Vegan dog food in the UK has a fascinating history and such an exciting future!

Bramble the very first vegan dog owned by Anne Heritage who lived till she was 25

It all started with Bramble - the dog who wanted to live forever

heartIt all started with a dog named Bramble owned by vegan activist Anne Heritage who grew up in Somerset in the 1970’s. Bramble in her 20’s (!) was still “alert and active and went for a walk four times a day and swam once a week”. She apparently “loved exercise” and “had a real passion for being outdoors”.  Anne also stated when Bramble was still alive, that, “She can be a thorn in my side when she’s restless, but it’s what keeps her going.” Read her book here.

Anne Heritage chose a lifestyle very early on that included cooking homemade, homegrown food daily for both herself and her numerous rescue dogs who over the years were her life. They were fed just once daily on organic lentils, brown rice, homegrown vegetables and herbs, and textured soya protein. Every choice that she made over the decades of dog ownership was based on her dogs and she chose homes and jobs to fit around her daily 3 – 4 hour routine of walking her dogs. This remarkable lifestyle gave us our first glimpse into the power of feeding non-processed, homecooked vegan dog food and a fresh healthy outdoor life, as Bramble lived until she was 25 years old, and 2 other dogs under Anne’s care lived until they were 19 and 20!

History of vegan foods in the UK - Benevo, V-Dog, Ami

The rise of commercially produced vegan dog food

heart The first commercially produced and marketed vegetarian dog food in the UK was “Happidog”, founded in 1980. The Happidog brand was later changed to “V-dog” due to a trademark dispute. Please read our views on V-Dog as it is a very popular brand but with the addition of an unusual Vit D3 source.

In 2005, a vegan-family business in Hampshire launched Benevo which has been the most popular vegan brand in the UK for all these years. It is exported to 40 countries now and we commend this company for its success, however, they have not changed their recipe since it was first formulated by them (not a vet nutritionist) in 2005. Our main concern with Benevo, is that they sell a tinned dog/cat food. The nutritional requirements of both these species varies so considerably so one of them or both of them are going to lack essential nutrients if fed this diet. This leads us to query all the foods they produce.

They only declare Vit D2 in their food, there is no addition of Vit D3 which is vital for calcium absorption, and their organic wheat-free brand contains no taurine and l-carnitine which is so important for heart health with dogs on a plant-based diet. There is also no mention of the addition of methionine in the food – an amino acid that is only really found in meat products and helps to acidify the urinary tract. Dogs eating only Benevo are at a greater risk of developing painful struvite crystals as happened with Rupert.

Other brands became available in the UK over the years such as Ami (imported from Italy) with similar ingredients to Benevo, and a more organic brand using non GMO ingredients – Yarrah which is imported from the Netherlands. Both these brands remain very popular and have been sold in the UK for many years, but in 2020, Yarrah lost its licence to be called a vegan food as they had to add sheep wool cholecalciferol to satisfy the strict FEDIAF requirements of Vit D3 in their food. They are still very popular and reasonably priced and although they do not declare methionine in their ingredients, they have added it in.

vegan siberian huskies racing

The first published proof of the benefits of plant-based in working dogs

heart In 2009, Brown and colleagues studied 12 sprint-racing Siberian Huskies who were fed either a commercial diet recommended for active dogs, or a meat-free diet formulated to the same nutrient specifications. These diets comprised their sole nutrient intake for 16 weeks, which included 10 weeks of competitive racing. Regular veterinary checks and blood tests were performed. All dogs remained in excellent physical condition with normal blood results throughout. This was the first published proof that a plant-based diet was certainly possible in not only our pets, but also in working sled dogs.

prof andrew knight expaling the benefits of pets on a vegetarian diet

Further published proof of the benefits of a vegan diet in our pets by Prof Andrew Knight

heart In 2016, Prof Andrew Knight, a professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester, published the very first proof that pets on a balanced plant-based diet could be healthier than those fed on a typical meat-based diet.

