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Why did I turn plant-based at the age of 52?

Two years ago, after watching Sir David Attenborough’s film, I chose to live and work more sustainably. I followed in the footsteps of our millenial vegan son and even though my vet husband had his concerns, he respected my decision to go plant-based along with our little family dog. I researched plant-based feeding in dogs intensively, and successfully turned our little family dog 100% plant-based! My sceptical husband realised that I had found him the perfect diet……….and so my journey began!

Plant-based vet Arielle with plant-based dog Ruff

green paws challenge leafAs a very concerned Mum of 4 millenial medical ‘children’, and like most of us in the UK;  I watched Blue Planet and witnessed David Attenborough’s mission statement where he urged us to all go plant-based to protect our natural world – I just want to do my bit to help towards a future for our children!

green paws challenge leafAs a GP vet with 25+ years experience, I also grew SO concerned with the rise of non-sustainable raw feeding in pets, as well as the rise in pet obesity that we all see everyday in our clinics. Owners were asking such valid questions about their pet’s health and the planet’s health, and I had no answers, so I threw myself into pet nutrition on the day that I went plant-based.

green paws challenge leafThis 2+ year journey has been fascinating. I have met and spoken to the top vet nutritionists in the UK and I have completed all their courses – I even did Marge Chandler’s course twice! I have met and I now work with the top german vet nutritionists, as well as Dr Clare Knottenbelt and Prof Andrew Knight – everything I have learnt about plant-based feeding has fascinated me and it all makes such perfect sense.

green paws challenge leafOur little family dog is thriving on his plant-based diet, which has given me the confidence to begin to help other owners. I have helped over a hundred UK pet owners transition their dogs onto a healthy plant-based diet with my most satisfying being owners transitioning from raw to 100% plant-based! I have worked with vets and private companies to ensure that new products are being developed in the UK as they are in Germany and the growth in this market in the UK is phenomenal.

green paws challenge leafNow that I am concentrating fully on promoting plant-based feeding of our pets in the UK, and I have given up being a GP vet; I learn something new almost everyday from owners, latest articles that are being published weekly, and the latest trends in pet owner demands in the UK.

 

dogs go plant-based heart

AS A VET OR VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL, DID YOU KNOW THAT….

 

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green paws challenge leafOne in three owners may be willing to consider switching to a vegan diet for their pet in the future

According to an article published in the Veterinary Record 30th March 2019, ‘An online survey in 2019 revealed that around one in three owners may be willing to consider switching to a vegan diet for their pet in the future’ – a staggering statistic that since the pandemic will have grown substantially!
Read full article here in Vet Record

 

Dr marc abraham OBE

green paws challenge leafDr Marc Abraham OBE appeared on ITV News on 26th April 2021 promoting sustainable plant-based feeding of our pets

 

Bramble oldest living vegan dog lived until 25 years

green paws challenge leafThe oldest living dog in the UK thrived on a vegan diet and she lived until she was 25 years old!

Bramble, a 25-year-old Border Collie living in Somerset in the late 70’s – 2002 was fed exclusively on organic brown rice, red lentils and vegetables, and this earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest living dog in 2002!

Bramble the vegan dog who wanted to live forever

 

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Solo-Vegetal sold by Vetruus (now Nextmune) is the gentlest form of novel protein for dogs with a meat intolerance or atopic dermatitis

Veterinary-based dermatology company Vetruus started selling Solo-Vegetal in the UK towards the end of 2018. It was initially brought in as a diet for dermatologists to use in exclusion trials as all the other diets were still animal based and didn’t guarantee helping diagnose food allergy as 40% of dogs still react to hydrolysed animal protein diets.
The enormous popularity of 100% balanced Solo-Vegetal has grown substantially over the last year, as owners and vets realise that its nutritional composition is far superior to hydrolysed prescription diets, and it is highly palatable.

solo-vegetal

 

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Lily’s Kitchen is the first of the large pet food companies to launch a vegan option in November 2020

Lily’s Kitchen was a privately owned company until it was bought out in April 2020 by Nestlé Purina. They launched a vegan brand ‘Lily’s Kitchen Rainbow Stew’ in November 2020 that has proved so popular that it is regularly sold out on their website! 2021 has seen the rise of new and exciting companies in the UK – all independent and ethically-minded. Two of these new companies are owned by vets and all are sustainable and forward-thinking and proving incredibly popular in this growing market.

lilys kitchen vegan stew

 

labrador licking lips

green paws challenge leafVery latest published paper from Lincoln University proving that vegan dog food is as palatable to dogs as meat-based or even raw food!

