Feeding pets vegetarian or vegan diets have long been a source of controversy in the pet space. Supporters believe they are providing their dog with a high-quality, ethical diet. On the other hand, opponents argue that our pets need meat in their diets like the ancestors that came before them.
Vegan Diets Could Be Better for Your Dog’s Health, Study Finds
The results of a new study out of the University of Winchester, U.K. may shed a new light on this ongoing debate. After surveying the owners of more than 2,500 dogs, Andrew Knight and his colleagues discovered that dogs who were fed nutritionally balanced vegan diets may be healthier than those fed conventional or raw meat-based diets.
“We believe our study of 2,536 dogs is by far the largest study published to date, exploring health outcomes of dogs fed vegan and meat-based diets,” shared the study’s authors. Each of the dog owners were asked a series of questions about their dog’s health and lifestyle including what medications (if any) the dog has used, the number of veterinary visits that they have taken, and whether their dogs have experienced any specific dog health disorders.
It was found that nearly 50% of the dogs that were fed a traditional omnivorous diet including meat, grains, and vegetables required medication at some point that was considered non-routine. Meanwhile, those that were fed a balanced vegan diet only needed these medications one-third of the time.
When asked about the prevalence of health disorders, the numbers were surprising. Of the survey participants 49% of those feeding a conventional diet and 43 of those feeding a raw meat diet reported issues. However, only 36% of those feeding a vegan diet were faced with health disorders and complications.
While some of the raw data did suggest that dogs on raw meat diets may be the healthiest group surveyed, the researchers explained that the data failed to account for a couple of important points. This included the fact that the dogs on raw meat diets included in the study were significantly younger than those that were reported to be eating a vegan diet. Additionally, Dogs that were fed a raw meat diet reported fewer trips to the vet. However, the researchers noted that prior research suggests that owners of dogs on raw meat diets are less likely to visit the vet, having an impact on those numbers.
With all this factored into their data, the research team concluded that, “the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.”
This study opens the door to those interested in the world of pet nutrition. Further testing will be needed to better understand the connection between dietary choices and a dog’s overall health, the researchers noted. Larger-scale longitudinal and cross-sectional studies will be needed to confirm the findings and provide greater insight.
What we can conclude from the University of Winchester study is that we shouldn’t be overlooking the potential benefits of nutritionally balanced vegan alternatives for pets.
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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