People who avoid eating animals tend to share their homes with animal companions, and moral dilemma may arise when they are faced with feeding animal products to their omnivorous dogs and carnivorous cats. One option to alleviate this conflict is to feed pets a diet devoid of animal ingredients-a ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ diet. The number of pet owners who avoid animal products, either in their own or in their pets’ diet, is not currently known. The objective of this study was to estimate the number of meat-avoiding pet owners, identify concerns regarding conventional animal- and plant-based pet food, and estimate the number of pets fed a plant-based diet.
A questionnaire was disseminated online to English-speaking pet owners (n = 3,673) to collect data regarding pet owner demographics, diet, pet type, pet diet, and concerns regarding pet foods. Results found that pet owners were more likely to be vegetarian (6.2 per cent; 229/3,673) or vegan (5.8 per cent; 212/3,673) than previously reported for members of the general population. With the exception of one dog owned by a vegetarian, vegans were the only pet owners who fed plant-based diets to their pets (1.6 per cent; 59/3,673). Of the pet owners who did not currently feed plant-based diets but expressed interest in doing so, a large proportion (45 per cent; 269/599) desired more information demonstrating the nutritional adequacy of plant-based diets. Amongst all pet owners, the concern most commonly reported regarding meat-based pet foods was for the welfare of farm animals (39 per cent; 1,275/3,231). The most common concern regarding strictly plant-based pet foods was regarding the nutritional completeness of the diet (74 per cent; 2,439/3,318). Amongst vegans, factors which predicted the feeding of plant-based diets to their pets were concern regarding the cost of plant-based diets, a lack of concern regarding plant-based diets being unnatural, and reporting no concern at all regarding plant-based diets for pets. Given these findings, further research is warranted to investigate plant-based nutrition for domestic dogs and cats.
The study is from the Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, and the Department of Animal Biosciences , University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada; School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and Petcurean Pet Nutrition, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.
Dodd SAS, Cave NJ, Adolphe JL, et al. PLoS One 2019;14(1):e0210806. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210806.