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Pet Health

5 benefits you should know about a vegan diet for dogs

As more and more humans are slowly converting to eating meat-free food, interest in a similar diet for four-legged family members is also increasing among pet owners.

If you are considering feeding your fur baby vegan meals, but are not yet fully convinced, read on. In this article, we’ve gathered a few pieces of evidence proving the benefits of a vegan diet for pets.

#1. Reduced Allergy Symptoms

Food allergies can cause devastating digestive symptoms in pets, such as loose stool or constipation, gas, and vomiting. What may surprise you is that while gluten and wheat intolerances are common in humans, allergies to grains are very uncommon in pets. In fact, research shows that the most commonly reported allergies in dogs are chicken, beef, dairy, and egg! By eliminating these animal products from your pet’s diet, you could provide them relief from their persistent symptoms.

#2. Reduced Skin and Fur Problems

Other common symptoms of allergies are rashes, dry and itchy skin, and fur loss. In one study, 174 pet owners filled out a questionnaire about feeding their animals a vegan diet. Thirty-eight pet owners, independent of each other, reported seeing improvements in their pets’ coats, saying it was  “much shinier and healthier.” The study also states that “Some animals that had been prone to a particularly scaly or oily coat before the conversion to a vegan diet, no longer showed signs of any dermatological problems.”

#3. Reduced Cancer Risk

Allergies are not the only health concern when it comes to meat. It has been proven that consuming large quantities of red meat, particularly highly processed meat, contributes to increased cancer risk in humans. A study at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California shows that, unsurprisingly, the same is true for pets. The study states: “Twenty-five commercial pet foods were analyzed for mutagenic activity […] All but one gave a positive mutagenic response.” 

Most commercial dog foods contain meat, which produces harmful substances when cooked at high temperatures. A plant-based diet could help you, as well as your furry friends, avoid this health risk. 

#4. Reduced Animal Farming

Many pet owners who choose a meat-free diet for themselves and their pets do it for ethical reasons. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an estimated 9 billion animals are raised and killed for food every year. The conditions under which animals are farmed for meat are often questionable at best, and not wanting to contribute to animal farming is as good a reason as any to choose vegan food for yourself and your dog or cat. 

 

As if the moral reasons weren’t enough, there are additional reasons to avoid supporting animal farming. What goes into pet foods is often the leftovers from these animal factories and not quality cuts of beef and pork. Dr. Andrew Knight is a veterinary professor at the University of Winchester. In a 2016 study, talking about hazards of commercial dog food, he stated: “These include significant quantities of abattoir products condemned as unfit for human consumption, such as “4-D” meat (from animals that are disabled, diseased, dying or dead on arrival at the slaughterhouse), labeled using terms such as “meat derivatives” or “by-products.” Due to expensive labour costs, plastic ear tags are not always removed. Old or spoiled supermarket meat, sometimes without removal of styrofoam packaging (which increases labour costs), may also be used.”

#5. Reduced Environmental Impact

Another reason to choose a diet free of animal products is the negative impact that animal farming has on the environment. Evidence shows that a person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food. When it comes to pets, one study found that through their diet, they are responsible for about a quarter of the environmental impacts of meat production. 

 

There are many benefits to feeding yourself and your fur babies a meat-free diet, and these are just a few. By choosing vegan alternatives, you contribute to animal welfare, reduce your environmental footprint, and could help your pet feel better. In the words of Dr. Knight

“[…] a significant and growing body of population studies and cases suggest that cats and dogs may be successfully maintained on nutritionally sound vegetarian diets long-term, and indeed, may thrive. Such diets have been associated with benefits such as improved coat condition, allergy control, weight control, increased overall health and vitality, arthritis regression, diabetes regression, cataract resolution, and decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism and ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites).”