Plant-based (Vegan) Diets for Pets: A Survey of Pet Owner Attitudes and Feeding Practices

PLoS One. 2019 Jan 15;14(1):e0210806. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210806. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

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%; 229/3,673) or vegan (5.8%; 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%; 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%; 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%; 1,275/3,231). The most common concern regarding strictly plant-based pet foods was regarding the nutritional completeness of the diet (74%; 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Attitude
  • Cats
  • Diet / psychology
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Diet, Vegan / psychology
  • Diet, Vegan / veterinary*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Ownership
  • Pets* / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grant support

One of the authors, Dr. Jennifer Adolphe, is employed by the commercial company Petcurean Pet Nutrition. Petcurean Pet Nutrition also provided financial support for the MSc stipend for the primary author, Dr. Sarah Dodd, in association with the Mitacs Accelerate program. The funder provided support in the form of salaries for Dr. Adolphe and partial support for Dr. Dodd, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Indeed, study design, data collection and analysis had all been performed prior to Dr. Adolphe’s inclusion in the project and prior to Dr. Dodd’s Mitacs Accelerate award (IT10206). The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.