Researchers at the Western University College of Veterinary Medicine and Berkeley’s School of Public Health have shared results from a comprehensive study on the long-term impact of a plant-based diet on dog health. The study showed that a vet formulated, nutritionally complete plant-based dry food diet provides balanced nutrition to dogs in the long term. Data from the study was shared on Feb. 20 at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas.
Unlike other research on vegan diet dogs that has been criticised on the basis that it is based on owner perceptions, the data collected in this study was based on medical biomarkers of health and clinical assessments carried out by qualified veterinary surgeons. The cohort of dogs, who were monitored over a 12 month period underwent full clinical examinations and had comprehensive blood work performed at regular intervals including: complete blood counts (CBCs), blood biochemistry, cardiac biomarkers, plasma amino acids, including L-taurine, L-carnitine and serum vitamin concentrates, as well as assessments of body condition, weight, urine and faeces.
All dogs eating a vegan diet had normal haematological parameters throughout the study and certain biomarkers of health were superior for the vegan diet dogs. In particular vitamin D levels (used to help regulate calcium and phosphorous levels) were dangerously low in 47% of participating dogs on a meat-based diet, all of whom normalised by the end of their 12 months of eating the complete vegan diet. Urine analysis showed healthy parameters in the plant-based dogs with no significant crystal production or detrimental changes.
Heart parameter monitoring was significant due to recent tenuous speculations linking grain free diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Researchers did not witness a statistically significant difference in cardiac health biomarkers when dogs were fed plant-based versus meat-based diets. The biomarkers ‘NT-ProBNP’ and ‘Cardiac Troponin I’, used to detect heart stretching and heart failure, and damage to heart muscle (myocardial damage) respectively were both improved (lower) after 12 months on a plant-based diet, compared to after 12 months on a meat-based diet.
Body conditions and weight scoring data showed that dogs were able to maintain a normal body weight on the vegan diet, equivalent to their meat fed counterparts. Interestingly, of the dogs in the cohort who were classified as clinically obese, 12 months on the plant-based diet normalised their body weight, possibly due to the positive impact of a plant-based diet on 'optimising hormonal regulation'.
Pet obesity is common and a major cause of morbidity for affected individuals - any potential for vegan diets to help manage this wide scale problem would likely be of great clinical interest.
The study was based on a cohort of 15 healthy adult dogs of different breeds ranging from ages 1 to 11, living in households within Los Angeles County, Calif. Dogs were fed different commercial, meat-based formulas for at least one year prior to enrollment of the study, and then were fed nutritionally complete vegan dry food and treats for one year. The research was conducted in an independent academic setting and was not funded by a pet food manufacturer.
“It's common for critics of a plant-based lifestyle to discredit the growing body of evidence that shows dogs thrive on a vet-formulated vegan diet like Omni on the basis that existing studies lack clinical biomarkers and assessments. Now, thanks to this research, this argument no longer stands," Dr. Guy Sandelowsky, UK veterinarian.
Linde,A et al. (2023) ‘Domestic dogs maintain positive clinical , nutritional and haematological health outcomes when fed a commercial plant-based diet for a year’ https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.02.18.525405v1 (Accessed: 28.02.2023)
AAFCO Association of American Feed Control Officials. Available at: https://www.aafco.org/ (Accessed:28.02.2023)
Panagopoulou,V et al. (2013) ‘NTproBNP: an important biomarker in cardiac diseases’ PubMed, 13(2), pp 82-94.
Sharma,S et al. (2014) ‘Cardiac Troponins’ Journal of Clinical Pathology, 57(10) pp 1025-1026.