Don’t dogs need meat?

Lots of people think dogs require meat in their diet but there is scientific evidence to prove that dogs thrive on plant-based diets (7, 11, 31, 54). In fact some of the longest living dogs on record were fed entirely plant-based, like Guinness World Record holder Bramble, who lived to the age of 25 (16, 17). In one study reported by world renowned vet and professor of animal welfare at The University of Winchester Dr. Andrew Knight, the median life expectancy of plant-based dogs was reported to be almost 13 years old (11), which is above average (32) and in certain parts of the world like India and Sri-lanka dogs have also been thriving on plant-based diets for generations (18). 

Moreover, a recent peer reviewed study that monitored thousands of dogs eating various diets found that those on vegan diets lived up to 18 months longer than those eating conventional meat-based diets (54). Another research group found that dogs eating vegan diets required fewer lifetime medications and needed to visit the vet less frequently for health concerns (55). There’s now even data to show that plant-based dogs experience health benefits that their meat-eating counterparts don’t, such as improvements in gut health, resolution of skin complaints and reduction in anxious behaviours like aggression (59). One study also showed that dogs suffering from vitamin D deficiency after being fed a variety of popular meat based diets saw a resolution in their deficiency after switching to a vet formulated vegan dry food diet (72). The take home message is that dogs do not require meat, they need protein but this can come from delicious plant-based sources too (4, 5, 6, 31).

But aren’t dog’s carnivores?

Dogs are in fact nutritional omnivores as demonstrated by a robust scientific study published in the reputable journal, Nature (1,2) in which it was shown that they have 30 copies of the AMY2B gene responsible for digesting plant-based foods. 

They have also evolved relatively long intestines (21) (almost as long as humans) and relatively flat surfaces on their molars (22, 31) which they use for digesting and chewing a whole range of foods. Dogs also have other hallmarks of an omnivore such as producing salivary amylase (61), high levels of glucokinase (62) ,and having Type D tastebuds (63).

The common misconception that dogs are carnivores probably arises from the fact that they are classified in the order Carnivora but so are plenty of other species like bears, skunks, racoons who are omnivores and even the giant panda who thrives on a plant-based diet (20).

Is plant protein digestible to dogs?

Absolutely yes, studies which have looked at how much protein dogs can absorb from plant-based and fungi-based foods like soya and yeast demonstrated over 75% digestibility which is on par with meat-based foods (23, 24, 25, 34, 35, 64-69). Both these protein sources also contain all 10 essential amino acids (36, 37) that dogs need to thrive.

Isn't there too much fibre in plant-based food?

The average amount of fibre in a commercial dog food diet is between 2-4%. Omni’s plant-powered recipe has a fibre content of 3% which is on par with meat- based diets. In our taste test trials with over 200 dog guardians, 100% of participants reported that their dog’s stool consistency was either ‘normal’ or ‘perfect’ and there were no reports of any digestive upsets*. Additionally, recent peer reviewed research that was published in a scientific journal showed that out of 100 dogs eating the Omni diet for up to a year, 90% with watery faeces saw an improvement after switching from a meat-based diet to Omni and 86% of dogs with soft faeces became more firm/normal after switching to Omni (59).

Can I mix omni with other meat-based diets?

We are proud that our recipes are nutritionally complete and so include everything your dog needs to thrive. This means Omni can be fed as a sole ration. For those not quite ready to go fully plant-basee, we also fully support a 'flexitarian approach' like meat free lunches or using Omni as a mixer. Every little helps to bring some of the health and environmental benefits of plant-power to meal times.

Can plant-based food provide the essential fatty acids dogs need?

All the essential fats and oils that dogs need, including omegas 3 and 6 are found in a variety of both meat and plant-based foods (28, 31). Omni’s recipe is rich in plant-based sources of these nutrients so provides the necessary essential fatty acids required to thrive.

I hear a lot about feeding raw meat, isn’t that better?

Feeding raw meat to dogs has become a very popular trend in recent years, but most vets will warn against this practice. This is because the cooking process is vital to help kill off dangerous bacteria like E coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter (9) and various parasites that have necessitated several food recalls from the market and caused serious illness and even death in both dogs and their owners (40, 41, & 42). A published scientific paper randomly analysed various raw dog food brands in the UK, the results showed alarming rates of contamination with salmonella and other pathogens, ordinarily removed with cooking (71). 

