In the last few years, plant-based food choices have soared in popularity in the UK. In fact, a 2021 poll found that more than a third of Brits are now interested in swapping to a vegan diet. But what about our dogs? Can they get veg-curious too? A new study suggests that cutting meat from their diets isn’t just possible, it could even benefit their health.
The new research, led by Professor Andrew Knight of the University of Winchester, suggests that nutritionally complete plant-based diets are healthier and safer for dogs than meat-based ones.
For the study, which is the biggest yet on this subject, researchers examined more than 2,600 dogs. Over a year, the dogs were regularly assessed via communication with their guardians. Seven key health indicators were evaluated. These included vet visits, the use of medication, therapeutic diets, and the prevalence of 22 health disorders.
The study, funded by ProVeg, found that only one-third of the vegan dogs in the study required non-routine medication. But for those on a conventional meat-based diet, it was more like half. The study also found that nine percent of vegan dogs went to the vet four or more times in one year. Seventeen percent of dogs on a conventional diet made the same amount of trips.
While the results showed that dogs on raw meat diets presented “marginally” healthier than the vegan dogs, with only eight percent visiting the vet four or more times, the study notes there were “statistically significant differences in average ages.” (In other words, the raw meat-fed dogs were younger, therefore less likely to have health issues.)
Plus, as Knight told the Guardian, “a substantial body of prior studies have also shown that raw meat diets are much more contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and parasites.”
Should dogs go vegan?
The British Veterinary Association has weighed in on the findings. It acknowledges that while they are significant, more research is needed on vegan dogs. President Justin Shotton said: “There is currently a lack of robust data mapping the health consequences of feeding a vegan diet to a large number of dogs over many years. We look forward to seeing further research on whether this can meet a dog’s dietary requirements over the long term.”
But many are already convinced that dogs on a plant-based diet can be healthy and strong. Looking at anecdotal evidence: Bramble, who once held the record for being the world’s oldest dog and lived for 25 years, was fed a vegan diet.
Moving dogs away from meat-based diets is also good for the planet. One study found that dry pet food production is responsible for emitting 106 million tonnes of CO2. To put this into context, that’s even more than the entire country of Mozambique, Africa.
More people are giving plant-based dog food a try. In 2020, the global vegan pet food industry hit a value of $9.6 billion. By 2030, it’s estimated to reach $16.3 billion.
Judy Nadel, co-founder of vegan dog food brand THE PACK, told Plant Based News that she believes the new study is “game-changing.”
“It shows that plant-based dog food offers a clear solution to the health crisis impacting dogs,” she continued. “The meat-heavy dog industry is making our furry companions and the planet sick, at THE PACK our mission is to create products that not only taste fantastic but also boost dogs’ health, giving us more healthy years with our dogs.”