Veganism has never been so popular. The latest figures suggest that as many as 3.5 million Britons now enjoy a plant-based lifestyle and there’s been a 360% rise in veganism over the last ten years.
If you’re a vegan and own a dog, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s a good idea for your dog to abstain from meat as well. Or maybe your pet is already tucking in to leafy veg every day.
Scientists have been looking at the issue closely in recent years, and a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition has shone a spotlight on the subject.
The researchers report that dogs are a subspecies of grey wolf, an animal that relies heavily on plants, grasses and berries in the wild. However, dogs were domesticated many thousands of years ago, so their dietary needs are now much more closely aligned with our own.
Domestic dogs are pretty adaptable. A meat-free diet for dogs is only likely to work well if their food is perfectly nutritionally balanced, the study says.
Dr Carly Fox, a doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center, warns that most vegan animal diets are deficient in protein, essential amino acids, and vitamins and minerals.
She says, "Dogs can technically eat a vegan diet, but it needs to be carefully formulated. There are some commercially available vegan canine diets that have gone through feeding trials.
“However, even these diets are at risk of not being complete. All commercial and especially home-cooked vegan diets should be analysed by a boarded veterinary nutritionist to help make your chosen vegan diet complete and safe for your dog."
The study’s researchers believe that wolves might be ‘adaptive carnivores’, rather than true omnivores. Because their diet in the wild is seasonal, they’ve become well adapted to dealing with changes in their food sources, in a way that domesticated dogs never could.
The conclusion is, yes, your dog can theoretically go meat-free, but only if you take the time to execute every meal to nutritional perfection. That may work out well for you and be right for your dog as well.