SAN FRANCISCO — As sustainability concerns rise among consumers, plant-based or vegan diets have become all the rage in the human food space, and these trendy formulations have also made their way into the pet food sector. But the nutritional efficacy and safety of these plant-based diets remains a significant concern for the industry at large, as well as for consumers. A new long-term study may help alleviate these concerns.

Clinical scientists at the Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health released a comprehensive study on the long-term impacts of a plant-based diet on dog health. The study shows that v-dog’s plant-based diet can provide complete-and-balanced nutrition to dogs for the long term.

“We're thrilled to share the results of this groundbreaking study, which demonstrates that a nutritionally complete plant-based diet can maximize the health and quality of life for dogs and reduce carbon paw-prints,” said Darren Middlesworth, president and chief executive officer of v-dog and the company’s international brand v-planet. “The research underscores that a healthier, cruelty-free option for pet owners also has the potential to positively impact the environment and other animals.”

The study was conducted by independent clinical researchers who used v-dog’s formulas, but were not commissioned by the vegan dog food company. Data from the study was shared on Feb. 20 at the Western Vet Conference in Las Vegas.  

Conducted by Annika Linde, DVM, Ph.D.; Maureen Lahiff, Ph.D.; Adam Krantz, DVM; Nathan Sharp; Theros T. Ng, Ph.D.; Tonatiuh Melgarejo, DVM, Ph.D.; the study aimed to understand if a dog’s health could be maintained on a complete-and-balanced, plant-based diet, while also examining potential health and safety concerns. According to researchers, this scope makes the study the most comprehensive and longest known study on complete and well-balanced canine plant-based nutrition.

v-dog’s Kind Kibble diet was specifically chosen as it meets the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)’s required nutrient profile for adult dog maintenance, and the company is currently the longest-standing manufacturer of such a product in the United States. v-dog has been producing its formulas since 2005.

Formulated with dried peas, pea protein, brown rice, oatmeal, potato protein, sorghum, canola oil, alfalfa meal, brewers dried yeast, flaxseed, millet, lentils, peanut hearts, quinoa and other plant-based ingredients, vitamins and minerals, v-dog Kind Kibble has a guaranteed analysis of 24% crude protein, 9% crude fat, 5% crude fiber and 10% moisture. The kibble contains 363 kcal per cup.

The study used 15 healthy adult dogs of different breeds ranging from ages 1 to 11, living in households within Los Angeles County, Calif. Dogs were fed different commercial, meat-based formulas for at least one year prior to enrollment of the study, and then were fed v-dog Kind Kibble and Wiggle Biscuits treats for one year.

Veterinarians conducted health exams, measuring each dog’s complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry, cardiac biomarkers, plasma amino acids, including L-taurine, L-carnitine and serum vitamin concentrates, as well as examined body condition and weight, urine and feces, at the beginning, six-month and 12-month periods of the study.

Additionally, researchers hosted monthly interviews with the dogs’ owners, gaining information on any changes in health and behavior. According to the study, these dogs maintained their health based on physical exams and owner observations when fed v-dog’s complete-and-balanced formula.

As well as providing nutritional efficacy, the study also raised awareness of the impact of a dog’s diet on the environment. The study detailed that pet food production is responsible for about one-third of environmental impacts from industrial animal production regarding land and fossil fuel usage, water consumption, biocide protection and waste production. Plant-based formulas can help reduce these environmental impacts.

According to v-dog, the study “represents an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets for companion animals.”

“As animal lovers ourselves, we're thrilled to offer a complete-and-balanced, plant-based diet for dogs that is backed by independent clinical research,” said Lindsay Rubin Carvalho, vice president of v-planet. “This study reinforces what we've known all along — that a nutritionally complete plant-based diet can extensively provide health benefits and protection for dogs. Our mission is to offer the best nutrition for our furry family members while also promoting a more sustainable and compassionate world for all animals.”

The study also took into account consumer concerns about heart health and the risk of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). According to the study, researchers did not witness a statistically significant difference in cardiac health biomarkers when dogs were fed plant-based versus meat-based diets. In fact, the study reported that v-dog’s plant-based diet did not adversely affect cardiac status, and may have had a positive impact on heart health.

“The veterinary community is in need of evidence-based research at the intersection between clinical cardiology and nutrition to define clinical health outcomes in dogs transitioned to a diet produced independent of industrial food animal production,” researchers wrote. “This is important because existing food systems are undergoing change as a result of increasing costs of animal-derived ingredients combined with the escalating climate crisis, thus supporting studies on more cost-effective and sustainable options for feeding companion dogs. The present study provides an important stepping stone in that direction.”

Read the full study on complete-and-balanced, plant-based dog food.

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