The trend for vegan diets isn’t going away any time soon – and vegan pet owners are now interested in turning their pets vegan, too.
Many vegans already feed their pets plant-based diets, a University of Guelph study found – with 27% of vegans saying they had already eliminated meat from their pet’s diets.
Last year, the RSPCA warned that cats can become seriously ill if fed a vegan diet, and that owners who do so could be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act.
The RSPCA’s website describes its view on a healthy diet for cats and says: “Cats need a well-balanced, meat-based diet to stay fit and healthy – they cannot be vegetarian. Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet that is suitable for their age, health status and lifestyle. ”
The survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners from around the world found that 35 per cent of owners whose pets ate conventional diets were interested in switching their animals to a vegan diet.
Among vegans, 78% were interested in helping their pets to switch to a plant-based diet if one were available that met their needs.
Lead author Sarah Dodd, currently a PhD candidate at the OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, said she was surprised by how many vegans had already chosen to eliminate meat from their pets’ diets.
Dodd, ‘That percentage, 27 per cent, might sound like a small number, but when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that’s huge, and much higher than we expected.’
In total, 1.6 per cent of the 2,940 dogs in the survey and 0.7 per cent of the 1,545 cats were being fed a strictly plant-based diet, by vegan and vegetarian owners.
Dodd said, ‘People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture.
‘So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow.’
However, there has not been much research on the nutritional suitability of vegan diets for dogs and cats, nor on the health benefits and risks of plant-based diets in these animals, said Dodd.