Although raw meat diets can offer dogs high amounts of protein they tend to be high in animal fats which make their coats shiny but could mask the appearance of other nutritional deficiencies which may take time to manifest. Meat alone is a poor source of certain vital nutrients dogs need to thrive like calcium and vitamin D and there is no evidence that feeding raw versus cooked meat confers any advantages. Most official regulatory bodies advise against feeding raw due to safety concerns around food borne illness - this includes the PDSA, Public Health England, the BVA, the British Medical Journal and various others. 

From an evolutionary perspective, cooking food has dramatically reduced the rates of foodborne illness in humans and the same principles apply to dogs. Some studies even show that the digestibility of certain ingredients improves when ingredients are cooked rather than fed to dogs raw.

Is it natural for dogs to eat plant-based?

Natural is a very relative term. Dogs have been domesticated from their wild ancestors, which is arguably not 'natural' but with this their physiology has evolved over the last 10,000 years to that of a nutritional omnivore (2). Despite many glossy marketing claims out there, pet food only has to contain 4% of a meat like ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’ to be labelled as such a flavour (19). What's more, the rules allow for this 4% to be made up of animal derivatives like bone meal, lard and feathers and then the rest is often bulked up with cheap fillers like corn (15). At Omni, rather than trying to emulate a diet that dogs ancient wild ancestors would have eaten, we prefer to focus on diets that lead to improved health outcomes for domesticated dogs, that they love to eat and that are kinder to the planet and other animals.

What are the health benefits of feeding my dog-plant based?

Multiple health benefits have been reported for dogs on plant-based diets such as improved weight control, decreased incidence of cancer, decreased infections, diabetes regression and better skin/coat quality and odour (11). Moreover, a recent peer-reviewed study found that guardians  who were feeding Omni for up to a year found that their dogs showed improvements in stool consistency, skin and hair coat condition, and even reductions in anxiety and aggressive behaviour (59). Clinical signs related to allergies and food intolerances in dogs may include itchy ears, hair loss, red skin, paw licking, runny stools and vomiting (38). Animal proteins like beef, chicken and dairy are relatively common allergens in dogs (39) so plant-based diets, being naturally void of these, could also be a good choice to consider for these pets. As well as plant based dogs potentially living up to 18 months longer (54), a recent study showed that plant based diets may be the healthiest and least hazardous for dogs (55).

What about the taste, don’t dogs prefer to eat meat?

We did a large taste test survey  with our Omni diets involving over 200 UK dog parents feeding a variety of diets including meat-based options. Over 90% of respondents reported that their dogs 'LOVED Omni' and many said that they preferred it to their usual meat-based diet. Feel free to check out our testimonials and to see for yourself how excited dogs are when you serve up a bowl of delicious Omni. Additionally, in a recent peer review study, Omni diets were found to be palatable and enthusiastically eaten by the vast majority of dogs (59). Another study conducted by professor Andrew Knight’s research team found ‘no significant difference’ in dogs desire to eat a meat-based diet over a plant-based alternative - several factors were considered such as speed of consumption; propensity to salivate at the site/smell of the food and even signs of behavioural excitement like tail wagging. 

Is omni wheat/gluten free?

Omni’s recipe contains brown rice and oats which are grains that are both naturally wheat and gluten free however we cannot guarantee the absence of traces of either of these in the mills in which these ingredients are ground up.

Is it true that there have been over 90 recalls of dog food since 2009?

There have been a large number of recalls due to contamination issues with bacteria, fungi, toxic chemicals and antibiotics. Most recalls and reports of serious illness and deaths in humans from handling pet food or dogs fed contaminated pet foods have been in dogs fed raw meats or dried hide chews such as pigs ears (10, 11, 12, 13). Additionally, the incidence of recalls of cooked dog foods is much lower than raw or uncooked dog foods, when taking into account the overall number of each type of food that is produced. At Omni, we work alongside a reputable manufacturer with strict standards to ensure our product safety.

Is Omni’s plant-powered food nutritionally complete and FEDIAF approved?

