A new study from the University of Illinois has added new evidence that vegan diets can provide adequate nutrition for dogs and benefit their health. The study, titled “Apparent Total Tract Macronutrient Digestibility of Mildly-Cooked Human-Grade Vegan Dog Foods and Their Effects on the Blood Metabolites and Fecal Characteristics, Microbiota, and Metabolites of Adult Dogs” was authored by Leah J Roberts, Patricia M Oba, and Kelly S Swanson, and published in the Journal of Animal Science on 27th March 2023.

The researchers tested two human-grade vegan formulas (with and without a grain ingredient) from Bramble against a leading brand chicken-based kibble diet. They fed the diets to beagles for three weeks and analysed the dogs’ blood chemistry, faecal quality, and microbiome, as well as the foods themselves. The vegan dog foods were veterinary nutritionist-formulated mixtures of whole foods like lentils, garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, blueberries, peas, and carrots. 

The analysis confirmed both the vegan diets and the chicken-based diet met standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for “complete and balanced” nutrition.

Kelly Swanson, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I, said. “One thing to remember is that animals don’t have ingredient requirements, they have nutrient requirements. As long as they’re consuming the essential nutrients in the correct amounts and ratios, dogs can be vegan, vegetarian, or meat-eaters.” 

The study shows that certain blood metabolites indicators of good health status were found in the dogs fed with the vegan diet. Specifically, blood triglycerides and cholesterol were significantly lower in dogs fed the vegan diets, which could benefit them by helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Regarding the faecal microbiome analysis, Swanson said: “There were some interesting and beneficial changes in the microbial community that I think reflect the blend of fibres that were present in the vegan diets. The faecal metabolites phenol and indole, both of which contribute to faecal odour, were dramatically decreased in those diets too. It’s still going to smell, but probably less…Overall, it looked like there were some beneficial shifts from a gut health perspective in dogs fed the vegan diets.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.