Dogs are opportunistic feeders — with a long evolutionary history as a domesticated species that sustained themselves on a wide variety of food, both plant, and animal-based. It sparked the interest in the question, can dogs be vegan and healthy?
Since vegan diets are at a new height and peak now, it is almost natural for any dog parent to wonder: do vegan dogs live longer? The short answer is “maybe” since various factors come into play.
Do Vegan Dogs Live Longer?
It is essential to note that although the nutritional adequacy of a diet is crucial, it’s necessary to consider its effects on a dog’s longevity, especially with the prevalence of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, and diabetes in dogs.
The question of whether dogs can survive on a vegan diet and live longer is a topic of debate with no conclusive scientific evidence. While some pet owners attest to the health benefits of vegan diets, it’s vital to consult a veterinarian before switching to a vegan diet.
Vegan diets have been available for pets for decades, and pet owners are increasingly aware of their health benefits. While vegan diets are suitable for senior and older dogs, there is no conclusive evidence that they can improve a dog’s lifespan significantly.
Bramble, the Guinness Book Title Holder for the world’s oldest living dog in 2002, is a perfect example of the impact of a vegan diet on a dog’s longevity. Bramble is a 25-year-old Vegan Border Collie who eats a wholesome diet of red lentils, brown rice, vegetables, and other ingredients such as yeast extract and herbs. Bramble’s guardian, Anne Heritage, raised seven other vegan dogs, five of whom lived past 19 years, proving that a vegan diet can be a healthy option for dogs.
In conclusion, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian before switching your dog to a vegan diet, as there is no conclusive scientific evidence that it can improve its lifespan significantly.
Conventional Diet vs. Raw Meat Diet vs. Vegan Diet in Dogs
According to a survey study participated in by guardians of over 2,500 dogs, nutritionally complete vegan diets can be linked to better health outcomes than raw meat or conventional diets. Andrew Knight and colleagues from the University of Winchester shared the following findings to support such a claim.
Conventional Diet in Dogs
To help determine the potential health impact of various dog diets, the researchers analyzed data from 2,536 canine guardians who used either raw meat (33%), conventional meat (54%), or a vegan diet (13%). The survey includes several health-related questions about their dogs, including the use of medications, veterinary visits, and specific dog health illnesses.
Statistical analysis of the survey shows that overall, dogs on conventional diets are typically less healthy than those on vegan or raw meat diets. Conventional diets are meat-based products produced and distributed by commercial pet food companies.
Raw Meat Diet in Dogs
It also turns out that dogs on raw meat-based diets tend to be healthier than those on vegan diets. Though, various factors prevent the researchers from fully concluding that raw meat is the most beneficial of the bunch.
In the study, dogs on raw meat diets are younger than those on vegan diets, which could determine why they appear healthier. Additionally, the dogs on raw meat diets had significantly lesser veterinarian visits. While this could be an indicator of better health, prior studies indicate that the guardians of dogs on raw meat diets are less likely to consult vets for advice.
To compare the health outcomes of raw meat and vegan diet, further research is needed.
Vegan Diet in Dogs
Vegan dog food incorporates cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, soy, vegetable oils, and other non-animal-based foods.
According to the study, dogs on vegan diets have fewer allergies and health disorders than pets on conventional diets. On average, vegan diet dogs in the study had half the risk of having health issues, like gastrointestinal problems, as dogs on conventional diets.
Dogs can acquire essential nutrients from various plant sources. However, the benefits of providing plant-based diets to omnivorous and carnivorous pets still lack research and data.
What The Scientists Found Out
Knight and his colleagues surveyed more than 2,500 dog guardians regarding their pets’ health and diets. Out of the dog owners who participated, more than half were on conventional diets, one-third on raw meat and the remaining one-eight were on vegan diets.
Dogs on conventional diets fare worse out of the three diets in terms of health. Dogs on raw meat appeared marginally better than those on vegan diets. Despite the results, the researchers added that a raw meat diet is not necessarily better than a vegan diet since prior studies show that the former are more contaminated with pathogenic parasites and bacteria.
The study answers the frequently-asked question, is it healthy for dogs to be vegan with an “it depends”. The study claims that dogs can be healthy on nutritionally sound vegan diets.
Though, it is not to say that all pet parents should start making vegan and plant-based meals for their pets. Instead, the researchers suggest that owners can rely on nutritionally balanced and commercially available vegan dog food from a credible and reputable company.
What Do Veterinarians Say?
Vegetarian food that is balanced for dogs is easy to digest. Many people are turning to it for ethical and health reasons, and it provides good nutrition while promoting a dog’s longevity.
Veterinarians have opinions on whether a vegan diet is good for dogs. Dr. Lorelei Wakefield, VMD, says that dogs in India have been mostly vegetarian for thousands of years without any health problems. In contrast, modern dogs often suffer from preventable issues like obesity, food allergies, or diabetes, which can be managed by a vegan diet.
Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, has observed that many dogs have persistent, chronic health conditions that are challenging to treat. Sadly, 50% of dogs over the age of two will develop cancer in their lifetime.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet For Dogs
Firstly, it is essential to ensure that a vegan diet provides all the necessary nutrients for dogs. While vegan formulas can be an excellent alternative to meat-based dog foods, they do not naturally contain certain essential minerals like iron, calcium, iodine, and high levels of protein. Therefore, vegan diets need to be supplemented to ensure dogs receive the nutrients they require.
Despite the potential benefits, it is also important to note that a canine’s digestive tract is not designed for an entirely plant-based diet. Therefore, it is crucial to regulate and properly balance a vegan diet to ensure it meets a dog’s nutritional needs.
While there has been an instance where a dog died from a vegan diet, dogs can survive on a vegan diet if it is appropriately balanced and regulated. It is also worth noting that introducing plant-based food to a dog’s daily meals can provide several health benefits and even prolong their lives.
In summary, a vegan diet can be a suitable option for dogs, but it requires careful planning and supervision. It is also important to learn about vegan food and ensure that the diet is appropriately balanced to meet the nutritional needs of dogs.
Downsides of Vegan Diet For Dogs
There has been an instance where a dog dies from a vegan diet. That fact alone should be enough to stretch out how dangerous the vegan diet is if taken too far. While soy products are an excellent alternative to raw meat, they do not contain certain essential minerals like iron, calcium, iodine, and high levels of protein. It is why vegan diets need to be supplemented.
Here are some notable downsides of a vegan food plan:
- It takes more time to prepare
- Deficit in nutrients
- Dog owners should learn vegan food knowledge first
- A canine’s digestive tract is not designed for an entirely plant-based diet
Can dogs survive on a vegan diet? The answer is yes — as long as it is regulated and properly balanced.
If you are concerned with your pup’s health and the safety of their diet, you may want to introduce plant-based food to their daily meals. It can provide your dogs with several health benefits and even prolong their lives.