Just because you’re vegan, it doesn’t mean your dog should be
Dogs should be able to manage on vegetarian diets as long as the essential nutrients they would normally get from meat are present, but balancing this has proven harder than expected
Over the last 10 years, it’s estimated there has been a 360 per cent rise in veganism in Britain – around 542,000 people have “gone vegan”. As a nation of animal lovers, with around 44 per cent of homes owning a pet – and somewhere in the region of 8.5 million dogs in the UK – it’s only natural this phenomenon should start to spill over into the pet food world. This has led to a rise in the availability of both vegetarian and vegan dog foods. But before you make the decision for your pet to go meat free, it’s important to consider what effect this could have.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive, but dogs can in theory live on a plant-based diet – though that doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
The domestic dog is actually a subspecies of the grey wolf. And while they’re substantially different in many ways, wolves and dogs can still interbreed to produce viable and fertile offspring. This makes them good animals to study to get a sense of what works out in the wild
Despite being highly successful hunters, the diet of grey wolves varies significantly both with environment and the time of year. Studies of wolves in Yellowstone Park, US, have found that during the summer their diets contain small rodents, birds and invertebrates as well as larger prey like elk and mule deer. Alongside this though, plant matter is actually very common in the diet, with 74 per cent of wolf droppings containing it – mainly from grasses.