Although exact figures are not available, more and more people who are concerned about the environment and their health habits are turning to alternative diets and eating less meat. According to a pet nutrition and behavior expert, some pet owners take their dogs with them during the transition and start feeding them meat-free foods or other plant-based alternatives.
Alyssa Ralph told Express.co.uk: “Plant-based diets for dogs are becoming increasingly popular.
“This is in line with our expectations as veganism is also on the rise in humans and dog feeding trends tend to mirror human diet trends.”
According to Ms. Ralph, the dogs’ reaction to a vegan diet cannot be predicted.
The possible pros or cons of such a diet for a dog are not certain, as the expert says every animal may react differently.
She noted, “Dogs are all individuals — some dogs love it, some dogs don’t touch it.
“Similarly, some dogs can thrive on a plant-based diet while others really struggle.”
Asked for her advice when owners are making such decisions, she says, “It’s important to consider your dog’s needs and preferences when choosing a diet for him – preferably with the guidance of a suitably qualified canine nutritionist.”
A study conducted by University of Winchester scientists and published in April suggests dogs may be healthier when fed a plant-based diet.
But commenting on the study, Ms Ralph said that “this is where it’s really important to look beyond the headline”.
She added: “The research was primarily based on dog owners‘ opinions of their dog’s health rather than their actual health as assessed by a veterinarian.
“This means that vegan dogs aren’t necessarily healthier, but their owners simply believe they are healthier.
“Interestingly, the same was found in dogs fed a raw diet.”
According to the expert, it’s also important to note that “vegan dogs were three times more likely to be placed on a therapeutic diet during the study, raising the question of whether the vegan diet led to specific deficiencies or disorders.”
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Ms. Ralph emphasized that vegan diets are often high in legumes such as lentils and peas.
These ingredients, she said, are currently being studied for their role in causing a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs.
And concluded: “It is incredibly important to take the results of this study with caution.
“At this point in time, no one can say conclusively whether vegan or vegetarian dogs are healthier.
“There could be scope for that in the future, but we’re not quite there yet.”
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When asked about the issue, the President of the British Veterinary Association said that while a vegan diet for a dog is “theoretically possible”, it’s more wrong than right.
Justine Shotton said: “While we wouldn’t recommend it, it is theoretically possible to feed a dog a vegetarian or vegan diet, but owners would need to seek expert veterinary advice to avoid nutritional deficiencies and related illnesses as it’s much easier to get that Getting the nutrient balance wrong than getting it right.
“A dog on a vegan diet may also need a synthetic supplement.”
And she went on to stress the importance of getting expert advice before owners change their pets’ diets.
Ms Shotton noted: “Our advice to pet owners interested in exploring alternative diet options for their dogs is to speak to their veterinarian first, as any changes to the dog’s diet will only be made under the direction of a veterinarian with sound nutritional knowledge should.”