Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services Veterinarian, Wild Earth
The results from a year-long plant-based dog study were just published! Spoiler alert: Plant-based dogs are just as healthy, if not healthier than those who eat meat. Keep reading to learn more about how this study is challenging what many people think about plant-based diets for dogs.
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While it is not surprising that the data supports what we have known for a long time, we are thrilled to share that the first long term, plant-based feeding study in dogs showed excellent results!
The first major study evaluating plant-based feeding in dogs was published in 2009, and demonstrated that even dogs exercising at the highest levels could thrive on a nutritionally complete and balanced plant-based diet. Since then, there have been several studies published showing the benefits of plant-based feeding, however many of them were over a short duration or were based on survey data. There existed a need for high-quality studies with standardized outcome measures, increased duration, and large sample sizes.
With this need identified, a group of clinician-scientists from Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine conducted the first comprehensive study on the long-term effects of plant-based diets for dogs. Here is a link to the published research.
Fifteen clinically healthy client-owned dogs were fed a complete and balanced plant-based diet for a year. Clinical, hematological, and nutritional parameters were evaluated at 0, 6 and 12 months, including complete blood count, serum chemistry, cardiac biomarkers, plasma amino acids, and serum vitamin concentrations.
What were the results? Health was maintained and bloodwork values remained within normal reference ranges.
Additionally, the body weight of the dogs remained stable, while body condition scores trended downwards in overweight/obese dogs. Fun fact: Dogs at a normal body weight live on average 2.5 years longer than overweight/obese dogs. Plant-based diets have long been correlated with a healthy body weight and this data serves to further support that.
I will now dive further into the specific results of the study. For those of you interested, continue reading.
A common misconception regarding plant-based diets is that they contain less protein than traditional meat-based diets (which we know is untrue). The researchers further busted this myth by measuring the levels of essential amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein) in these dogs. All essential amino acids were within or above normal reference ranges, with an upward trend. L-taurine and L-carnitine levels were also measured, and an increase in these nutrients was also observed when comparing baseline to endpoint values.
As mentioned, concentrations of vitamins were also evaluated. A very interesting and positive finding was seen with vitamin D. Seven dogs presented with vitamin D insufficiency as a result of eating a meat-based diet, and at six months of eating a plant-based diet, only one dog was insufficient, and by 12 months, all dogs had normal vitamin D levels. As for vitamin A, concentrations stayed within the reference range and exhibited an upward trend. Vitamin E levels were more than adequate throughout. Lastly, as for B vitamins, folate was below the reference range in six dogs at the outset of the study and by 12 months only three of those dogs had low folate. Cobalamin was within the normal reference interval at all three time points.
In order to evaluate heart health, two markers of cardiac health were measured, and not only did they maintain within reference ranges, but there was a downward trend in both.
All in all, this study demonstrated that dogs can not only thrive on a vegan diet, but they may also be healthier than dogs fed meat.
Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA
Dr. Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva is the Professional Services Veterinarian here at Wild Earth. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Brown University, and attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in general practice, on telehealth platforms, and in animal rehabilitation. She has worked tirelessly to gain expertise in the field of canine nutrition through numerous certifications and coursework, and plans to pursue her Masters in Animal Nutrition.