Prof Andrew Knight has published proof in June 2021 for the very first time, proving that a vegan diet is as palatable to our dogs as a meat-based or even raw meat-based foods!

“This is truly groundbreaking. It has long been believed that cats and dogs need to eat other animals for their own health, but what they really need is the right nutrients, which can be manufactured using plant-based, yeast, synthetic and mineral sources. This study shows that cats and dogs appear equally happy when fed vegan meals. We’ve become accustomed to buying meat-based pet food by default – it’s become a habit – but we know now that it’s not a necessity.” says Jimmy Pierson, Director, ProVeg UK.

Read full article here

 

natures menu

green paws challenge leaf20% of farmed meat is used in the pet food industry and not sustainable for the planet

Using the organ by-products of the meat industry is a very efficient way of utilising the whole of the cow or sheep or chicken for pet food but it is not the real environmental danger and is a very efficient form of recycling, or all these byproducts would end up in landfill. The biggest threat to the environment in the pet food market is the growth in the ‘human-grade’ or raw meat industry where as a species, we are supposed to be cutting back on eating meat. Using companies that source meat that we could eat for dog food, equates the carbon footprint of a small dog eating a high meat protein diet to be the equivalent of driving a 4×4 over a year!

butternut box

 

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The packaging of all the pet foods we buy needs to be considered to cut back on plastic

High meat-based foods all tend to be packaged in plastic, while plant-based foods are all sustainably packaged in either paper or recyclable foil as every aspect of the environment is considered when choosing a more sustainable pet food. We also need to consider the carbon footprint of pet foods and the distance they travel and choose local independent companies.

cheesy nibbles

As a vet, Mum of 4 children and dog lover, I am passionate about doing the right thing and ensuring that we get it right for our clients, their pets and our own pets….as well as our future for our children!

To read even more about sustainability and our pets as a vet or vet nurse, please visit:

Read even more by linking to Vets Go Green
FURTHER ARTICLES TO READ RELEVANT TO FEEDING DOGS A PLANT-BASED DIET
Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals

Simple Summary

Many owners of companion animals are interested in vegetarian diets for their animals, as concerns increase about the consequences of animal farming, for health, animal welfare, and the environment. However, are vegetarian or vegan diets for cats and dogs nutritionally balanced and healthy? This article comprehensively reviews the evidence published to date from four studies that have examined the nutritional adequacy of vegetarian diets for cats and dogs. To obtain additional information, we surveyed 12 pet food companies detailed in the most recent study.
Vegan versus meat-based pet foods: Owner-reported palatability behaviours

Vegan versus meat-based pet foods: Owner-reported palatability behaviours and implications for canine and feline welfare

Latest proof that vegan dog food diets are as palatable as meat-based or even raw in this significant study carried out during 2020 and published by Prof Andrew Knight in June 2021

Bramble the Collie's Secrets to Living to Age 25
You may have heard her story before. Bramble the amazing Border Collie lived to just over 25 years old and is known as one of the world’s oldest dogs. Here is an interview with Anne Heritage the owner of the remarkable Bramble.
Plant-based diets for dogs

An article written in December 2018 and published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine on the need to balance a plant-based diet for dogs and the nutrients needed.

Commercial Plant-Based Diets for Dogs
In accordance with the current understanding of pet nutrition, the importance of nutrients, not ingredients, is emphasised.

Can you feed a cat or dog a vegetarian/vegan diet?

Both animals can be fed a vegetarian diet, although neither is a vegan by nature — dogs are omnivores, and cats are carnivores. While both dogs and cats belong to the class carnivora, this doesn’t mean a lot, so does the panda bear which is near vegan.

