As any pawrent knows, how you feed your four-legged friend can be a contentious issue. And we’ll bet that you are bone-tired with all of us dog food companies barking information at you! So today we thought we’d put the ball between your paws and answer the questions you most want the answers to. We’ve pulled the most-asked questions on Google related to plant-based pet feeding and given you some quick answers, with links to more in-depth info, should you want it. Ready, set, FETCH!
Can dogs be vegan? Don’t dogs need meat?
Well, this is obviously the big question. The simple answer is ‘YES, they can be vegan’ and ‘NO, they don’t need meat’! We’ve dug deep into this in our blog posts here and here, but the gist of it is that our dogs’ internal make-up has adapted over thousands of years of domestication to allow them to easily digest and process plant-based diets. Today, they can get everything they need, nutritionally, from a meat-free diet. And yes, that includes protein! Protein molecules are made up of strings of 20 amino acids. When a dog eats a protein source, their digestive system breaks it down into amino acid building blocks, which are then used by their bodies to make lots of different proteins (the ones needed to build muscle, produce hormones or fight infection). Dogs can make half of the 20 amino acids by themselves, including taurine, while the other 10 amino acids need to be eaten. If a dog food contains enough of all 10 of these essential amino acids, it can be labelled ‘complete’. And yes, you’ve guessed it: high-quality plant protein can contain all ten! Dogs can get all the nutritious proteins they need from vegan dog food.
Is it healthy for dogs to be vegan?
You’re right, there’s a distinction between being able to function on a certain diet and being able to thrive on it. Happily, the answer is once again ‘YES’: not only can dogs do fine on plant-based food, but they can also live their absolute healthiest, waggiest lives. In this blog we discuss a recent research paper that studied over 2500 dogs and found that nutritionally sound (i.e., labelled ‘complete’) vegan diets appear to be healthier and less hazardous than conventional or raw meat-based diets. In our articles here and here, we describe all the various health benefits of vegan dog food, from maintaining a healthy weight and living a longer life to showing off shinier fur and suppler joints. We also show that, by contrast, meat-based food often isn’t that healthy at all, being linked with growing cancer rates, obesity and allergies. Which leads us to…
My dog has allergies: should I feed a vegan diet?
Abso-fur-lutely! In the past, people have mistakenly blamed grain for allergies in dogs, assuming that, like humans, dogs are often gluten intolerant. Now we have plenty of science to show that this isn’t the case at all and, actually, animal products are responsible for most allergic reactions in dogs. As far back as 2016, a peer-reviewed study showed that animal-meat ingredients (beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, egg, pork, fish and rabbit) were responsible for 236 cases of food allergies in dogs, whereas plant-based ingredients (wheat, soy, corn, rice, barley, kidney bean and tomato) were involved in only 77 cases. Anecdotally, we’ve received numerous stories from pawrents who’ve seen their itchy pups’ skin problems clear up once they’ve chucked the chicken and binned the beef. This isn’t surprising when we think about all the artificial dyes, flavourings, preservatives, stabilisers and, in many cases, dodgy slaughterhouse ingredients in commercial meat-based pet foods. In fact, if you look at the ingredients on medical dermatological or hypoallergenic diets for dogs, you’ll often see that nutritionists have created meatless prescription foods, using ‘novel’ vegetarian protein sources. These might not be marketed as ‘meat-free’ dog food but that’s precisely what they are!
Should dogs eat vegetables every day?
This is an interesting one. Because dogs have evolved to effectively digest the starches in vegetables and use the nutrients from these plant-based produce in their bodies, there’s no reason why they can’t eat them seven days a week. In fact, just like with humans, eating a decent helping of veg every day is a great way to keep the dog doctor away! However, variety is key. After all, if you ate too much of one thing, no matter how healthy, it would be likely to give you indigestion. Dogs are no different. Instead of feeding a whole bowl of broccoli or a plate of carrots, you want to make sure that your dog is eating a good mix of different veg, fruit, pulses and even grains to ensure a balanced and ‘complete’ diet. Luckily, pet food companies like THE PACK do this for you! We create delicious meals that include a whole range of vegetables and other plant-based ingredients, delivering all the nutrients that your pup needs to thrive.
Is vegan dog food ethical?
