The Science on Vegan Diets for Dogs
Thinking about switching your dog to a vegan diet? Choosing your pup's diet can be a big deal, and it's important to research what's best for their overall health and happiness. That's why we're taking a look at the top vegan dog studies to break down what they did, how they did it, and what the results mean for your pup.
Can dogs digest plants?
- Axelsson et al. 2013. "The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet"
- Arendt et al. 2014. "Amylase activity is associated with AMY2B copy numbers in dog: implications for dog domestication, diet and diabetes"
- Ollivier et al. 2016. "Amy2B copy number variation reveals starch diet adaptations in ancient European dogs"
The results: Researcher Erik Axelsson and his colleagues at Uppsala University in Sweden discovered that dogs have anywhere from four to 30 copies of a gene, AMY2B, that allows them to digest starchy (plant-based) foods. Wolves typically only have two copies. The duplication of this gene in dogs dates back at least 5,000 to 7,000 years, according to paleontological data. These findings indicate that dogs adapted to relatively starch-rich diets early in their domestication.
How digestible are starches and grains for dogs?
- Murray et al. 1999. "Evaluation of selected high-starch flours as ingredients in canine diets"
- Carciofi et al. 2008. "Effects of six carbohydrate sources on dog diet digestibility and post-prandial glucose and insulin response"
- Cargo-Froom et al. 2017. "227 Apparent and true digestibility of minerals in animal and vegetable ingredient based adult maintenance dog food"
The results: In their 1999 study, Murray and his colleagues looked at the digestibility of corn, barley, potato, rice, sorghum, and wheat in dogs. They found that the digestibility for all was greater than 99%. A subsequent study by Carciofi discovered similar results for rice, corn, sorghum, cassava, brewer's rice, peas, and lentils. The study confirmed starch digestibility to be greater than 98%. In 2017, Cargo-Froom compared digestibility of minerals in dogs on meat-based diets versus dogs on plant-based diets. Their results concluded that digestibility of endogenous minerals is similar or greater in dogs fed diets that are largely vegetable based.
Does bloodwork indicate that dogs maintain proper health on vegan diets?
- Brown et al. 2009. "An experimental meat-free diet maintained haematological characteristics in sprint-racing sled dogs."
- Semp 2014. "Vegan nutrition of dogs and cats"
The results: In 2009, Brown studied sprint-racing huskies fed a nutritionally complete meatless diet over a period of 16 weeks, including 10 weeks of competitive racing. Blood tests found that red blood cell counts and hemoglobin values were within the normal range throughout the study, and the consulting veterinarian determined all participating dogs to be in excellent physical condition. In a 2014 study, researcher Semp of Vienna Veterinary University hypothesized that dogs fed a complete vegan diet would exhibit iron and B12 deficiencies, but instead found that there were no significant deviations from dogs fed a conventional meat-based diet. She concluded that plant-based diets, if nutritionally complete, can assure a healthy lifestyle in dogs.
Are vegan diets appropriate for sensitive and allergy-prone dogs?
The study: Mueller et al. 2016. "Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats"
The results: Mueller analyzed food allergies (including hypersensitivities and food intolerances) in a population of 297 dogs and discovered that the most frequently reported food allergens were beef (34%), dairy (17%), chicken (15%), wheat (13%), and lamb (5%). These findings indicate that the majority of the top food allergens for dogs are animal-based, and that plant-based diets may provide relief for dogs with food allergies and sensitivities.
Can dogs thrive on vegan diets?
The study: Knight 2016. "Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals"
The results: Veterinarian Dr. Andrew Knight analyzed four previous studies that assessed the nutritional soundness of plant-based diets for dogs. Based on his own data as well as the growing body of population studies and case reports surrounding this topic, he concluded that dogs can thrive on vegetarian diets, given that they are nutritionally complete and balanced, and may even experience a range of health benefits.
Learn more: Veterinarian Publishes Study on Vegan Dogs
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