The plant-based pet food market is booming as pet owners hope their furry friends will reap the health benefits of a meat-free diet.
According to Tim Dowling in The Guardian.
And the growing vegan pet movement has some prominent supporters. Vegan Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton revealed two years ago that his British bulldog is now ‘fully vegan’ to alleviate a range of health issues, reports euro news.
But is a vegan diet really suitable for pets?
Pros: health benefits for dogs
Researchers said vegan diets are healthier and safer for dogs than conventional meat-based diets, as long as they are nutritionally complete.
In one of largest studies to dateUniversity of Winchester researchers tracked the health of more than 2,500 dogs using owner-completed surveys, assessing seven health indicators, such as vet visits and 22 common dog illnesses .
They found that of dogs eating normal pet food, 17% were taken to the vet at least four times a year, compared to 9% of vegan dogs and 8% eating a “raw” diet. They also found that nearly half of dogs fed meat-based diets required non-common medications, while only a third of dogs fed vegan diets did.
Study author Andrew Knight suggested that vegan foods appear to be better for pets because the quality of conventional pet foods may contribute to weight issues. “One of the most common health issues in dogs is being overweight or obese and unfortunately it’s common that when we do tests on commercial meat-based diets there are more calories,” he said. he declared.
But some vets have warned the study may not be entirely reliable as it is based on owners reporting their dog’s health and was therefore a “very opinionated investigation”, reported The temperature. Pete Wedderburn, a Bray-based vet, said there’s no doubt a dog can ‘thrive’ on a vegan diet, but it’s no better than feeding your dog dog food. standard.
Con: lack of long-term studies
the British Veterinary Association (BVA) warned that although dogs could theoretically be fed a vegan diet that fully meets their nutritional needs, there was not enough evidence to suggest that such an approach is completely safe as there “is a lot easier to get the balance of essential nutrients wrong than to get it right”.
Justine Shotton, the BVA’s chairman, told the Guardian: “We don’t recommend it yet, simply because the long-term studies haven’t been done.
“While the short-term studies we’ve seen suggest it may be as good as other types of food, there has been no evidence from lifetime studies of feeding these animals with these foods.
Pros: environmental impact
The environmental impact of keeping a pet is significant – and the impact of producing traditional pet food is even greater.
According to a study published in the journal Plos Onepet food is responsible for 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates and biocides.
In the United States alone, the consumption of dog and cat meat is responsible for the release of up to 64 million tons of methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
In the UK, pet food must use meat that is also fit for human consumption, but it is often parts that most humans do not eat – such as “guts, feet of pork, the udders and the legs of the chicken”, affirms the BVA. Conventional pet foods can “use this nutrient-dense food without it being wasted, which is important from both a sustainable and ethical standpoint.”
Disadvantage: not suitable for all pets
While dogs are omnivores and can therefore be fed a carefully thought out vegan diet, cats are ‘obligate carnivores’, meaning it is ‘much more difficult, if not impossible’ to ensure they receive a completely nutritious diet without giving them meat.
Indeed, many of the essential nutrients they need to maintain good health, such as taurine, preformed vitamin A and cysteine, “are minimal, if not absent, in plant ingredients,” the BVA explained.
A lack of taurine, in particular, can pose a particular risk to cats and can cause them to develop a life-threatening condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This is when a cat’s heart muscles become “very thin and weak, preventing them from pumping blood and delivering oxygen to the body normally,” the ASPCA said.
Ferrets are also unsuitable pets to feed a vegan diet, says veterinarian David Harris, writing for VetHelpDirect. But rats, rabbits and guinea pigs will all happily eat a vegan diet.
Pros: reduces dog allergies
A vegan diet can be a good option for dogs if they have an allergy or intolerance to animal protein. It can help dogs with “kidney disease, urate urinary stones and inflammatory bowel disease,” said Dr. Joe Bartges, veterinary nutritionist at the University of Georgia in Athens, who spoke to PetMD.
Dogs that suffer from inflammatory bowel disease can be very reactive to animal protein, so a switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet could be helpful, said veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lisa Weeth. She added that “it really depends on what each dog’s triggers are, so if there’s a food allergy component, we have to keep an eye on where those protein components are coming from – whether it’s comes from a vegetable or animal source”.
She added that “there are commercial hydrolyzed protein diets that are complete and balanced and work very well in dogs with food allergies.”
Animal welfare charities have warned that owners could face significant fines if they fail to feed their pets properly.
Animal charity Blue Cross said owners ‘could break the Welfare of Animals Act 2006 if they tried to stop their animal from eating meat’, reports the Daily Mailwhich could put them at risk of a fine of up to £20,000 or even up to 51 weeks in jail.
Pet owners have a legal duty to ensure that their animal’s welfare needs are met, according to the law, with article nine stating that pets have the right to “eat appropriate”. Although the corresponding advice on a dog-friendly diet does not mention meat-free diets, it does state that all diets, from wet food or raw food to dry kibble, should “meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs”. .