Following hot on the paws of supportive research about vegan dog food last year, a new study has just published in Oxford University’s Journal of Animal Science demonstrating the superior digestibility and health benefits of plant-based doggy dinners!
The study by researchers at University of Illinois looked at the digestibility of mildly cooked human-grade vegan dog foods (like THE PACK’s wet food) and investigated their effects on the blood metabolites and poop of adult dogs. Three commercial dog foods were tested: two cooked human-grade vegan dog diets (nutritionist-formulated mixtures of whole foods, including lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes and fruit) and one popular chicken-based extruded dog diet. These foods were fed to 12 healthy adult female beagles, each dog assigned one of the three diets to nosh on. They began with a week’s gradual diet adaptation phase, then spent two weeks consuming 100% of their new diet, and finally enjoyed a bonus six days of the food when poop and blood samples were collected to analyse.
What Did The Researchers Find?
All three diets were shown to be “highly digestible”, but the dogs eating the vegan diets had lower circulating cholesterol, triglyceride and platelet concentrations and lower blood neutrophil percentages than dogs consuming the meaty diet. These are all good things! We all know that having too much fatty cholesterol in your blood stream can increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but the same applies to high triglycerides too: this may contribute to hardening or thickening of the arteries, which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Similarly, if a dog’s platelet count is too high, blood clots can form in their blood vessels, with similar results. Finally, high blood neutrophils can indicate infection, most likely bacterial. So the lower all of these things, the better. In summary, dogs eating plant-based meals had lower risk of heart disease and infection.
Now, onto the poo samples… the beagles who ate vegan diets had lower faecal dry matter percentages, lower phenol and indole concentrations and higher short-chain fatty acid concentrations in their poop than those consuming the extruded diet. This sounds very technical, but essentially these are all desirable characteristics for dog poo! Interestingly, phenol and indole contribute to smelly poo(!) so it’s likely that switching your pooch to a vegan diet will make those poo bags smell a little sweeter… more importantly though, phenol and indole can be toxic in high concentrations, so lowering these levels is likely to have health benefits. The phenol and indole levels were actually 6-9 times lower in the beagles who consumed the vegan diet!
Where Are We Now With The Science?
Excitingly, this is the first study to focus on the digestibility of commercial ‘vegan’ diets for dogs, and its positive findings add another dimension to the existing research base that shows the multitude of health benefits of plant-based pet food as well as its palatability (tastiness!) and nutritional value. Not to mention the review paper that was published in Veterinary Studies journal earlier this year which found that there was “no overwhelming evidence of adverse effects arising from use of [vegan pet food] and there was some evidence of benefits.” The major factor discouraging many veterinarians from recommending vegan dog food has always been lack of research into the health and safety of this ‘novel’ diet. As more and more published evidence suggests that vegan dog food is not only as safe but healthier than meat-based dog diets, this stance is becoming harder to justify. The tide seems to be turning for plant-based pooches!
If you want to discover more about raising a happy, healthy plant-based dog, download our FREE eBook.
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