The Science on Vegan Dogs

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A veterinarian for over a decade in the UK, Dr. Andrew Knight’s website offers valuable resources and scientific evidence on vegan diets for dogs. Below are two population studies that detail favorable results regarding meat-free diets for dogs.

Sprint-racing huskies
Very few dogs have greater energy needs than sprint-racing huskies. Accordingly, a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared the health, and in particular, the haematological parameters (focusing on red blood cell counts) of six such dogs [on a meat-free diet] with six others maintained on a commercial meat-based diet for 16 weeks, including 10 weeks of competitive racing. Haematology results for all dogs were within the normal range throughout the study and the consulting veterinarian assessed all dogs to be in excellent physical condition. No dogs developed anaemia. On the contrary, red blood cell counts and haemoglobin values increased significantly over time in both groups. [Read more]

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PETA Survey
In 1994, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) conducted a systematic survey of the health of 300 vegetarian dogs sourced from 33 US states and Canada via PETA’s newsletter (PETA 1994). Dogs ranged in age from young puppies to 19 years old. 88.7% (266/300) were spayed or castrated, and, of those who were not, 22 were male and 12 female. 52.7% (158/300) were female and 47.3% (142/300) male. 55.7% (167/300) were mixed breeds and 44.3% (133/300) were purebred, with a wide range of breeds represented, although a larger number of terriers (22), retrievers (22), beagles (7), and dobermans (6) were present. 65.3% (196/300) were vegan (pure vegetarian—diets exclude eggs, milk and other animal products), with the remaining 34.7% (196/300) simply vegetarian (i.e., ovo-lacto-vegetarians)

Conclusions — Although tests for statistical significance were not performed, the results suggest that:

  • The longer a dog remains on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the greater the likelihood of overall good to excellent health.
  • Veganism is more beneficial than vegetarianism.
  • The longer a dog remains on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the less likely he or she is to get cancer, infections, hypothyroidism, or suffer from obesity.
  • A vegetarian diet may increase urinary alkalinisation, with its consequent potential for urinary stones, blockages and infections; hence regular urine pH monitoring and correction of alkalinisation is important (see below).
  • The longer a dog remains on a vegetarian or vegan diet without supplementation of L-carnitine or taurine, the greater the likelihood of dilated cardiomyopathy or other cardiac disease, particularly in large or giant breeds.
  • Nutritional yeast and garlic appear beneficial to overall health and coat condition.
  • Dogs without soy foods in their diet appear healthier than those who eat soy, which is known to cause skin and other reactions in dogs allergic to it.

[Read the details of the study]

Additional resources:

1. Veterinarian Dr. Armaiti May and the benefits of vegan diets for dogs – watch video. (To learn more about or contact Dr. May, please visit her website)

2. Veterinarian Dr. Knight, “Vegetarian Canine Diets” (science/research)

3. CNN article: “Vegan Diet for Dogs: A Question of Thriving Versus Surviving

4. University of California, Davis research study determines dogs are omnivores: “Genome study pinpoints changes that turned wolves into humanity’s best friend

5. “Vegetarian Diets Can be Healthy for Dogs

6. Research Confirms Carcinogens in Commercial Pet Foods

Image courtesy of: Tonya Pet Photography

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