Obviously not all vegan dog food is created equal. However, the very fact that your bowl doesn’t include animal products means it’s going to be a more ethical meal than a meat-based doggy dinner: no living creature has been raised and slaughtered to feed your dog. Even if your pet food uses by-products of meat already produced for humans, an article for the National Renderers Association admits that by ‘recycling’ meat in this way, the pet food industry allows animal farming to exist: “the sustainability of animal agriculture depends on a reasonable and practical use of the by-products generated.” Most of today’s animal agriculture is ‘intensive’, which means animals are kept indoors in non-organic systems, commonly undergoing routine mutilations like tail docking or beak trimming and unable to express natural behaviours. So even when we feed leftover meat to our dogs, we’re inadvertently supporting unethical factory farming. What’s more, most vegan pet food companies refuse to test on laboratory dogs, meaning the food is cruelty-free in a way a lot of meat-based food from large corporations is not. Finally, when we take the meat out of dog food, we reduce the amount of CO2 emissions we’re contributing to the atmosphere, as well as your dog’s environmental pawprint in terms of land use, water use and rainforest/habitat destruction. For those interested in learning more about the environmental benefits of vegan dog food, have a read of this post.
Is vegan dog food expensive?
In comparison to most commercial meat-based dog food, it would appear so. However, the lower price of those meaty chunks is a false economy, taxpayers like you actually funding all those additional costs associated with rearing animals for food. Meat-based dog food is cheaper because meat, dairy and eggs are heavily subsidised by the government, which means paid for by your taxes. We explored exactly why vegan dog food is priced higher than the meat equivalent in our blog here, including other additional costs associated with responsible manufacturing. It’s also important to remember that you’re paying for quality when it comes to investing in a plant-based dog food like THE PACK. Most cheap, commercial meat-based food has a low percentage of actual meat content, padded out with poor-quality cereals, and the meat that is included is often the rubbishy by-products that humans won’t eat. Compare this overcooked grey mush with the superfood ingredients in our plant-based meals, where each spoonful is loaded with visible veg, pulses and fruits. Clearly, when you pay extra for this kind of delicious plant-based food, you’re investing in all the nutrients your dog needs without the nasties. Which means that, in the long-term, you may end up spending less money on vet bills…
Would vets recommend vegan dog food?
Because your veterinarian tends to be the person you trust the most when it comes to your dog’s health, this is a question we get asked a lot. We delved into it in our blog here, quoting vets who loudly endorse vegan pet food, including Professor Andrew Knight, a small animal vet whose website is packed with evidence-based facts supporting a vegan diet for dogs. More recently, the President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Justine Shotton, stated: “We recognise that there is growing interest in this area – particularly from a sustainability perspective – and that this goes hand in hand with a growing body of scientific research. We are really open to exploring how this evidence base could support vegan diets as a more sustainable option and plan to review this in depth in due course.” As the evidence to support the health benefits of vegan dog food mounts, vets are becoming more open to this ‘novel’ way of feeding.
What’s the best vegan dog food in the UK?
Well, obviously we’re biased but we have to answer ‘THE PACK’! ‘Best’ is a subjective term and there are plenty of fantastic vegan dog food options out there, giving ethically and environmentally conscious pawrents more choice than ever before. We support this wholeheartedly, because it means every dog can find a plant-based food they love, whether they’re kibble fans, fresh food fanatics or wet-food wonders. However, there are a few reasons why we think our food is a cut above the rest.
• Firstly, the variety of superfood ingredients: fresh papaya for healthy digestion, vitamin-rich kale, whole lupin beans for gut health, pea protein for strength, butternut squash for tummy fibre, broccoli for calcium, blueberries for immunity, hemp seeds for joints, algal oil for omega 3 and 9, sunflower seeds for skin and shine, and blackberries for waggy energy… the list goes on.
• Secondly, the high protein content of our food. The percentage of protein content given on our labels (10 percent for each flavour) refers to the final test result after cooking. This seems obvious, but many pet food companies provide the pre-cooking percentage on their labels and actually lose 1-2 percent during the cooking process. Not THE PACK – as with all our ingredients and nutritional composition, what you see on our labels is exactly what you get!
• Thirdly, the fact that we use biochemical analysis to ensure nutritional adequacy every time a new batch of our dog food is created. This ensures consistent high-quality ‘complete’ nutrition for every can.
• Fourthly, our emphasis on sustainability. All our packaging is fully recyclable, and we’ve conducted a carbon pawprint assessment of our products measured against meat pet foods, demonstrating that every one of our meals has a lower CO2 emission than conventional meat equivalents.
• Finally, THE PACK food simply tastes amazing! The feedback we’ve received from pawrents of pooches of all breeds and ages shows that your dogs are loving our food and quite literally begging for more. Because who cares how healthy a food is if your pup won’t touch it?
Article contributed by Alice Oven, The Pack, London, UK