A veterinary professor has said his research shows vegan diets for cats and dogs are every bit as healthy as meat-based pet food.
Andrew Knight, who works at the University of Winchester, claimed his research showed that pets had as good, or better, health outcomes on plant-based diets as they when fed on meat-based pet foods, provided these are carefully formulated with additional synthetic nutrients.
However, Justine Shotton, below, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “We would not recommend feeding a dog a vegan diet as it is much easier to get the balance of nutrients wrong than to get it right, leading to a risk of dietary deficiencies and associated disease.”
She added that any changes to pet diets “should only be undertaken under advice of a vet with in-depth nutritional knowledge”, and that people had a “duty of care towards their pet”, including ensuring an appropriate diet.
Professor Knight’s findings come after warnings that pet owners could be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if they fail to feed a “suitable diet” meeting their dog’s nutritional needs – with a £20,000 fine or a 51-week jail sentence on the table.
The Blue Cross charity also advised against feeding pets vegan food, saying: “Pets need a balanced diet, cats in particular have very specific nutritional needs which would be unlikely to be met by a vegan diet,” she said.
The unpublished findings of Knight’s research form part of a larger study that found that plant-based pet food was both nutritionally equivalent to products containing meat, as well as enjoyable for pets to eat.
He said: “Dogs, cats and other species have requirements for nutrients, they don’t need meat or any other particular ingredient. They need the set of nutrients, and provided those are supplied to them in a diet that’s sufficiently tasty that they’re motivated to eat it, and digestible, we’d expect to see them thrive. And that’s what the evidence seems to indicate.
“The claim is animals on vegan diets will necessarily become ill and it’s somehow cruel to maintain them, is contrary to the scientific evidence in this field and is ignorant.”