Canine Plant-based Nutrition: It's Time for Evidence.
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Christmas Eve 2006 was a memorable one for my staff and me at our rural North Carolina veterinary practice.
We were all looking to have a quiet morning and closing the hospital by noon to get home to our families. Instead, we spent the afternoon running blood samples on eight of the county’s K-9 officers because dog foods were being recalled and many dogs were mysteriously developing kidney failure. Fortunately, all of the police dogs were fine but we did lose two patients from melamine-tainted dog food. Up until this point, nutrition was a low priority in my veterinary practice. Honestly, with having to discuss vaccines, fleas, ticks, heartworms, intestinal parasites, annual lab tests, dental care and preventive care, not to mention any health issues detected on the physical exam within a twenty-minute appointment, nutrition was usually covered by two questions: “Is your dog eating?” and “What is your dog eating?”
After that day, my priorities began to shift, as did quite a few animal guardians. Many dogs and cats died from eating what was considered safe and nutritious food. Out of this pivotal event, a food revolution of sorts has emerged. Many people began to question the food sources and quality not only for their pets but for themselves as well. As dogs are considered more and more as family members, a larger number of guardians turned to non-traditional diets such as raw, home-cooked or ‘holistic’ brands of commercial pet food.
For myself, a lot has changed since 2006. Professionally, I’ve gone from a rural, conventional practice to an urban, integrative one that offers Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, Homeopathy, Chiropractic Therapy and Nutritional Counseling. A majority of my patients are on a raw or dehydrated diet, with many clients preparing home-cooked meals. I have quite a few vegetarian and vegan canine patients and nutrition has become an integral part of my practice.
Personally, I’ve supported my husband as he embraced a whole-food, plant-based diet and have witnessed his transformation from weighing almost 300 pounds and being hypertensive and pre-diabetic to 155 pounds, healthy and having so much energy that it’s hard to keep up with him. I’ve experienced how great I feel with a plant-based diet and I’m reading human nutrition studies on how a plant-based diet can reverse serious diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and arteriosclerosis and can reduce the risk of many types of cancers and immune-mediated diseases. My relationship with Virchew seems to be a natural step in my ‘nutritional evolution’.
Many veterinarians and dog guardians stubbornly hold on to the theory that dogs need animal protein to thrive or have ethical issues with feeding their pets meat, yet still do because they are convinced that this is the best option for their pet’s health. However, some veterinary prescription food companies now include several plant-based diets marketed for dogs with skin or gastrointestinal issues and veterinarians are seeing an increasing number of dogs with cancer, obesity and immune-mediated disease. The bottom line is that we don’t know what the best diet is for our pets because there hasn’t been a lot of plant-based diet research for dogs, but anecdotal reports of dogs having unusually long life spans on a plant-based diet are very exciting.
It’s time to prove what a lot of us already suspect - that a plant-based diet is good for us, it’s good for the planet and ultimately, it’s good for our dogs!
Author: Dr. Katherine Kramer - Medical Director, DVM, DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice) is from Vancouver, BC and joined Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital in March 2011 after nine years of practicing veterinary medicine in North Carolina. Animals have always been a part of her life, from her early childhood on a wildlife refuge in the Florida Keys, to working on a white rhino in South Africa while earning her degree at the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. She is a member of the College of Veterinarians of BC, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management.
Seeing the benefits of nutrition upon disease in her patients and the positive impact a plant-based diet has had on both her and her husband's health, Dr. Kramer is excited to be working as a consultant with the Virchew Team.
When Dr. Kramer is not working at the hospital or offering consulting services, Kathy and her husband Alex can be found hanging out with their very handsome black and white felines.
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Our products and services are not a replacement for the expert care and advice provided by your veterinarian. Any dietary or healthcare changes should be made under their guidance, especially in the case of existing underlying health conditions.