does not come from animals and has the same properties as D3.

Vegetarian dog food developments

Yarrah did not stop with the development of the first dry food recipe. A vegetarian wet food was developed in 2004 to offer dogs who prefer wet food a vegetarian alternative. 10 years later in 2014, Yarrah responded to consumer demand for a larger sized container of wet food, so we launched a 380g vegetarian tin. Rather than simply copying our 150g recipe, we took the opportunity to reformulate a new and improved recipe with added cranberries for extra vitamin C and antioxidants, sunflower oil, apple concentrate and lovage to make sure dogs love it! We also left out any unneeded grains, so both these products are grain free!

Our latest development was again born out of consumer demand, the recently launched Yarrah Wheat-free vegetarian dry food. This vegetarian, wheat free recipe specially for dogs that have difficulty with animal protein and wheat gluten, contains organic coconut oil and organic baobab seeds for more energy and an irresistible taste. The white lupine in Yarrah Vega Wheat-free is a source of essential amino acids.

Why Vegetarian/Vegan?

Yarrah did not develop a vegetarian dog food so that consumers who led a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle could extend this to their dog’s diet. Although today this certainly makes up a portion of our customers, there are three more important core reasons for Yarrah’s vegetarian dog food:

1. A truly super-sensitive recipe

One of the most common ailments diagnosed in dogs are skin allergies. These skin allergies can be identified when dogs scratch, itch, bite or lick often enough to lead to recurrent inflammation and infection of the skin. The three most common causes for skin allergies are fleas, food allergies or in rare instances, reactions to something in the environment such as house dust, pollen or grass. While Yarrah can do little about fleas or external factors, Yarrah can certainly address the food allergy cause.

The most common food allergy a dog will have is caused by a meat protein such as beef, chicken, or one of the other common meat sources. While other brands have developed “sensitive” formulas with Lamb and Rice for example, Yarrah completely removed the animal protein source of allergies to solve allergic reactions rather than somewhat reduce them.

In addition, many commercially available dog foods contain chemicals, colors and preservatives. These components are used to increase palatability (ensure a dog eats the food), aesthetic reasons even though dogs are mostly color blind and to extend the shelf life of their products. However, these artificial ingredients can also trigger allergic reactions in dogs. Yarrah is certified organic, therefore we can not and do not add any artificial chemicals to our recipe.
With no animal protein, no chemicals, artificial preservatives or colors, Yarrah is the only true super-sensitive dog food on the market.

2. Senior and Weight control

Yarrah’s second reason for offering a vegetarian dog food was to meet the health needs of older dogs, over 8-10 years. Older dogs are as a rule much less active than when they were young. Yet, most consumer will continue to feed them the same type of food in their older years which means they get more protein and carbohydrates than they actually need. This could lead to a dog becoming overweigh and all the associated health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and more. The dog’s quality of life is not only affected, but frequent trips to the veterinarian will affect the wallet of the owner.

Yarrah’s vegetarian dog food has a lower calorie value, which will help avoid overweight.

3. Environmental footprint and animal welfare

On a lesser scale, but gaining in importance, is the environmental impact dog food has. In particular, the animal proteins used in foods containing meat or chicken. The world’s human consumption of animal protein has exploded in the last century which is causing constraints in the food chain. Farms and ranches are meeting this demand, but will face challenges in the future to ensure there is enough space, food and water to grow their animals. Creating sufficient space has let to the rise of mass production of animals in particular chickens in very, almost inhumane, small cages or pens. Feeding these animals a steady stream of grains has led to the development of efficient and fast growing GMO grains which are still not completely cleared of long term health effects. Round Up herbicides are often used for weed control which may have a long term effect on rivers, streams and the worlds drinking water. This same water is heavily relied on for crop irrigation, to sustain the animals, and also in the onward processing of these animals for consumption.

The Yarrah organic vegetarian dog food addresses this growing concern by not only avoiding animal protein, but also only using certified organic ingredients. Consumer can be assured no GMO grains, no Round Up, and no other chemicals were used in the farming process.

Making the Switch

When consumers are convinced they want to transition their dog to one of the Yarrah vegetarian recipes, or as we say “Detox their Dog”, the change should be a gradual one to minimize refusal of the food, but also the occurrence of gastrointestinal disturbances (such as diarrhea and sometimes vomiting).

Switching a dog’s diet from food that contains chemical flavor additives to one that contains no chemicals, colors or artificial flavors can be tricky. A dog needs to become physically accustomed to organic vegetarian food (his body needs to detoxify) and it can be difficult because there are no chemical attractants in our vegetarian organic food. Our food smells naturally good, but is less strong without the additives. Our food tastes fantastic, but as we do not even add any sugars that lure pets to other brands, the initial acceptance of Yarrah can be lower.

