Vegan food may potentially be healthier and less hazardous for dogs than a meat-based diet, according to new research which surveyed dog guardians and their pooches' health records. It looked at the association between dog diets and health outcomes, concluding that nutritionally sound vegan food was associated with better overall health.
The study – sure to spark debate, and published in the journal PLOS ONE – examined the effects of vegan, raw meat, and traditional “dog food” meat diets on canine health. Of 2,536 participants, vegan dogs represented 13 percent of those surveyed, while raw meat and traditional meat were 33 percent and 54 percent respectively.
Data collected regarding the dogs’ health included the number of visits to the vet’s office, what medications they were on, and known health disorders. The researchers then carried out a statistical analysis of the survey results.
What they found appeared to show that pooches eating traditional “dog food” meats were in poorer health compared to dogs in the vegan and raw meat categories.
Raw meat was actually found to be healthier for dogs than a vegan diet, but the researchers believe there are several contributing factors to this result that make concluding this to be the healthiest option inaccurate. Their reasons were:
- Raw meat diet dogs were significantly younger than those on vegan diets, so more likely to be in good health
- Raw meat diet dogs were also less likely to be taken to the vet’s office, which could be an indicator of better health or that health problems weren't being detected
Climate change, the environment, and the welfare of animals used to make dog food have seen interest in vegan diets for pets spike in recent years. While the results of this study are correlational and therefore can’t draw a causal link between a vegan diet and better health, it’s possible that a robust vegan diet could have some benefits.
“Accordingly, when considering health outcomes in conjunction with dietary hazards, the pooled evidence to date from our study, and others in this field, indicates that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs, among conventional raw meat and vegan diets, are nutritional sound vegan diets,” they concluded.
While it was their summation that vegan takes the title as the “healthiest” and “least hazardous” dog food choice, the authors urge that for any dog diet to be healthy it must be fit for purpose.
“Regardless of ingredients used,” they wrote, “diets should always be formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced, without which adverse health effects may eventually be expected to occur.”
What would your dog say to the idea?