Dogs who eat a vegan diet could experience a multitude of health and behavioral benefits, according to a new study published in peer-reviewed journal Archives of Clinical and Biomedical Research. Notably, the study found that 90 percent of dogs suffering from gastrointestinal issues had improved stool consistency when switched to a vegan dog food, and 77 percent of dogs with dandruff found relief from the skin condition after switching diets.
In recent years, there has been an increase in feeding vegetarian and vegan foods to companion animals, with the vegan pet food market valued at $9.6 billion in 2020 and estimated to reach $16.3 by 2030. United Kingdom-based dog food company Omni, created by veterinarian Guy Sandelowsky, launched a range of vegan dog food in April 2021 and noticed that some customers were posting online reviews claiming improvements in their companion animals’ health, particularly skin and gastrointestinal problems.
The published study used Omni-produced vegan food and aimed to quantify these perceived health changes by dog guardians who feed their dogs a vegan diet. To do so, dog guardians registered as feeding the vegan food to their dogs for three to 12 months were invited to participate in an online Likert Scale-type survey of observations reflecting health status.
Feedback from 100 study participants demonstrated several positive statistically significant observations and trends towards improvements in health after feeding the diet for three to 12 months. Notably, up to 90 percent of dogs suffering with gastrointestinal signs had improved stool consistency after switching to the diet, and almost half had notable improvement in haircoat glossiness.
Additionally, 77 percent of dogs with dandruff were seen to have either partial or full resolution of signs after the switch, and there were also reports of reductions in anxiety and aggressive behavior.
Other noted benefits included improvements in redness of the skin and ears, itchiness, passing gas, and activity levels.
Sandelowsky was inspired to create a vegan dog food line after seeing rising rates of cancer and obesity in his patients, including his own black Labrador who suffered from mouth cancer at the young age of four.
“Unfortunately, the vast majority of pet food is still made from highly processed meat and animal by-products, the consumption of which we know is linked to cancer in humans,” Sandelowsky tells VegNews. “Vegan diets like ours may actually be a healthier alternative for the wider dog population as they are naturally devoid of these potentially troublesome ingredients, and given these research findings, they seem to offer a multitude of potential health benefits too.”
Can dogs be vegan?
Even though domestic dogs are members of the order Carnivora, they are technically omnivores after evolving genetically. “We’ve known for some time now that dogs, like us, are omnivorous and so able to derive the nutrients they need to thrive from a variety of food sources, including plants,” Sandelowsky says. But what’s most important is that the food is nutritionally complete.
Sandelowsky points out that there is a plethora of recent publications that have documented the benefits of feeding dogs a vegan diet. His own vet-formulated dog food has been seen to help dogs with health problems ranging from digestive upsets to inflamed skin and itchy ears. “These are debilitating presentations we commonly see in the clinic and which can have dramatic negative impacts on a dog’s quality of life,” he says. “They also tend to be cumbersome to manage with medications, which often have various side effects.”
“The potential for dietary management using vegan formulations as an alternative to meds in the prevention and treatment of such cases is an exciting prospect,” Sandelowsky says.
This might be the first time these health benefits, including those affecting behavior, have been documented in dogs being fed vegan dog food. However, the study noted that further prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trials are needed to validate and determine the significance of these observations.
Health benefits of vegan dog food
In another recent study published in research journal PLOS One, 336 dog guardians feeding vegan diets participated in a global online survey, revealing that dogs fed a vegan diet exhibited fewer signs of poor health, such as common illnesses, requiring fewer trips to the vet.
The authors concluded that “the healthiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs, among conventional, raw meat, and vegan diets, are nutritionally sound vegan diets.”
“Recent studies have also shown vegan diet dogs to require fewer vet visits and lifetime medications and longer life spans of up to 18 months, compared to those on ‘conventional’ meat-based diets,” Sandelowsky says. “Combining this with the potential ecological benefits of switching away from meat and the fact that dogs seem to love eating vegan diets like Omni, going plant-based with your dog seems to become a win-win.”