Nutritious vegan diets for dogs may be linked to better health and could be less hazardous than traditional meat-based diets, a new study suggests.
Dog owners who want to covert their pet’s diet to vegan food, including because of concerns for the environment and the treatment of animals used as food, are often told this would be unfair or unhealthy.
But researchers have now found that dogs on conventional meat diets were, overall, less healthy than dogs on raw meat or vegan diets.
Until now, research into the health effects of conventional versus unconventional dog diets has been limited.
Andrew Knight, of the University of Winchester, and colleagues said: “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.
“It analysed a range of objective data, as well as owner opinions and reported veterinary assessments of health. It revealed that the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.”
Prior research has linked raw meat diets to increased risk of pathogens and nutritional deficiencies, the study suggests. Further research is needed to confirm whether a raw meat or a vegan diet is associated with better dog health outcomes.
In light of both the new and previous findings, the researchers suggest a nutritionally sound vegan diet may be the healthiest and least hazardous choice for dogs.
While the animals on raw meat diets appeared to be healthier than those on vegan diets, several factors prevented them from concluding raw meat diets are healthier.
According to the study, dogs on raw meat diets were significantly younger than dogs on vegan diets, which could help explain why they appeared to be healthier.
Additionally, those on raw meat diets were less likely to be taken to a vet. While this could be a sign of better health, prior research has indicated owners of dogs on raw meat diets are less likely to visit a vet.
The findings are published in the PLoS ONE journal.
Nina Massey is the PA science correspondent. This article has been edited by a member of The Ecologist editorial team.