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  • Writer's pictureDr Matthew Kopke

The rise of the vegan dog?



I’m not sure if there is anything, outside of politics at least, that is quite as polarising as the current climate crisis we’re facing and the role that humans, and yes, also our pets, play in it, and how quickly it’s progressing.

 



Dogs can be vegan. Dogs can also not be vegan. Choosing one or the other doesn’t have to be better or even the opposite, harmful. If a vegan diet is properly formulated to ensure that it meets the AAFCO minimum requirements for the life stage of your dog, they can live their best life being vegan. And yes, the same can be said for meat-based diets, again, if done properly.

 

Dogs are facultative carnivores (sometimes, otherwise referred to as omnivores).


What this means is that they can consume foods of both animal and non-animal origin. Through domestication, dogs have developed certain adaptations that have allowed for deviation from their ancestor, the wolf. But, it’s really difficult to generalise about dogs, given the great diversity they show in form and behaviour between breeds. Now, this is because of man’s influence, and the topic is getting a bit more philosophical than what was planned for today, so we might park it there.


So, maybe the question shouldn’t be,


“Can dogs be vegan?”

but rather something along the lines of:


“Why should I consider a vegan diet for my dog?”

 

Below, we’ll talk about some of the benefits of feeding a vegan diet to your dog. As with anything really, there are potential risks with dog veganism – we’ll address these, with some literature to support. Then, we’ll wrap things up with some options that are available to you as dog parents wanting to consider feeding your dog a vegan diet.

 

Let’s get started.

 

What are the benefits of feeding a vegan diet for dogs?

 

Firstly, yes, there are benefits to your dog going vegan. These range from guardian-perceived benefits (including comments relating to palatability and welfare implications) to more objective benefits demonstrated by routine blood work and analysis of faecal samples.

 

Several survey studies have looked at guardian’s impressions of animal welfare and indicators of health when vegan diets are on offer. The results of these studies suggest that vegan pet foods are at least as palatable as other options available, and there is no compromise to a pet’s welfare when fed a vegan diet. Vegan diets are also considered one of the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs.



A study by Roberts et al. showed that mildly cooked human-grade vegan dog foods resulted in improved faecal characteristics or metabolites and lower cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. Great, right? That’s what most humans are after nowadays.

 

Then there’s the topic of what benefit dog veganism could have on the environment and the future of our planet. No doubt, this is controversial, and many pet parents or guardians would object to dog veganism because it is in stark contrast to what dogs’ ancestors would eat. So round about now is when many people might skip to the next video, but if you’re still watching, let me share some interesting stats on what dog veganism can help save or reduce, this data is courtesy of a study by Andrew Knight:

 

Globally, dogs eat approximately 7.7% of livestock animals. In the US, this number is as high as 17.7%.

If all dogs were transitioned over to a solely vegan diet - yes, I understand how drastic this sounds – this would mean that in the US, 1.7 billion livestock animals would not be killed each year to make dog food, and globally, 6.0 billion livestock animals would not be slaughtered for the purpose of dog food containing meat.

This is not even considering the billions of aquatic animals that go into pet food manufacturing globally.

 

But it doesn’t stop there; a shift towards dog veganism (this is not even considering the impact of humans) would also reduce land and water use, emissions of greenhouse gases, acidifying and eutrophifying gases, and biocide use.

 

We’ve included some more details and graphics below that help demonstrate the true extent of such savings.

 

  1. Land use: If all dogs went vegan, this would free up land equivalent to the size of Mexico

  2. Save freshwater volumes: If dog veganism was the next pandemic, greater than all the renewable freshwater in Denmark, would be saved

  3. Reduce greenhouse gases: If vegan dogs were the only breed of dog on the planet, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by an amount greater than what is produced by South Africa or the United Kingdom

  4. Number of additional people who could be fed using food energy savings (associated with dog vegan diets):


If meat-based dog diets were a thing of the past, the food energy savings from this would allow for the entire human population of the European Union (from 2018) to be fed.

Being vegan is not, as a default, harmful to your dog, despite what many news articles and other media platforms have had to say on the topic.

 


Poorly formulated vegan homemade diets can cause serious harm, although this can also be true for poorly formulated diets in general.


Vegan diets can lack many essential nutrients, so it is vital to understand that the diet needs to contain a range of nutritious food ingredients, and also appropriate supplementation.


For example, vegan diets lack vitamin B12, so it needs to be added in, in supplement form.


They can also be deficient in calcium, vitamin D, and taurine.





There is also more for us to learn about the safety of feeding ingredients like peas on a daily basis, given the research that associates this with an increased risk of cardiac disease in some dogs.

 


A commercial vegan diet can be an easier choice, although unfortunately, some studies have shown that these diets can still have concerning deficiencies. For example, one study showed that canned and dry vegetarian diets in the USA were frequently deficiency in essential amino acids.


A recent study by Zafalon et al. looked at four commercially available vegan diets (three for dogs, and one for cats) in Brazil. The authors found that all four of these diets were deficient in one or more nutrients, in other words, below the recommended levels defined by AAFCO and FEDIAF – they looked at both.

 

This topic is important to us at VNG because we recognise the impact that humans and our beloved pets eating meat have on the environment and the future of our planet. But that’s not to say it has to be an all-in-or-nothing approach.

Ever heard of ‘Meat-Free Mondays?’ Well, that doesn’t have to be limited to the non-furry members of your family.

 

A good way to avoid potential concerns with a vegan diet is to consider feeding a vegetarian or vegan diet occasionally, as part of a rotation of different brands and diet types.


For example, in the UK, fresh-cooked diet manufacturer Butternut Box offers vegetarian and vegan options that you can add to your subscription, along with a range of meat-based meals.

 





Even just reducing the number of meat-containing meals slightly, can have a significant impact on your dogs’ ecological pawprint.

 





Here are some vegan or vegetarian diet options and treats you could consider feeding occasionally to reduce your pet’s environmental impact.


Addiction Zen Vegetarian:

Kibble VEGETARIAN option - available in Australia








Gather Endless Valley vegan dry diet:

Kibble VEGAN option - available in multiple countries













SPD™ Fresh Roll Pea & Algae Oil:

Fresh 'dog roll' VEGAN option - available in Australia






v-dog kind kibble:

Kibble VEGAN option available in multiple countries















Whimzees:

Dental treat VEGAN option - available in multiple countries








If something like Bramble’s plant-based recipes is good enough for Lewis Hamilton’s dog, Roscoe, then surely it’s good enough for your dog.




If you’re looking at or are already feeding your dog a vegan diet and have some questions, feel free to email us using:


 


‘Til next time. Happy munching!


If you find content like this useful, please tell us. Have questions – ask them. Your comments and engagement not only keep us motivated but they guide the direction of this blog.


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