Vegetarian canine diets - Dr Andrew Knight

The death and suffering inflicted upon approximately fifty billion chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, and other animals, both intensively and extensively farmed, who are slaughtered annually, and upon similar numbers of intensively farmed or wild-caught fish, in order to fulfil the desire of some human beings for meat, has been thoroughly documented; as have the deleterious environmental impacts of both intensive and extensive animal farming.

Plant-based (vegan) diets for pets: A survey of pet owner attitudes and feeding practices

Abstract

People who avoid eating animals tend to share their homes with animal companions, and moral dilemma may arise when they are faced with feeding animal products to their omnivorous dogs and carnivorous cats. One option to alleviate this conflict is to feed pets a diet devoid of animal ingredients—a ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ diet.

Dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet

A fascinating study proving how  mutations in key genes occurred allowing increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves. These results indicate that early ancestors of modern dogs could thrive on a diet rich in starch which constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.

How to Safely Veganise Your Cat or Dog by Andrew Knight

Cats and dogs are carnivores, right? Not quite. Dogs may be biologically classified as omnivores, due to their ability to subsist on a mixed diet of animal and plant-based material in their natural environments.

In contrast, cats are classified as obligate carnivores, because their evolutionary anatomical, physiological and biochemical adaptations to a carnivorous lifestyle prevent them from deriving substantial benefit from the plant-based material available in their natural environments. Both wild cats and dogs do consume plant material, primarily sourced from the gastrointestinal tracts of their consumed prey.

But doesn’t meat allow greater fulfilment of natural feeding behaviour? Once again, this claim warrants closer scrutiny. When wild cats or dogs kill prey, they gorge as much as possible to prevent consumption by competitors. This is followed by uncertain periods of hunger. Yet, commercial meat-based diets comprise assorted body parts from animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens and fish, animals that cats and dogs never naturally eat, heavily laced with unnatural additives of questionable safety (Knight & Leitsberger 2016). These are dispensed from tins or packets at predictable times daily, with kibble sometimes available around the clock. The result bears very little resemblance to natural feeding behaviour.

Animal guardians frequently microchip, vaccinate, de-worm, de-flea and de-sex their furry companions, and confine them indoors at night, because they correctly believe such steps are necessary to safeguard health. Why then, do so many resist feeding healthy vegan  diets to cats and dogs on the basis that it is ‘unnatural’?

After all, cats, dogs and indeed all species, have requirements for specific dietary nutrients, not ingredients. There is no scientific reason why a diet comprised only of plant, mineral and synthetically- based ingredients cannot be formulated to meet all of the palatability, nutritional and bioavailability needs of the species for which they are intended. In fact, a growing number of commercially- available vegan companion animal diets aim to do exactly this and studies demonstrate that animals maintained on nutritionally sound vegetarian and vegan diets can be perfectly healthy (Knight & Leitsberger 2016).

If a diet is nutritionally inadequate

  • whether vegetarian or meat-based
  • disease is likely to result eventually. Hence use of a nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced commercial diet or of a nutritional supplement added to a home-made diet, is essential, to prevent disease and safeguard health.

Regular urine acidity monitoring is also important to detect urinary alkalinisation, with its consequent potential for urinary stones, blockages and infections,  that may result from a vegan diet, in a small minority of cases. Urinary alkalinisation may be corrected via a range of dietary additives.

Additionally, some studies have indicated that  neither  meat-based nor vegan diets are always formulated consistently. Accordingly, guardians may wish to consider gradually transitioning their pets onto different brands or diets, every few months, in the hope that any deficiencies will at least differ between different diets.

As with all companion animals, guardians should also  monitor  the health of their animals on a regular basis, including through regular checks of bodyweight, activity level and demeanour.

Although checks should  normally occur at least weekly, this should be an iterative process, with assessments as often as required. Any problems, such as progressive weight loss or more obvious signs of illness such as adverse coat changes, vomiting or diarrhoea, should trigger a veterinary examination; which should, in any event, occur at least annually. Owners should consider routine blood screenings and urine tests during such wellness checks and in the case of illness (Knight & Leitsberger 2016).

