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Vegan diets for dogs? A Discussion

The number of vegans in the UK has more than quadrupled since 2014, and now in 2024, vegans make up almost 5% of the population! 

Due to an ever-booming growth in the movement for animal rights and welfare, as well as climate change being at the forefront of national media, this number is increasing year on year. 

The amount of land needed to make dry food for cats and dogs globally is around 49 million hectares, which is around twice the size of the UK. With pet ownership also on the increase (especially post lockdowns), so does the need for land to create food for them, which drives deforestation and has a further devastating impact on the world’s natural ecosystem. 

So, it’s no surprise that the environmental impact of our pets’ diets is now under scrutiny. However, with dogs having very different nutritional requirements from humans, is it right that we should consider a plant-based diet for our dogs? 

There has always been a debate as to whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores. Their teeth and digestion makeup suggest they edge towards carnivory, but they tend to scavenge more than they hunt (unlike cats), so the latter could be argued for. 

Those who are leaning towards plant-based diets for their dogs say that it’s not the origin of the protein that’s important for the diet, but rather the quality. They tend to put forward the argument that commercial animal protein-based dog foods use ‘leftover’ and ‘low-quality’ animal products in their food, and so up-and-coming plant-based dog food brands claim that plant-based protein is a ‘better-quality choice’ for dogs’ health. 

However, all UK pet food must be sourced from the human food chain and be fit for human consumption, unlike the US, for instance. Therefore, from a sustainability perspective, it could be argued that these 'leftovers', which often include parts of the animal such as offal, trotters, feet, and ears, are usually an unused by-product of the human food supply and not only offer high nutritional density but also a solution to human food waste. 

As we mentioned in last week’s blog, the issue of animal allergies also plays into the hands of the new wave of vegan dog food. With most pet allergies being attributed to mass-produced animal protein sources such as beef, chicken, and dairy, a plant-based alternative that provides all the protein required by your dog could be the answer. 

There are now dog food brands that are endorsed by seasoned veterinary professionals and offer a ‘nutritionally complete’ plant-based alternative, which may solve the ethical conundrum faced by dog owners who choose a vegan lifestyle for themselves but feel it is a little contradictory to feed their dogs animal products. Up-and-coming vegan dog food brands combine the ethos of sustainability, animal welfare, and best dog health and are seemingly providing a promising solution. 

While meat eaters and traditionalists are likely to reel at the thought of pushing a vegan diet onto their dogs, the environmental and ethical factors of animal consumption are not going anywhere any time soon, as veganism is on a steep rise. 

Whatever you choose to feed your dog, information is key. It seems that the general advice is that if you want to try plant-based food for your pooch, rely on a professional ‘complete’ brand rather than your own at home version, to ensure your dog is receiving all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet. 

If you are looking to improve your impact on the environment, every little bit helps! 

Incorporating plant-based complete dog food into your dogs’ diet so that they have a few meat-free days a week is a great way to start improving your carbon footprint... or should we say pawprint! 

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