A new peer reviewed study from North America has found that dogs fed plant-based diets live up to 18 months longer than those on conventional meat-based alternatives.
Researchers from the University of Guelph collected and analysed data from over 1,400 dog guardians across Canada and the US for the study which found that dogs on plant-based diets had a mean lifespan of 14.1 years, based on a sample of 103 dogs, compared to a mean 12.6 years for those on meat-based diets.
The study, which was recently reported in The Vet Times and published in the journal Research in Veterinary Science, has resulted in the BVA saying it will review its position on vegetarian and vegan diets for pets. It also comes at a time when UK Pet Food (formerly known as the PFMA) published a Vegetarian and Vegan diet fact sheet on its website, which many view as an acknowledgement on their part, that plant-based diets have a role to play in the future of a healthy and sustainable pet food industry.
Several different health problems were also less common in the plant-fed dogs compared to their meat-fed counterparts, including skin disease (19%; 20%), hormone disorders (1.5%; 2.4%), gut and liver diseases (7.8%; 15%), neurological and eye conditions (3%; 4.3%) and kidney disease (0%; 1.8%). The plant-based dogs also scored better on multiple indicators of wellness, including less anxious behaviour, as well as fewer instances of vomiting, inactivity or contact avoidance.
The study has prompted vets in practice to be more receptive to advising dog guardians about the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet and potentially some of the negative consequences of a conventional meat-based diet.
“This perception must be considered by veterinary practitioners when diet-related health risks or benefits are discussed with dog owners – particularly as dog owners feeding plant-based may seek information regarding dog diet from alternative resources,” commentary reported by The Vet Times.
The findings follow a recent peer-reviewed study in the Plos One journal, which suggested dogs fed vegan diets were healthier and required fewer veterinary interventions, based on analysis of more than 2,500 animals.
“In 2020, we surveyed over 5000 UK dog owners and over 90% said that their pets health was their main consideration when choosing a suitable diet - this study now gives those people a great reason to consider a plant-baed diet for their dog, who wouldn't want their dog to live 18 months longer?” UK Veterinarian, Dr. Guy Sandelowsky.
Andrew Knight, veterinarian and lecturer of animal welfare at The University of Winchester said the evidence in favour of vegan diets for dogs is now overwhelming, with seven out of eight published studies advocating their use.
He described the Guelph study’s findings on lifespan as “very exciting” and renewed his call for opponents of the approach to provide evidence to support their alternative stance.
Prof Knight said: “Further research would always be helpful, but is not needed to form a reasonable, evidence-based position on this issue. That will not be accepted by those with entrenched opposition to vegan diets, but such opposition is not evidence-based, nor in the best interests of dogs.”
BVA president Justine Shotton remarked “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.”
Dodd, S., Khosa, D., Dewey, C. and Verbrugghe, A., 2022. Owner perception of health of North American dogs fed meat-or plant-based diets. Research in Veterinary Science, 149, pp.36-46