In an Internet-based questionnaire, dog owners who fed their pets a plant-based diet reported fewer health problems in their pets. Specifically, dog owners reported fewer disorders of the eye, gastrointestinal tract, and liver in their dogs than owners of dogs fed a conventional diet. Dogs had longer lifespans in responses to the plant-based diet group. Similarly, those dog owners did not see any adverse effects on their pets’ health from the plant-based diet. The results were published in the journal Research in Veterinary Science.
Despite the positives surrounding plant-based dog foods, the researchers noted that those dog owners may be biased and lean the results toward supporting herbs. To avoid cognitive dissonance, vegetarian and vegan pet owners may have considered the effects of a plant-based diet on their pets to be more beneficial than they actually were. Similarly, pet owners with good experience may have been more motivated to participate, whereas dogs’ negative responses to a plant-based diet did not prompt an urge to answer the questionnaire.
Sarah Dodd, PhD, of the University of Guelph, led the study about dog owners’ reactions to their pets’ reactions to plant-based foods. The questionnaire examined the dog’s characteristics, rearing, health and well-being. An earlier study led by Dodd examined similar themes among cat owners.
Cat owners report no plant-based diet health problems
As vegetarian and vegan diets become increasingly mainstream, pet owners want the diet of their companion animals to match their own food ethic. For dogs, which evolved to vacuum up human leftovers, this isn’t as much of a problem. Cats require more care. In nature and on the margins of human habitation, cats eat other animals or their fragments. However, the cat digestive system can handle plant-based nutrients, allowing the addition of grains, fruits, and vegetables to properly prepared cat foods in cat kibble and wet food. Some animal nutritionists have raised concerns as vegetarian and vegan diets for cats have grown in popularity. To address this, Dodd conducted a survey of 1,325 cat owners published in BMC Veterinary Research in 2021. 65% of them fed their cats a meat-based diet, while 18.2% fed a plant-based cat food. Cat owners reported their observations of the health of their cats.