- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
It’s January, so you may have an overwhelming urge to commit to transforming your body and mind in the new year. Across the country countless resolutions are being set (and broken): quit smoking, take up Thai boxing, read more, learn how to meditate. And perhaps the most popular goal of all: adopt a better diet. But it’s not just people whose eating habits are changing, dogs are going vegan and Paleo too!
Our data shows that there’s been a 150% increase in the number of dog owners who write that their dog follows a vegan diet on their Rover profile. We decided to investigate this trend further and commissioned a survey of UK dog owners to find out what kind of things they consider when deciding what to feed their dogs. We also consulted pet nutritionist, Alison Daniel, to get her advice on the topic.
How many dogs have alternative diets?
We found that over a quarter of dog owners surveyed (27%) have their pups on typically human eating plans, including vegan, Paleo and Keto diets. It’s clear that human eating habits are now impacting the food we give to our pets. This isn’t totally surprising, after all, many of us consider our four-legged pals a part of the family!
As plant-based diets become more mainstream, veganism in particular is a trend that continues to gain popularity. A vegan diet contains only plants like vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits, as well as foods made from plants. Vegans do not eat any foods which contain ingredients that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs. Many consider this to be the most humane choice, as well as citing a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other health concerns. Because vegan diets seem so healthy for people, it’s only natural for dog people to wonder if their dog can go vegan too.
Our survey revealed that owners with vegan dogs chose to implement this diet for various reasons: 40% said it’s more environmentally friendly, 19% said that meat-based pet foods can cause health problems, and 13% wanted their dog to be vegan just like them. Over 70% of those who have put their dog on a vegan or vegetarian diet say they are now more active and happier.
Not everyone we surveyed, however, is sold on the vegan dog trend. Three-quarters of dog owners (74%) feel that most pets are carnivores and that it’s unnatural to omit meat from their diet, while 44% were concerned that it’s more expensive to buy plant-based dog food.
Attitudes towards dog veganism vary significantly depending on age. Younger owners are leading the trend—a third of the millennials that we surveyed (32%) said that they believe a vegan diet is good for dogs, and 24% of them have already implemented one for their dogs. Just 2% of those over 55 thought raising your dog vegan was a good idea and only 2% had tried it.
But do our dogs really need meat and can they get all the nutrition necessary from a plant-based or vegetarian diet?
What the Experts Say
Dogs can safely enjoy a wide range of vegan-friendly foods, including:
- Carrots, broccoli, and other veggies
- Certain types of beans (but keep in mind, for most dogs, beans = flatulence)
- Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale
Of course, there are plenty of plant-based foods that dogs should never eat. Before you feed your dog a vegan diet, you’ll need to do some serious research. In addition to dog-friendly whole foods, a vegan dog diet requires careful attention to amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It’s essential to consult a pet nutritionist to determine the appropriate types and amounts of food and supplements to provide all the necessary nutrients.
But just because dogs can live on a vegan diet, does that necessarily mean they should? We asked, pet nutritionist, Alison Daniel, and this was her response:
“Although dogs are adaptive and have shown they can evolve to tolerate different vegetation, they are still ultimately carnivorous and aren’t able to survive on a solely vegan eating plan. Putting your canine friend on one can cause a number of health problems if not entered into with the utmost care. This is because they simply don’t have access to nutrition, namely a full spectrum of amino acids, vitamin D and B12 amongst other nutrients, they need to survive.”
She went on to say that meat-based diets are preferable:
“However, other diets such as Paleo and Keto, that are essentially based on meat, bones, nuts, seeds and vegetables can prove great for dogs as it’s much closer to a wolf’s diet.”
The Paleolithic diet a.k.a. the Paleo or caveman diet includes foods presumed to have been available to humans during the Paleolithic era—including lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. It avoids processed foods and limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes, grains, alcohol and coffee.
Should I modify my dog’s diet?
If you’re considering modifying your dog’s diet—be it to Paleo, vegan or something else—it’s important to seek professional advice from a dog nutritionist before you embark on any changes and keep a close eye on your dog’s behaviour. If you notice any negative changes to their mood, appetite or activity levels then talk to your vet who can give you advice based on your dog’s individual needs. Pet nutritionist Alison Daniel shares her advice on what to consider if you’re looking to change your dog’s eating habits:
“If you’re considering changing your dog’s diet, it’s far better to think about how you can give them more fresh, raw or home-cooked meals. You can make lots of delicious plant-based treats at home that contain natural sugars and are still nutritious for your pup without going completely vegan.”
For dog lovers with strong convictions about eating plant-based diets, it can be challenging to reconcile personal politics with the needs of their dog. But you should trust the advice of your your vet and pet nutritionist.
Here are a few tips to ensure your dog’s diet is healthy, humane and sustainable:
- Select pet food brands with high-quality ingredients that support humane and sustainable farming practices.
- Prepare wholesome homemade dog food using meats from local, trusted sources, and organic or home-grown veggies.
- Compromise by offering your dog vegan treats, and integrating a few meat-free meals per month, while still providing meat-based protein the rest of the time for a balanced omnivorous diet.
Plant-based treat recipes
- No-Bake Peanut Butter Flaxseed Bites
- No Bake Coco-Nutter Pumpkin Balls
- How to Make Peanut Butter Shortbread Biscuits for Dogs
- The Vegan Dog (New York Times)
- Just because you’re vegan, it doesn’t mean your dog should be (The Independent)
- Vegan Dogs: How Does it Work, and Are They Healthy
- Hypoallergenic Dog Food? Exploring Limited-Ingredient Dog Food for Allergies
- The Top 7 Most Common Food Allergens for Dogs
- Grain-Free Dog Food: Is It Always Better, and Which Brands Are Best?