Dogs on a vegan diet need fewer trips to the vet, less medicine and are healthier, according to a study by the University of Winchester. Researchers studied over 2,500 dogs to explore the health advantages of vegan canine diets.
The growing global demand for meat has sizeable downsides for health and the environment, with meat production responsible for 14% of all carbon emissions, the equivalent of the global transport sector. That's without even considering the ethical questions that intensive animal farming raises.
But although vegetarian and vegan diets are well-known for humans, not so much attention is paid to the impact of what our pets eat. However, vegan alternatives for pets are slowly gaining traction. In 2020, $9 billion worth of vegetarian dog food was sold worldwide.
Vegan dogs are happy dogs
The researchers looked for indications of poor pet health, such as frequent visits to the vet, the need for medications and common health problems including skin and teeth issues. The owners were also asked about how they perceived their dog's health.
The results indicate that not only is vegan food safe for dogs, it is healthier than standard meat-based dog food. 49% of dogs that were fed a conventional diet had health problems. For vegan dogs the number dropped to 36%.
Dogs that ate raw meat were also healthier than those on a conventional diet but not as healthy as vegan dogs. However, the researchers noted that the animals in this group were generally younger and had fewer health problems. Raw meat is also linked to other nutritional risks, including bacteria and parasites, said the scientists.
"Evidence from our study and others indicates that the healthiest and least harmful dietary choice for dogs is a nutritionally-sound vegan diet," concluded Andrew Knight, professor of animal welfare at the University of Winchester and lead author of the study.
The study also revealed that the health of their dog is the most important criterion when choosing dog food. The results should help dispel owner scepticism about vegan pet diets.