Even though it can be difficult, switching your pet to organic vegetarian Yarrah with no “withdrawal symptoms” is still possible by using the 7 day Detox program.
The detox program slowly removes the dependency of your pet to chemicals and switches him to Yarrah organic for the rest of his healthy life.

Important information during detox …

  • Avoid stress; a stressed pet will not trying something new.
  • Always have fresh drinking water available; water washes away toxins.
  • Brush your pet often: toxins are also released through the skin.
  • Take your dog on walks: movement accelerates the process of detoxification.


Yarrah vegetarian & vegan dog food range:

Yarrah vegetarian dry dog food

Yarrah Wheat-free vegetarian dry food


Yarrah vegetarian dog food with rose hips in alu dish

Yarrah canned Vega dog food grain-free with cranberries


18 thoughts on “All you need to know about vegetarian dog food

  1. Do you have an organic vegan range for cats? If not then could you recommend a brand or place where I could find this?

  2. Hi!
    I’m a ethical vegan dog parent to a 8 year old staffy who’s been eating your vegan brand for a couple years now.
    I’ve been noticing that she has lost quite a bit of muscle lately (of course it could be related to that shes getting older as well) and I would like to know if there is any extra supplement that you might need to take combined with your vegan food. Does it contain every essential vitamin etc? Could you recommend me something that might be needed?
    Best regards from Sweden

    1. Hi Mollie, our vegan dog food is a complete dog food, which means it contains all essential vitamins and minerals a dog needs. There is no need to add supplements to the food for complementary purposes. If your dog is losing a bit of muscle, you could try our Vegan Active Dog food if you’re not using this one already. Here is the link to our Vegan Active Dog food: Our Vegan Active Dog food contains sea weed. Sea weed has various benefits. It helps to keep the skin in optimal condition, but it also contributes to stronger muscles and joints.

      1. I cannot find vegan active dog food. Do you still produce it? My dog is a little jack Russell, she’s 5 but very very active. She never ate vegan food but I’d like to try! Thank you!

  3. Hi is this suitable for an elderly dog in the first stages of kidney disease, my dog has been eating yarrah for 3 years and is looking and feeling great, unfortunately at 12 years old she is becoming a little incontinent, I really don’t want to have to put her back on a meat diet and wondered if anyone has had similar questions

    1. Hi Cathy, Yes, our vegan food would be suitable for your dog. Dogs with kidney diseases often need a diet with a low protein level. Our vegan food has a lower protein level and would therefore suit your older dog.

    1. Hi Beatrice, we recommend starting with vegan food from 1 year onwards. Puppies really need the nutrients that are in meat-based food. Our vegan food is lower in protein and fat and therefore less suitable for puppies.

  4. Hi. I would like to minimise the transport-related CO2 emissions from feeding my pets. Could you let me know more about those in relation to your products? Thanks.

    1. Hi Mark,
      We are happy to hear you are so conscious about feeding your pets and the effect it may have on the planet. Besides the fact that we don’t use any artificial additives in our organic products, which is better for the planet, we also make sure that the transport to the slaughter house of the animals used in our food is as short as possible. Both to reduce transportation as well as stress for the animals. For our vegan products, this doesn’t apply obviously, as no animal products are used. This makes our vegan products even more environmentally friendly. In all our products, we try to use as many local products as possible, to help reducing transport emissions.
      We hope this answers your question.

  5. I have a friend who’s (approx) 5 year old mongrel small to medium sized dog has had a skin problem for around two years. It scratches constantly and has been prescribed Apoquel tablets which the dog refuses to take. They give the dog Winalot food. I think (and they accept) that a diet of one of your foods would help the dog the be less stressed by skin problems. Which do you recommend please? Do try to come back to me asap!! I want to help the dog who is loved but isn’t getting better.

    1. Dear Jane,
      We are sorry to hear the dog of your friend is suffering from skin problems. We recommend you to try our Vega Wheat-Free dry food for the dog. We have noticed that some dogs who also suffered from skin problems did benefit from getting organic, vegan dog food. More information on the food you can find here: It is also possible to order a trial bag via our website, so you get check if your friend’s dog likes it:
      Wishing you and your friend’s dog all the best.

    1. Hi Tracey, our vegan dry food is a complete food, which means it contains all nutrients a dog requires. There is no need to add other foods to give your dog a complete diet.

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