In the quest to lower carbon emissions, people’s interest in plant-based diets is growing, due to the fairly common knowledge that eating meat and animal byproducts, especially beef and dairy, is very resource-intensive.
The conversation around feeding our beloved pets plant-based chow is also getting louder, however, not all animals are well suited to the veggie/vegan lifestyle. Cats, for instance, have gastrointestinal tracts and metabolisms that make them obligatory carnivores, so eating meat is essential to their health. But dogs? Research suggests that they can go plant-based (whether they like it or not) and their health might even benefit from it!
Vegan dog diets
A recent peer-reviewed study involving 2,500 canines showed that there could be some benefits for vegan, plant-based pups, who were healthier than some dogs eating a conventional diet. These vegan dogs required fewer medications and trips to the vet.
The study was funded by ProVeg, an organization advocating for the reduced consumption of animals, and was published in the journal PLoS ONE. The data was collected through surveys completed by the dog owners, of which a little more than half fed their dogs traditional meat-based diets, while a third fed their dogs raw meat, and the rest of the 13 percent served vegan dog food.
Out of the ordinary dog food eaters, 17 percent visited the vet four or more times over the study period (one year). Nine percent of the vegan dogs and 8 percent of the raw food dogs also visited the vet at this rate. Almost half (49 percent) of the dogs with conventional diets had health disorders which ranks high compared to the 43 percent of raw-meat-eating dogs and 36 percent of vegan dogs.
The raw meat dogs had better results in some assessments than the vegan dogs, but they were also about a year younger on average. According to the study leader Andrew Knight from the University of Winchester, older studies showed that dogs that were on raw meat diets suffered more from pathogenic bacteria and parasites.
“Our study is by far the largest study published to date,” said Knight, as reported by The Guardian. “It revealed that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.”
Although these results appear telling, more research is needed to confidently confirm that vegan diets are truly better for our pups. “The key limitation of our study is that we didn’t have a population of animals locked up in a research facility and fed one specific diet without any alteration,” Knight continues. “We studied what real dogs in normal homes ate and their health outcomes. It gives us a good indication as to what the outcomes are for dogs in the real world.”
So, dog parents, don’t make a hasty switch to plant-based dishes for your fur children just yet—more studies on the health consequences of vegan diets on a larger sample of dogs over a longer period must be done before we can draw any firm conclusions.
Source study: PLOS ONE—Vegan versus meat-based dog food: Guardian-reported indicators of health