Prof Knight’s studies showed how transitioning animals to healthy vegan diets can result in increased overall health and vitality, decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism (a hormonal disease), ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites), improved coat condition, allergy control, weight control, decreased arthritis, diabetes regression and even cataract resolution.

His studies have made us very aware of the need for all modern plant-based commercially produced foods to have the valuable addition of the amino acid methionine as he made us aware of the dangers of alkaline urine in our pets and the increased likelihood of painful urinary tract infections and struvite crystals. It then goes without saying that when choosing to produce a homemade wholefood diet for your dog, you must choose a supplement with methionine added in to prevent having to regularly check your pet’s urine pH.

SOLO Vegetal dry food with vegan dog Ruff

First veterinary recommended vegan diet becomes available

heart Veterinary-based dermatology company Vetruus started selling Solo Vegetal towards the end of 2018. It was initially brought in as a diet for dermatologists to use in exclusion trials as all the other diets were still animal based and didn’t guarantee helping diagnose food allergy as 40% of dogs still react to hydrolysed animal protein diets. As far as they saw it, it was the only vegetable based veterinary diet so realised it was quite unique and may offer a useful alternative for skin cases.
The enormous popularity of 100% balanced Solo Vegetal has grown substantially over the last year, as owners choose to feed their dogs solely with this food who are perfectly healthy and suffer from no skin allergies as the food is so palatable and so well balanced. We are happy to announce; we are selling SOLO VEGETAL now as our own dog loves this food so much as we know how well balanced it is!

corgi and red heart

The rise of grain free diets and concerns over dilated cardiomyopathy benefitted vegan dog diets

heart Interestingly the controversy surrounding grain-free diets and ‘alternative diets’ have contributed to a better understanding of the requirements of a balanced vegan dog food diet.  In 2018, the FDA claimed that there was a rise in the genetic heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy with breeds that were not normally at risk of this disease suddenly showing signs of lethargy and a reduced lifespan. These included breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Spaniels who were suddenly at risk. The foods to blame were grain-free diets and those containing legumes or potatoes as their protein source.

With the amount of interest and research that this generated, it became clear that a lack of taurine in the diets of dogs eating these ‘alternative’ diets was the solution. When lentils and other legumes are used as the primary source of protein, it is important to add even more taurine to the diet as legumes contain ‘anti-nutrients’ called phytates that can prevent the absorption of valuable nutrients in your dog’s digestive tract. This is why we highly recommend soaking all lentils prior to cooking as well as sprouting them to reduce the level of phytates and enable maximum absorption of the important nutrients when homecooking.

The most important addition to prevent any damage to your dog’s heart in anyway, is to ensure that the food always contains enough methionine and taurine. This is why we have formulated our JUST BE KIND supplement to benefit owners feeding their dogs a homemade plant-based diet.

wolf cubs eating watermelon

Published proof that dogs can digest starches

heart A fascinating published study in 2013, proved how mutations in key genes occurred allowing increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves.

These results indicate that early ancestors of modern dogs could thrive on a diet rich in starch which constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs. This also strengthened the theory that dogs have lived alongside man for 40 000 years + and they have fully adapted to our way of eating genetically, and are more likely to benefit from our healthy plant-based diets than from a high meat-based ancestral diet.

lilys vegan stew

The first big petfood company to produce a vegan brand

heart In November 2020, one of the very first big meat-based pet food companies Lily’s Kitchen brought out a vegan range. We are so hoping that this is the start of these large meat-based pet food companies realising that the future is in plant-based dog food and not just greenwashing as Lily’s Kitchen is owned by Nestle.

The Vegan Rainbow Stew food is not balanced however compared to other plant-based independent companies, and could not be fed solely as a plant-based food source, but Lily’s Kitchen are aiming more at the market of pet owners who want to choose a meat-free Monday.

new foods on market in 2021

New exciting brands launch in 2021!

heart We are so pleased to fully support UK based independent vegan companies. The first to launch in February 2021, is the very ethical company Hownd who took 2 years to produce a very palatable and 100% balanced tinned food – Hownd Hearty Quinoa and Pumpkin Casserole.