Great patience and persistence may  be required when transitioning animals onto new diets. Changes are best made gradually, e.g., by feeding a 90{9b26eb44abcd5a26fcad8be2905fe7e84a7a487ef24e453142a20b4f73c0a375}/10{9b26eb44abcd5a26fcad8be2905fe7e84a7a487ef24e453142a20b4f73c0a375} old/new dietary mixture for a few days, then 80{9b26eb44abcd5a26fcad8be2905fe7e84a7a487ef24e453142a20b4f73c0a375}/20{9b26eb44abcd5a26fcad8be2905fe7e84a7a487ef24e453142a20b4f73c0a375}, and so on. This allows an appropriate transition of digestive enzymes and intestinal micro-organisms, minimising adverse reactions such as abdominal discomfort, flatulence and diarrhoea (Knight & Leitsberger 2016).

Guardians should clearly demonstrate that they consider the new diet just as edible as the old (without possibly warning or alarming their pet by making a fuss). They should not be concerned if animals eat around new food at first.

Simply having it in close proximity  will help create the necessary mental association, as will mixing the food thoroughly. The addition of odiferous (the sense of smell is very important) and tasty additives, such as nutritional yeast, vegetable oil, nori flakes  and  spirulina, can all help, as well as gently warming the food. Offered food should always be fresh. Gradual change and persistence are the most important factors for transitioning resistant animals and using tactics such as these, the most stubborn of animals have been successfully transitioned onto vegan diets (Knight & Leitsberger 2016).

Such diets have reportedly been associated with a range of benefits, such as improved coat condition, allergy control, weight control,  increased overall health and vitality, arthritis regression, diabetes regression, cataract resolution, and decreased incidences of cancer, infections and cancers. Few controlled population studies exist, although those published to date confirm the potential for cats and dogs to be healthy and active on nutritionally sound vegetarian and vegan diets (Knight & Leitsberger 2016).

 

Reference

Knight, A., & Leitsberger, M. (2016). Vegetarian versus meat-based diets for companion animals. Animals, 6(9), 57. www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/6/9/57.

Your Dog's Nutritional Needs

A science-based guide for pet owners

Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

This article discusses adverse food reactions, hypoallergenic diets, the most common allergens in dogs and cats and therapy

This is the most important page in the article on page 263 as our vegan homemade recipe contains NONE of the most common allergens :

Most common food allergens in dogs

FEDIAF The European Pet Food Industry Nutritional Guidelines

For Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs

How much would giving up meat help the environment?

Going vegan for two-thirds of meals could cut food-related carbon emissions by 60{9b26eb44abcd5a26fcad8be2905fe7e84a7a487ef24e453142a20b4f73c0a375}

Multiple health and environmental impacts of foods

Abstract

Food choices are shifting globally in ways that are negatively affecting both human health and the environment. Here we consider how consuming an additional serving per day of each of 15 foods is associated with 5 health outcomes in adults and 5 aspects of agriculturally driven environmental degradation.

Stop eating fish. It’s the only way to save the life in our seas

Unhindered by regulation, driven by greed, the fishing industry is the greatest threat to our oceans. We must take action

Plant powered dog food summit

Join 17 global experts as they reveal the facts about meat-based diets and rising canine chronic diseases and show you how to feed your best friend a nutritious, compassionate plant-based diet.

Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet George Monbiot

Scientists are replacing crops and livestock with food made from microbes and water. It may save humanity’s bacon

Diet Shaped Dog Domestication

Further proof that dogs are omnivores is this very interesting article about how dogs have evolved alongside us and their digestive processes have evolved too.

They now produce longer chains of specific digestive enzymes that are adapted for digesting starches and grains – not meat.

Farmageddon in Pictures: How our food choices are damaging the planet and what you can do to help

“A devastating indictment of cheap meat and factory farming. Don’t turn away: it demands reading and deserves the widest possible audience”- Joanna Lumley OBE

dogs go plant based heart and paw

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