Why feeding dogs a plant-based diet is NOT in breach of the Animal Welfare Act
Hey, it’s Damien and Judy, Founders of THE PACK here! We just wanted to address some of the comments circulating online about plant powered pups.
At THE PACK, animal welfare is a huge priority for us, it’s why when creating the company we pursued the idea of commercially made vegan dog food that has all the essential amino acids and minerals your dog needs to thrive. The truth is, that there is a health crisis in the dog population with sky high rates of obesity and cancer. The majority of dogs are not currently eating a fully plant-based diet and therefore it is clear that plant-based diets are not responsible for the majority of the diet related conditions veterinary professionals are seeing.
We all know the media can stir up a moral panic, so it’s important pet parents stay calm, do their research and are guided by the scientific papers being published by academia - highlighting stories of dogs thriving on a plant-based diet. Here at THE PACK we will continue to share as much research and educational content as we can, whilst educating ourselves daily on the latest research. Finally, we would like to add that before great change, usually comes resistance, and because of the growth and progress of a plant-based diet for dogs we are starting to see that resistance from those who would rather see the status quo continue.
We invited our good friend animal welfare & ethics writer and one of our experts on THE PACK Panel, Alice Oven to share her thoughts. Over to you Alice!
This month, vegan pet food has hit the news in both the best and worst way. On the one paw, we’ve seen positive new research emerging on the health and safety of plant-based pet food, publicised by the Guardian’s article Vegan pet food as healthy for cats and dogs as meat, says veterinary professor, which cites research by Professor Andrew Knight (another member of THE PACK Panel).
On the other paw, there has been an explosion of negative publicity around vegan diets after some misinformed suggestions that pawrents could be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 by removing meat from their pets’ bowls. This is simply not true: the Animal Welfare Act states that owners must feed a “suitable diet” meeting their dog’s nutritional needs. Absolutely nowhere are vegan or vegetarian diets mentioned as unsuitable. To suggest that dogs, who are omnivores not obligate carnivores, need meat to be healthy, is unscientific. As Knight puts it, “The claim is animals on vegan diets will necessarily become ill and it’s somehow cruel to maintain them, is contrary to the scientific evidence in this field and is ignorant.”
Indeed, Professor Andrew Knight’s research shows that dogs have as good - or better - health outcomes on plant-based diets as they do when fed on meat pet foods, provided these are carefully formulated with the right nutrients.
So why are some veterinarians making statements against feeding plant-based diets? Well, when our dogs miss out on important vitamins and nutrients, they get sick and we take them to the vet. Some pet parents, with the best intentions, want to make their own homemade dog food. Problem is, it’s super tricky to balance all the micro-minerals and essential vitamins our dogs need when we’re making their food from scratch. It’s no wonder that some vets are still nervous about recommending plant-based diets when they only see dogs who haven’t been eating the right things! When we feed our dogs a commercial complete and balanced vegan dog food, we can be certain that they’re getting a diet that meets their nutritional needs.
At THE PACK when we say a complete food we mean meals that gives dogs all the protein-building amino acids they need to develop muscle, produce hormones, and cultivate a healthy immune system.
Domestic dogs might still have sharp canines, but their inner biology is different to their wolf ancestors. Inside their bodies, dogs make 30 times more amylase than wolves, an enzyme that helps them to digest the starches in plants. Dogs can also make maltase, another enzyme needed for starch digestion, only found in herbivores and omnivores. This means that our four-legged friends are no longer strict carnivores: they have important genetic mutations which mean they’ll give a paw for anything delicious, including vegetables! Yep, every canine is a flexi-dogian: an omnivore just like their human.
The fact is, there’s no medical reason a dog shouldn’t thrive without meat so long as they’re getting all the good stuff in their plant-based dog food. A complete label on your vegan dog food makes sure of that and means that you will be meeting, even exceeding, all of their welfare needs. It’s the dog’s dinner - done right.