We are so excited about their dry Superfood, as it will be the very first UK produced vegan dog food that contains all the essential nutrients in it, as well as containing plant-based Vit D3.

We are encouraged too by 2 new independent companies starting up and both owned by UK vets – Noochy Poochy owned by vet Lucy McKinna, and Omni owned by vet Guy Sandelowsky. Unfortunately both these products contain Vit D3 from sheep wool (lanolin) so both foods are vegetarian rather than vegan. Both vets have assured us that they are working hard on getting this changed so that they can advertise their food in the future as 100% vegan.

do good vegan dog food

Freshly made vegan dog foods launching in the UK

heart We are DoGood is an independent UK-owned business producing the first freshly made vegan dog food in the UK! We are so impressed with the owner Steve Hutchins who has managed to fund the company on his own and start it from scratch whilst ensuring that the food is 100% balanced with tasty superfoods as well as having plant-based Vit D3. Definitely worth supporting if you cannot find the time to homecook!

algae oil

The developments continue with plant-based feeding in our dogs!

heart As developments progress rapidly in human nutrition, so too are we seeing such rapid developments with supplementing homemade wholefood plant-based dog food diets. As we now know, dogs definitely need supplementing with Taurine and L-Carnitine for heart health, Zinc and Vit B12 for skin health, Methionine for urinary tract health, Vit D3 for correct absorption of Calcium as well as a healthy immunity; and Omega 3’s that are vital in the body and needed for stabilising all cell membranes, making hormones and acting as potent anti-inflammatories throughout the body. They are of even more importance in our elderly pets with their often painful swollen joints who need that extra natural help with the best type of anti-inflammatory there is – EPA & DHA found in its purest form in Algae oil

It was previously thought that when homecooking for your dog, the best source of Omega 3 was to be found in seeds such as flaxseeds or chia seeds. These seeds contain the less potent form of Omega 3 ALA. ALA needs to be converted to purer DHA to be effective, and this conversion does not happen well in our pets so they do not obtain the necessary amount of DHA using only flaxseeds. The purest and most effective forms for both us and our pets is Omega 3 from Algae oil – and they like the ‘umami’ flavour of these capsules!

See what we recommend as the most effective Omega 3 Algae oil available in the UK for your pet.

 

labrador licking lips

More published papers supporting plant-based feeding in our dogs!

heartProf Andrew Knight has published proof in June 2021 for the very first time, proving that a vegan diet is as palatable to our dogs as meat-based or even raw meat-based foods!

The palatability of a plant-based diet is such a huge consideration for us as dog owners as the feeding of our pets is such an emotional decision based on the love we have for our pets balanced with a need to ensure that we are feeding them correctly.

We have to commend Prof Andrew Knight for this extensive study, by far the largest of its kind, that surveyed 4,060 dog and cat owners with the following results:

– Plant-based pet foods appear to be enjoyed as much as meat-based diets.
– Study shows no difference for animals between plant-based and meat-based diets.
– Plant-based pet foods do not compromise animal welfare, provided other determinants of welfare, such as nutritional requirements, are adequately provided.
 
“This is truly groundbreaking. It has long been believed that cats and dogs need to eat other animals for their own health, but what they really need is the right nutrients, which can be manufactured using plant-based, yeast, synthetic and mineral sources. This study shows that cats and dogs appear equally happy when fed vegan meals. We’ve become accustomed to buying meat-based pet food by default – it’s become a habit – but we know now that it’s not a necessity.” says Jimmy Pierson, Director, ProVeg UK.

Read the full article here proving that our dogs are as happy being fed a vegan diet as any other diet!  – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0253292

 

*With all this recent development, the choice now to feed your dog plant-based is looking VERY promising for the future!*

just be kind vegan dogs
Never use the word VEGAN!

Never use the word VEGAN!

Only by convincing vets that it is the way forward, will we together have any success as plant-based feeders of ensuring that it becomes a very viable and superior option to feeding our dogs

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