Plant-Based Diets for Dogs: The ONE Question.
When it comes to the topic of plant-based diets for dogs there's a consistent, misinformed carnivore vs. omnivore sparring.
After years of heated debates, you can find dozens of articles and interviews questioning if a dog can (or should) eat a vegetarian or plant-based diet. Aside from a small few, they are all pretty much the same. No conclusion, really, just an ongoing 'Let’s wait and see' debate, and frankly, although we truly appreciate science-based and healthy debates, we're getting weary of having to address this over and over. It is deflection pure and simple. Unfortunately, our belief systems tend to over-rule evidence or facts. That profound topic is for another blog, but in the meantime, we appreciate if you would be neutral and open to this exciting topic about our dog's diet evolution while becoming our best friend.
In 2013 (over 10 years ago) the respected and much-awarded research magazine, nature, published a groundbreaking study that found dogs possess genes for digesting starches, which set them apart from their carnivore cousins - wolves.
In the nature magazine article, researcher, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh suggests - as humans have also evolved to be able to easily digest starches, it possibly was the rise of farming, (beginning around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East), that led to the adaptations in both humans and dogs. “This is a striking sign of parallel evolution,” she says. “It really shows how dogs and humans have evolved together to be able to eat starch.” It is the ability to digest and process starches that make a plant-based diet feasible in dogs.
Want to know more? Research: Plant-Based Foods for Dogs
Future of Plant-Based Foods for Dogs
My intention as an entrepreneur and founder of Virchew is to ask new questions to find new, maybe even bold, solutions - along with the support of our veterinary partners. I feel without a doubt, due to new demands from discerning paw parents questioning sustainability and ingredient transparency - along with a rapidly growing interest in plant-based options - it’s time to write a NEW story about our dog’s diet. Here’s a good start.
First, let’s compare this to the exact hot debate that occurred in plant-based human nutrition in these three stages:
Reaction: “A diet high in vegetables, fruits and fibre could be beneficial.” (Flexitarian)
Research: “Research has shown that a vegan diet is considered one of the healthiest diets for humans.” (Plant-Based/Vegan)
If you were to take this same trajectory and place it on the canine plant-based trajectory, the start of the two paths would be the same. Exactly the same. We’re somewhere between the resistance and the reaction. The future is unleashed and coming to our world soon.
I’ve been watching and experiencing this human diet debate for over 35-years, both professionally and personally. Instead of asking, “Show me the research that proves humans can be vegetarian (or vegan) and don’t need meat,” I ask, “Show me the research that proves we cannot thrive on a plant-basd diet.”
We Don't Need Meat.
Here’s the thing. There isn’t one study that proves or even indicates that we need meat to survive as a species. We don’t. Period. (Want to learn more about the intriguing philosophy that we need meat and our human belief system? Check out, Beyond Carnism by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.) Or looking for more nutrition science evidence to support these statements? My trusted go-to resource for over a decade is NutritionFacts.org founded by Dr. Michael Greger. This unparalleled research service has no commercial ties.
So, what about our dogs? Same, same. We wrangle across the virtual table and even witness outright bullying to caring animal lovers who dare to share their vegan dog diet success stories. These same misinformed people even challenge highly-educated and experienced veterinarians and Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists. Human beliefs are tough to change even when presented with factual evidence.
Following several years of interviews and meetings, I have a deep respect for veterinary professionals who are doing their best day after day as they field questions from thousands of people on the topic of canine nutrition. There are no simple answers. This subject (combined with the emerging research in plant-based nutrition) is extremely complex considering the diversity of breeds, genetics along with recent evidence proving the evolution of our domestic dogs' ability to digest starches.
After 30+ years of; researching plant-based dog nutrition, interviews with dozens of veterinarians and working with a team of Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists...I ask you this ONE question:
“Have you ever seen one study that proves dogs cannot thrive on a plant-based diet?”
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Laura Simonson, founder of Virchew, is considered a respected, informed advocate leading a movement toward worldwide education for canine, plant-based nutrition. She has worked tirelessly to position Virchew as the leader of the pack and a timely investment opportunity in today's marketplace. With sustainability and corporate social responsibly deeply embedded in the brand's DNA, she and the Virchew team continue to push forward as they redefine canine nutrition one dog and one veterinarian at a time.
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