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It is no doubt that pet owners invest a lot into the well-being of their precious furry animals. With the growing popularity of veganism worldwide, owners are now opting to make their pets follow this diet. New research reveals that out of nearly 4,000 pet owners, a large chunk of them are interested in changing their pets’ meat-based diet to a vegan or plant-based diet.

Veganism has taken the world by storm. It is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products particularly in diets and pet owners are now starting to apply the same to their pets. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada researched to better understand the dietary habits of pet owners and their pets. This study revealed that a large number of owners, about 35 percent are considering changing their pet’s dietary habits, and 27 percent have already implemented a vegan diet for their pets.

Previous research regarding vegan diets on pets revolved solely around vegetarian or vegan pet owners. That research was limited and could not give any indication of issues that concerned the pet population as a whole. This new study however aimed at estimating the number of pet owners who feed their pets with plant-based diets, understanding their issues with using animal products, and their reasons for choosing vegan diets.

To carry out this research, a large pool of 3,673 cat and dog owners participated in a survey. The survey began with multiple choice questions to collect demographic data such as the owners’ age, gender, and nationality. Of the 3,673 owners, a total of 1,871 owned dogs (51 percent of the total participants), 602 owned cats (16 percent), and 1,200 owned both (33 percent).

Next, the researchers proceeded to collect data on the pet owners’ diets which included omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan. The researchers also collected data regarding where pet foods were purchased such as supermarkets, pet stores, online, homemade or other. Moreover, they categorized their data by classifying the types of pet diets as commercial or homemade; vegetarian, vegan or meat-based; raw or cooked; kibbled and canned foods. The feeding frequencies were also collected to determine how pet owners fed their pets.

The survey was undertaken by keen pet owners across Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States amongst others. Based on this large array of data, the researchers began noticing patterns and new behaviors toward vegan diets for pets.

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Vegans or vegetarians who had pets expressed their moral dilemma that feeding their pets meat-based food was against their beliefs. One option that many vegan owners thought of was to change the dietary habits of their pets to that of a plant or vegan-based diet. About 305 dogs and 51 cats were fed on vegan diets.

The findings in this study showed that more pet owners seemed to be inclined towards the idea of vegan diets especially those owners who are vegans or vegetarians. For owners who expressed their interest in making the switch (about 55 percent), they said they would go further with the idea if the necessary nutritional requirements were met.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) mentions that dogs in general require two kinds of amino acids namely L-carnitine and taurine which is said to be insufficient in vegan diets. A deficiency of these two vitamins can cause illnesses such as dilated cardiomyopathy which is when the dog’s heart becomes large and flabby and cannot function well.

The nutritional requirements for cats are more complicated. They need a large amount of vitamin A. Insufficient amounts of it may cause hearing loss or skin problems. Cats also require taurine and a lack of this may cause the loss of eyesight and cardiomyopathy as in dogs.

PETA however suggests that to those owners who want to feed their pets vegan diets, supplemental L-carnitine and taurine can be purchased at food stores or online and can be incorporated into the diet.

This study revealed that there was a strong willingness to shift to vegan diets by a large group of people who took part in the survey. The data collected shows that with the current trend, nearly 20 million vegetarian and vegan pet owners (12 percent) in the United States alone may be feeding their pets vegan diets. For the group of pet owners who said they need more evidence, the study mentions of need to carry out further scientific research before establishing if vegan diets may after all be in the best interests of pets.

The study also reveals the growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and that shortly, pet food manufacturers will have to find other environmentally friendly ways to produce pet foods. Only time will tell if these diets are in fact healthy for our pets. Until then, you might want to not try feeding your dog or cat kale smoothies. 

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