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We’re a totally different kind of dog food company. Our late founder Dave envisioned a world where his two rescue dogs could thrive without harming other animals. In 2005, his dream became a reality and v-dog was born. V-dog was the first vegan dog food company in the USA and remains a family owned, vegan business to this very day.

For our dogs:

We use 100% vegan ingredients to power our nutritionally complete and balanced dog food. Our products are allergy-friendly, easily digestible, and veterinarian-approved. (Not to mention totally yummy!)

For the planet:

Plant powered pooches save the planet! A vegan dog, like a vegan human, leaves behind a much smaller environmental “paw print.” We make plant-powered food that’s gentle on our earth’s resources. Hooray for Vegan Dogs!

Plant-based diets are clearly a more sustainable choice for us, and we now know the same is true for our canine companions. Last year in the US alone, 89.7 million dogs lived in households as pets, and that doesn’t account for the millions of stray dogs that enter shelters every year.

Despite all the positives we find in vegan lifestyle, we continue to feed the vast majority of our dogs food that is loaded with animal products. As guardians, we make all kinds of choices for our pups, including where they run and play, who they interact with, and, of course, what they eat. The more we shift our pets towards vegan diets, the less harm we inflict on the planet. Your pup can make a huge difference, one bowl of vegan kibble at a time.

For the animals:

We’re committed to protecting, loving (and snuggling) all animals, not just pets. When your pup adopts a plant-based diet, they’re taking a stance against animal cruelty.

Dog Food, Ethics and Veganism

Some people switch their dogs to a vegan food for health reasons. Some switch their dogs because of food allergies. Those were obviously very important for me and my pooch, Finn. They’re important to everyone who loves their companion animals. However, I chose to switch Finn to v-dog for ethical reasons.

Some people stop me here and say, “But he didn’t choose that lifestyle. You’re forcing your dog to be vegan, and that’s wrong. That’s not ethical.”

To me, being an ethical vegan means that I’ve chosen to adopt a lifestyle that doesn’t contribute to the exploitation of animals or our environment. But how is that possible when you adopt a dog? It’s a question I wrestled with for a while, but ultimately, the answer isn’t all that complicated.

Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you know that dogs are omnivores (not obligate carnivores), and study after study has shown us the benefits of a plant-based food for dogs. Naturally, I want my dog to live a long and happy life, dreaming and playing and hiking to his heart’s content. But that doesn’t change the fact that Finn never chose this life for himself. However, I also struggle to list the things he actually has chosen.

Finn wasn’t always a vegan, and neither was I years ago. But after I did a little research about the horrible treatment of animals and the disastrous effects of animal agriculture on the environment, I decided to adopt a vegetarian diet. Shortly after that, I did a little more investigating and found out more about the dairy and egg industries. And well, you know the rest of the story.

And then Finn came into my life.

At first, I didn’t even think a vegetarian or vegan formula was possible for him. He ate a high-quality turkey and potato food that he seemed to enjoy. And I didn’t think twice about it. Then a few years ago, I found v-dog at the Portland Vegfest, and that’s when I started my research again. Even after I transitioned him to a vegan diet, I remained skeptical for months. I wouldn’t believe he was okay until the bloodwork came back from the vet. I was astonished.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to adopt a dog in the beginning. Even when I met Finn at the shelter in Bloomington, Indiana, I wasn’t sure. We coexisted those first few weeks, uncertain about the future, wondering if we were ready to trust each other. And I distinctly remember the night when I was sure Finn and I would stick together.

As usual, we were walking along a bike trail, Finn smelling everything in sight, when we came across a praying mantis crossing the asphalt underneath a lamppost. Finn stopped dead in his tracks, mesmerized. He looked at me and then started barking. After a few moments, he got quiet again and inched his way closer. Then a few minutes later, he lay down right there on the trail and watched this insect eventually make its way into the tall grass and outside the light. Finn was overjoyed, jumping and wagging his tail, ready to continue ahead and find out more about the world and meet new creatures, and I couldn’t help but love him for that. That moment would change my life.

Watching that praying mantis that evening was Finn’s choice—and what an incredible choice it was in that moment—but does that mean that all of his choices are good ones?

I’ve always hated the videos where a person sets down two bowls, one filled with meat and one filled with lettuce, and then forces the dog to choose between to two. As if that will somehow illustrate that dogs want to eat meat. Of course dogs want to eat meat. Dogs are opportunistic. Dogs want a lot of things, some of which aren’t good for them or their habitat. If I put a bowl of antifreeze down next to his water, he might actually drink the coolant since it actually tastes sweeter than water. (I shudder at the thought that many animals have actually died this way.)

Finn is my companion, and there’s nothing I want more than to look after him and enrich his life. I’ve asked myself repeatedly over the years, “What’s the best way to give Finn the life he deserves?”

If Finn had his way, though, he wouldn’t be living that life. He’d run away from his boosters and vaccines. He wouldn’t swallow his heartworm prevention. If I offered him chocolate or other foods that are toxic to dogs, he’d gobble them down in a second without thinking. If I took off his leash in the bustling city and told him he could choose any direction he wanted, he might run out into traffic, scared and confused.

The fact is that Finn looks to me to safeguard his present and his future, and that’s a responsibility I treasure. I manage almost all of his choices. I don’t choose who he befriends or cuddles. But I so choose when we walk and when we turn in for the night and when we go to the vet. I choose when we go camping and hiking together. I choose his toys (or at least I okay them when he picks them out). I prepare the apartment so he feels safe when people are lighting off fireworks outside. I change his bandages if he hurts his paw on a trail. I brush his teeth and clean his ears. I make hundreds of choices for him, and I also choose what he eats.

You do the same for your dog. And we do all this because we love them and we want them to stick around in a beautiful world for as long as possible. We are their shepherds.

Like many vegans, it breaks my heart when I think about the slaughter of defenseless creatures and the decimation of our environment because of animal agriculture. (There’s plenty on the internet about this already.) I often think about my young niece and nephew and the cruel, scorched world they’ll inherit, and I can’t help but feel demoralized at times. Most nights Finn starts yipping in his sleep, probably dreaming about the dogs he met at the lake and the big stick he found in the mud and the horse that sauntered past us on the way back to our truck, and I ask myself that question again. What’s the best way to give Finn the life he deserves?

He deserves that clean lake without contamination from nearby waste ponds filled with pig feces and urine. He deserves the company of other healthy and happy animals, not ones who are cramped into dark cages and deprived of compassion and sunlight, not ones who are whipped and forced to run races for sport, not ones who live their entire lives in fear. And that’s what all animals deserve, including humans.

All the choices I make for Finn (just like my sister makes for my niece and nephew) I make because those are my ethics, and they include compassion and sustainability for all of us. Finn won’t always choose what’s best for him in the long run, but he’s got me now. And together we make a pretty good vegan team.

In fact, I now organize events for dogs to try vegan foods in my free time. I screen print tees for both of us that try to illustrate our vegan lives. I try to engage omnivores and skeptical vegans who say, “Dogs are carnivores,” or “Omnivore means they need both plants and animals.” Even this post is a way for me to reach out to you.

Finn and I are both vegans, and we’re thriving. Being an ethical vegan and taking care of a canine companion are not mutually exclusive anymore. I made my choice, and after I accepted that Finn could (and does) live a happy and healthy life eating a plant-based diet, I made his choice too.

Respectfully,
Justin

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