Yes, the European regulatory body (FEDIAF) stipulates strict controls (49) on what should go into pet food, before it can be labelled as nutritionally complete. Omni not only meets these guidelines but surpasses the minimum requirements on several key points such as the level of protein. We also regularly analyse new batches of our food with our partners, such as those at the University of Nottingham, to ensure the consistency of the quality of our products.

What does ‘vet formulated’ actually mean?

Feeding dogs a balanced diet that contains all the daily nutrients that dogs need has its challenges. Dogs require a minimum level of protein, can only digest a limited amount of fibre and require a precise balance of essential fats, vitamins and minerals to cover all their health needs. This is why Omni’s recipe’s have been formulated by a mix of industry experts including specialist vets and nutritionists.

What is FEDIAF?

The European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) publishes Nutritional Guidelines for Dogs and Cats and continues a constant review of nutrition research literature to frequently update its Nutritional Guidelines for consistency with current scientific data and knowledge (3). Pet food manufacturers in Europe should comply with FEDIAF Guidelines to produce a COMPLETE and balanced food. At Omni we are committed to having our food analysed after production to ensure it continues to meet these FEDIAF Guidelines.

What measures are taken to guarantee the quality of the omni products?

All Omni products are periodically sampled and analysed for their nutritional parameters, quality and safety. This includes regular analysis to FEDIAF guidelines to ensure nutritional completeness of our products, and the many precautions and food standards that our reputable UK based manufacturer enforces.

What’s the impact of pet food on the planet?

It has been reported that the 500 million dogs and cats of the world eat 20% of the planet’s meat. This is estimated to produce 64 million tonnes of CO2 and methane in just the US alone. To put that into context, that’s the equivalent environmental impact of 13.6 million cars (53, 56)! 

Plant-based dog foods have been shown to use up to 85% fewer greenhouse gases, consumes 61% less water and uses 92% less land, as compared to traditional meat-based diets. It has been estimated that switching a medium sized dog from a traditional meat-based diet to a plant-based diet like omni is equivalent to savings over a dog’s lifetime of 20 years’ worth of an individual’s showers, 22 return flights from London to New York and 348 Tennis Courts. 

We also make dry food which is less carbon emitting - dry, kibble based pet food is up to 7 times less carbon emitting than wet or fresh home cooked diets. Animal based proteins such as beef and chicken were singled out amongst the most carbon emitting ingredients (58).

Are you vegan?

Our recipes are fully vegan, including our vitamin D3. We understand the importance of using vegan only as we know that if domestic pets went plant based an estimated 1 billion animals could be saved from slaughter a year (57). Additionally, the resources used to create meat-based pet foods could be diverted to feed the entirety of the human populations of both New Zealand and Ireland! (57).

What about DCM?

Importantly, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently stated it had insufficient data to establish causality among DCM case reports and pet food products eaten by afflicted dogs and therefore has stopped updating on this topic (70).

The FDA had been investigating links between grain free diets and a form of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) (50). Their findings highlighted that the incidence of DCM is likely multifactorial and includes a complex interaction of predisposing factors like breed, age and metabolism as well as possibly dietary components (52). Although omni is not grain free, as a vet founded brand we are committed to being aware of any such investigations. 

The possible concerns around legumes in pet food are poorly understood and as yet there is no evidence nor mechanisms proven for them causing heart disease - at Omni the health of dogs is our utmost priority, and so we will continue to follow current investigations closely and be guided by the regulatory bodies FEDIAF and AAFCO, who are aware of the studies but currently have not banned legumes in dog food and seem unlikely to based on current findings.

It is crucial to note that only 1% of dogs in the USA are estimated to be impacted by DCM so it is a relatively uncommon condition despite the widespread existence of both grain free diets and those containing legumes (52). The director of the FDA’s centre for veterinary medicine, Dr. Steven Solomon has acknowledged that “complex scientific messaging” has contributed to confusion and misinterpretation on the link between diet and DCM (51). We also supplement taurine as deficiencies of this amino-acid have in the past been linked to heart disease (14).

How do I reach you?

If you want to stock omni or have any question about our products please email us at woof@omni.pet or connect with us on social media: Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn


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