The news is out that dogs will live longer on a vegan diet compared to a meat-based diet. Vet Andrew Knight, who is not paid by any pet food companies, but works as a Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics; has shown through the overwhelming evidence from studies done on thousands of dogs in the UK and in the US, as well as numerous Master’s Theses, that dogs will not only live longer, but also be healthier when fed a nutritionally balanced vegan dog food diet.
The Vet Times published these important findings on the front page of the July 2022 issue of the Vet Times magazine, with such an encouraging response from the BVA, that they are now having to change their stance on vegan dog food diets and reconsider their importance regarding this overwhelming evidence. The BVA is also realising that apart from the health aspect; the sustainability issues surrounding the reduction of meat use in pet food at such a crucial time (when we have experienced record-breaking temperatures in the UK), just cannot be ignored.
In the 24 hours since this article was published in the Vet Times, I have had numerous queries from vets and vet nurses raising their concerns about advising the use of vegan dog food diets to their clients for their pets as they are aware of a link between vegan dog food grain free diets, and DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy).
This will hopefully explain why there is no risk of DCM in properly formulated grain free vegan dog food diets compared to meat-based grain free dog foods or non-supplemented raw food diets.
Vet Jane asked this important question
“I am a UK practising vet and am considering moving my FN 4yo daxie on to vegan food. The reason for this is the article on the front of the Vet Times this week!
My main hesitation however is the link between grain free foods and DCM in dogs and was wondering what your thoughts are on this as I noted that many of the foods are also grain free.
Would very much appreciate your thoughts.”
Why I chose a vegan diet for my own dog as a vet
As a GP vet for 25+ years, I grew increasingly concerned about the obesity epidemic in our pets and wanting to do something practical about it to help owners, I threw myself into the fascinating world of pet nutrition. My findings were that the more plants you add to a dog’s diet, the healthier they will be.
As a mother very concerned about the environmental impact of our own food choices on our children’s future, I turned vegan 3 years ago not even having been vegetarian before; and I turned our family dog vegan too. We have both never been healthier and I am now a passionate advocate of plant-based feeding in our pets.
Dr Arielle Griffiths BVSc MRCVS and vegan dog Ruff
What to look for in a nutritionally complete vegan dog food diet
In the 90’s, it was very common to diagnose dilated cardiomyopathy in cats (I remember seeing so many cases), until the amino acid Taurine was added to all cat foods and we now so rarely see DCM in cats.
Similarly, all good grain-free or plant-based dog diets should have the addition of Taurine to prevent DCM. It is known that the giant breed dogs such as Newfoundlands and Wolfhounds that are genetically more prone to developing DCM, do have a higher Taurine requirement, so it is certainly one additional nutrient to always look for in a complete vegan or grain free dog food.
Heart health and the absorption of Taurine requires adequate levels of Vit B12, as well as the Omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA. The PFMA mentions the use of marine algae as an important source of Omega 3 fatty acids to replace the use of fish oils and protect our vulnerable oceans, as marine algae is the reason why fish sources are rich in these Omega 3 fatty acids in the first place. Dogs are actually able to make Taurine, if there are adequate levels of the essential amino acid Methionine, so also look for this essential amino acid addition on the side of any of the vegan dog food diets.
Another important vitamin to ensure that any dog food diet is nutritionally complete in the UK, is the addition of Vit D3 to support a healthy immunity. This is normally added into pet food as lanolin from sheep wool, but in vegan dog food, it is added in as a plant-based source in its purest form normally from Algae.
Prof Knight has shown that when companies formulate commercial vegan diets, they tend to make even more of an effort to ensure that the diet is nutritionally complete and has all additional ingredients to prevent any conditions from developing such as DCM. This screenshot is from a live interview that Prof Knight gave showing the superior formulation of vegan diets compared to meat-based diets to ensure accuracy.
Which vegan dog foods are nutritionally complete in the UK?
This is discussed fully in the PLANT-BASED DOG NUTRITION COURSE THAT WILL BE AVAILABLE IN SEPTEMBER.
What do top vets in the UK choose for their own dogs and think about vegan dog foods?
Prof Clare Knottenbelt
Consultant in Veterinary Oncology, Hawk and Dove Oncology Referrals
“My journey with PB dog food really started when I turned 50 and realised that we had to do more to help our planet! At this point I made conscious decisions to cut back on my own meat consumption and to take more steps to reduce my impact. Around this time the pandemic hit and I was spending more time at home with my dog Jumble. He was being fed a good quality complete dog food and the usual array of dog treats from the supermarket. It came as something of a shock when I found out how these treats were made and the impact they could have on his health.
As I was at home with time on my hands I started making home made plant based treats instead and Jumble loved them. He loved the food and best of all was the fact that my slightly overweight Labrador cross seemed to become more trim, less hungry and had the shiniest coat I had ever seen!
This gave me the confidence to change his complete dog kibble to a plant based one – we opted for Green Crunch as we wanted to keep his weight down as he aged. Wow what a transformation! Jumble slimmed down, became more active and stopped begging for food all the time. So many owners and the local vets comment on how good he looks at 10 and a half and I can see it myself.
Having seen such a great transformation in my own dog, I started to wonder if there could be benefits to my patients. I looked at the data on the benefits of plant-based foods for humans and how reducing meat consumption can reduce the risks of cancer.
Of course, it will be many years before we can prove that plant-based feeding reduces the incidence of cancer, but I have always been open to new ideas and this is one new idea that makes so much sense at a time when we must change the impact of our pets on the planet as well as making them as healthy as possible.”
Dr Sue Paterson
European Veterinary Dermatology Specialist , Virtual Vetderms
“A balanced plant-based diet is a good choice for a truly novel protein diet when food trialling dogs with potential cutaneous adverse food reactions. They are often more palatable than hydrolysed protein diets and dogs with an intolerance can be maintained on a complete diet indefinitely.”
Dr Mike Davies
RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Clinical Nutrition
“OMNI is having every batch analysed post-production in partnership with the Nottingham Vet School to confirm that their dry foods do comply with FEDIAF standards.”
Dr Nuala Summerfield
American and European Specialist in Veterinary Cardiology, Virtual Veterinary Specialists
“I have been feeding my two dogs on Solo Vegetal complete dry food for the past 18 months. I initially switched to Solo Vegetal on recommendation from another veterinary colleague, when I was looking for a suitable food for my two rescue dogs, Arthur a 5-year-old Golden Retriever and Elsie a 7-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross.
Both were in poor physical health when we took them on. Solo Vegetal has been so beneficial for both dogs and has really helped their gastrointestinal and skin issues. It seems to be extremely palatable (they love it!), they remain at an ideal body weight and both dog’s coats are thick and lustrous.
As a cardiology specialist I am very aware of the importance of feeding a balanced diet to ensuring cardiac health. Arthur and Elsie’s hearts are regularly scanned in the cardiac ultrasound CPD courses that I teach, so I know that their hearts are in great shape! Their exercise tolerance is phenomenal, and I am really pleased with this particular plant-based diet, having tried several non-plant-based diets for them both initially.”
What is the threat to farm vets with an increase in veganism?
At the same time as the article being posted in the Vet Times this week; a really thought-provoking and extremely well-written article was published in this week’s (July 22 Vol 190 No 12) Vet Record that answered exactly this query.
Farm vet Emily Craven, explains in the article that we have a moral obligation to listen to the reasoning and respect the opinions of someone asking if we should adopt veganism.
How right she is – we have to stand together as a profession and remain open-minded and forward thinking on this extremely important topic at such a turning point in our planet’s future.