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Can dogs be vegan / plant based?

Can dogs be vegan / plant based?
Can dogs survive off a plant-based diet? More importantly, can they be healthy and happy on such a diet? (Spoiler alert - they can!)


 So, you’re a pet parent (or soon to be). And you love your adorable ball of fluff more than anything, but you also love the planet, and all the other animals too. And you’re wondering… how can I love all 3 of these things without harming any of them? 



The good news is you can love and care for all 3 without compromising or hurting any of them. Enter plant-based food for your pooch. Ethical, sustainable and good for your pup, there’s a reason vegan dog food is making international headlines. Thanks to super intelligent (as well as super empathetic) animal nutritionists and scientists, your dog can go full vegan, plant based, or even flexitarian without compromising their health or how much they wag their tail.
The key is nutrients.



There is a mountain of dogs-are-wolves-are-carnivores rhetoric in the media which can be confusing and compelling/intoxicating to pet parents. It’s no wonder we find ourselves scratching our heads when someone mentions vegan dog food. And we at Ralph were not exempt! When we first looked into creating a vegan pet food company in NZ, we trawled through many articles for and against plant-based pet food - it was overwhelming. In the end, we chose to approach a leading non-vegan (therefore unbiased) Animal Nutritionist (PhD) to ask their opinion on whether we could develop vegan dog food that our furry friends would thrive on. Their response? “Of course! Dogs are omnivores.” They went on to explain that dogs have nutritional requirements, not specific ingredient requirements, and so as long as all the nutritional boxes are ticked (protein, vitamins, fibre, iodine etc.), then it is completely safe to feed your dog a plant-based product. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
International experts also agree. According to research by Dr. Andrew Knight, a Veterinary Professor at the University of Winchester, both dogs and cats showed as good, if not better, health outcomes on plant-based diets as when fed on meat products.(1) The takeaway? As long as a pet’s diet is carefully formulated to meet nutrient requirements, it’s all good!



There is plenty of science to back this up. Multiple studies have been conducted, testing the palatability of vegan pet food, how it affects health and wellbeing of pets, and also performance. An interesting study done on Arctic racing dogs in 2009 demonstrated that a vegan diet was not a disadvantage. The study focussed on 12 Siberian Huskies. Half were fed a meat-free diet with the same nutrient specifications as the other half who were on a commercial diet recommended for active dogs. At the end of the 16 week study, all the dogs were in excellent physical health with normal bloodwork.(3)  
The reason dogs are able to thrive on a plant-based diet is because they are no longer like their carnivorous ancestor, the wolf. Over thousands of years, through domestication, dogs have evolved to not only look different to wolves, but to digest differently too. Today’s dog makes 30x more amylase than wolves, an enzyme that helps them to digest starch. They have also developed maltase, another enzyme needed for starch digestion, only found in herbivores and omnivores. This means that our four-legged friends are no longer strict carnivores - they’ll drool over anything delicious including plants!(4)

Read more on the evolution of dogs here..



And if you’re worried about protein, the plant kingdom has that covered. Dogs definitely need protein, but plant foods like peas, lentils, and chickpeas are high in protein and easily digestible for dogs. Pet food companies have been using these plant-based protein sources for decades. Like we and the Animal Nutritionists said - it’s all about nutrients.

So fear not you dog-loving, planet-protecting, animal advocate! You can rest easy knowing that you’re doing good for your best friend and for everyone by filling your dog’s bowl with plant-based goodness. (And by the way, Ralph kibble is particularly delicious!)

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Callaghan Innovation Grant

Callaghan Innovation Grant

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