The benefits of a month without meat, eggs and dairy have long been touted by Veganuary enthusiasts, who speak of their extra energy, better mood, healthy weight loss and glowing skin, as well as longer term health benefits like lower cholesterol, reduced risk of certain cancers and management of diabetes. In fact, last year 20% of Veganuary participants said the health benefits they experienced during the challenge motivated them to stay plant-based at the end of the month! And that’s before we dive into the wider impacts of reducing our animal intake: a dramatically reduced carbon footprint and a more compassionate way of existing alongside the other animals on our planet.
If we can achieve all of this by cutting animal products out of our own diets, imagine what we could achieve by bringing our four-legged friends along for the ride. Our dogs are omnivores, like us; they can eat meat, but they can also get all the nutrients they need from a purely plant-based diet. Yet most dogs are eating animal meat for every meal and snack, every day of the week, for the duration of their 10-15 year lives. Obviously the environmental impacts of changing this diet would be immense, but what about the benefits for the dogs themselves?
The Waggiest Month Of The Year
It might only be 31 days but introducing your dog to Veganuary could have immediate and lasting health gains. Veterinarian and Animal Welfare Professor Andrew Knight lists the plethora of benefits a plant-based diet could have for your hound, including improvements to overall health and vitality (what we like to call ‘general wagginess’), cancer prevention, improved ability to fight infections, reduced risk of hypothyroidism, prevention of fleas, ticks, lice and mites, healing of cataracts and easing of arthritis. This isn’t purely anecdotal: last April, Professor Knight published research in a reputable scientific journal which surveyed the health outcomes of more than 2,500 dogs and found that nutritionally sound plant-based diets appear healthier than conventional meat-based diets.
Chances are, you might see improvements in your dog before the month is up: most notably thicker, shinier coats and allergy reduction. If your dog is a little chunky, it’s likely that you’ll see the excess pounds falling off fast, reducing their risk of diabetes and giving them a new boost of energy. For humans, 75% of people who completed Veganuary reported an average loss of 6lbs and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t see similar relative weight loss in our dogs. Given that we’re in the middle of a pet obesity crisis, with more than half of dogs in the UK overweight or even obese, this is no barking matter – and all the more reason to maintain your hound’s plant-based diet into February and beyond.
Discover New Foods Your Dog Loves
One of the things that often holds pawrents back from taking meat out of their dog’s diet is the fear that he or she will be down in the doghouse without it. So what better opportunity than Veganuary to give it a try? After all, it’s just a month – if your dog’s not loving it, you can switch back whenever you like…
Even so, we’re certain that your dog is going to be waggier than ever on their new eating regime! And not just because of personal experience: a recent scientific article surveyed 2,308 owners to find out how their dogs behaved towards their food (looking at tail wags, reaction to the dog bowl, barking, speed of eating etc) and found “no consistent evidence of a difference between vegan diets and either conventional or raw meat diets”. Not only will your dog like their plant-based food just as much as meat, they might just like it more. Wouldn’t you get bored eating the same meat-based food for every meal, day in, day out? By introducing new plant-based options, you can offer your dog a variety of different flavours and textures, finding those they like best. Your dog might be a raw carrot fiend or obsessed with blueberries – or maybe they drool uncontrollably at the smell of THE PACK’s No-Cluck Casserole. Including plant-based meals in your dog’s diet not only offers nourishing variety that will help promote a good gut microbiome, but it mixes up mealtimes in a new, exciting way.
Your Dog Is The Ultimutt Activist!
Obviously your dog’s welfare is every pawrent’s chief concern, but bringing him or her in on Veganuary also has benefits for other animals. When we think of the other creatures who we share this planet with, we mostly think of wild animals. Yet 86% of the world’s land mammals are farmed (cows, sheep, pigs etc) and the majority are kept in terrible conditions, on factory farms where they lead short, painful lives. By cutting meat out of both your diet and your dog’s, you widen your circle of compassion and buy out of this cruel industry: PETA estimates that every vegan saves 200 animals per year. According to the calculations of animal nutritionists, if you’re vegan and you switch your 70-pound retriever to a plant-based diet, together you could save, every day, two farmed animals’ lives: as well as 2,200 gallons of water, about 60 square feet of rainforest, and about 90lbs of grain.
Which brings us to those planetary gains… Research tells us that making meat-based food for cats and dogs uses up a land mass twice the size of the UK, every year. The same research showed that the pet food industry produces almost 3% of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from farming. That’s the same amount of CO2 produced by a sixth of global flights! All this means that the environmental pawprint of that 70-pound golden retriever eating a raw meat diet is almost twice that of an average meat-eating human. So let’s raise a paw to all those puptivists who are accompanying their pawrents on their Veganuary journey, and saving the planet in the process!
Seeding long-lasting change
Last year, 36% of non-vegans who signed up to Veganuary said they planned to stay vegan at the end of the month, while 20% said their chief reason for staying vegan was because they found it easier than expected. We’re optimistic that we could see the same kind of transformation in the canine world too, as pawrents realise that their dogs are happier and healthier without animal products in their bowls – and that ‘vegan’ dog food isn’t as hard to find as they expected!
What’s also significant is that 74% of those humans who didn’t decide to stay vegan post-January planned to at least halve their intake of animal products going forward. Here at THE PACK, we’re a huge supporter of this kind of pledge, advocating for flexidogian diets, meat-free muttdays and chihuahua-sized steps towards pawsitive change. Even if you and your dog aren’t quite ready to go the whole vegan hog, we’re here to support you on your journey, however fast or slow that might be! If you need support, tips or advice, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.