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New study suggests vegan pet food as healthy for dogs and cats as meat

Border Collie in vegetable garden holding carrot in his mouth
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a controversial piece of new research that’s sure to continue to fuel an ongoing debate around which chow is best for our canine companions, vegan pet food has been declared to be just as healthy for dogs and cats as meat-based dishes.

The recent study led by Andrew Knight, a veterinary professor at the University of Winchester, showed that cats and dogs on a plant-based diet had health outcomes that were as good or better as those pets being fed diets containing meat.

However, Knight was quick to point out that the results only apply to vegan meals that have been formulated to include added nutrients that ensure that dogs and cats are getting a complete and balanced meal.

The study has raised concern amongst veterinarians who feel vegan meals are not suitable for pets. “We would not recommend feeding a dog a vegan diet as it is much easier to get the balance of nutrients wrong than to get it right, leading to a risk of dietary deficiencies and associated disease,” explains Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association.

While Knight understands the view, he’s quick to point out its inaccuracies. “Dogs, cats and other species have requirements for nutrients, they don’t need meat or any other particular ingredient. They need the set of nutrients, and provided those are supplied to them in a diet that’s sufficiently tasty...we’d expect to see them thrive. And that’s what the evidence seems to indicate.”

While many vets believe that a vegan diet isn’t appropriate, Knight believes his latest research findings dispute this. “The claim is animals on a vegan diet will necessarily become ill and it’s somehow cruel to maintain them, is contrary to the scientific evidence in this field and is ignorant,” he says.

But not all vet’s disagree with Knight’s findings, with Guy Sandelowsky, a vet and founder of the vegan dog food company Omni, who’s products contain around 30% more protein than most meat-based pet food meals, says as long as a food has been formulated to meet a dog’s nutritional needs, there shouldn’t be a problem.

“It’s completely ludicrous to make a sweeping statement about plant-based diets,” he explains. “It’s when people make the food themselves that they run into problems.”

With further research finding that around 34% of pet parents are keen to explore feeding their animals plant-based foods, it’s clear this issue won’t be going away any time soon.

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer with a passion for creating health and wellness, travel and wildlife content. Originally from New Zealand, her nomadic lifestyle has her currently fur baby-less. She scratches her pet parent itch by stealing frequent cuddles with any neighbourhood cat kind enough to indulge her.