How 'natural' is the plant-based diet for dogs?A common concern about plant-based food for dogs is whether it is “natural”. If dogs evolved from wolves, and wolves preyed on other animals, shouldn't dogs also eat flesh? The following sections discuss this in depth from the evolutionary perspective (dogs evolving as human companions and living on scraps), as well as from conventional diet perspective (conventional meat-based commercial diets being very different from what wolves have consumed in the wild).
Dogs and Wolves: Omnivores vs. Carnivores
Conventional Meat-based Diets are NOT what Wolves have Eaten
It is illuminating to compare the ingredients included within commercial meat-based diets with the natural diets of wolves.
Commercial diets commonly include body parts from cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks, chickens, fish and prawns; some of which have been labelled as unfit for human consumption.
In contrast, the natural diet of wolves consists primarily of animal protein typically sourced from larger prey, such as elk, with the nutrient-dense organs consumed first, followed by muscle tissue.
Nutrients over Ingredients
Dogs—and indeed all species—require specific nutrients, rather than specific ingredients. There is no reason why diets comprised entirely of plants, minerals, and synthetically-based ingredients (i.e., vegan diets) cannot meet the necessary palatability, bioavailability, and nutritional requirements of dogs(4).
Study by Semp (2014)(5) – no significant differences were evident in any of the tested parameters, compared to the dogs fed a conventional diet. Lower levels of iron and vitamin B12 in vegan dogs were not observed.
Study by Brown et al. (2009)(6) – It is difficult to envision any companion animals placed under greater physical demands than sprint-racing Siberian Huskies. During sprint races, these dogs run fast through snow, while hauling sleds, for much of the 30-mile race duration; half of the dogs were fed with plant-based diets, while the other half with meat-based diets. All dogs were assessed as being in excellent physical condition.
Study by PETA (1994)(7) – over 80% of dogs maintained on vegan or vegetarian diets for 50% to 100% of their lifetimes were reported as being in good to excellent health (the remaining 20% of dogs had the same health problems as those commonly reported within the normal domesticated dog population).
Veterinarians that support plant-based diets for dogs
- Dr. Sarah Dodd
- Dr. Rob Spooner
- Dr. Kathy Kramer
- Dr. Shulamit Krakauer
- Dr. Radica Raj
- Dr. Manju Arora
- Dr. Gavin Myers
- Dr. Armati May
- Dr. Pitcairn
- Dr. Wagner
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