Pea protein dog food kept pets healthy during yearlong study – PetfoodIndustry.com

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After a year of eating a particular brand of plant-based dog food, made with pea-protein, a group of dogs was healthy with no signs of amino acid deficiencies or heart problems. What’s more, eating a plant-based diet may have corrected a vitamin D deficiency.

“In this study, we confirm that clinically healthy adult dogs maintain health when fed a nutritionally complete, commercially available, plant-based diet with pea protein as a main ingredient over a twelve-month period…,” a group of scientists from the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California and the University of California – Berkeley wrote in PLOS ONE.  “To our knowledge, this is the longest clinical feeding trial evaluating a nutritionally complete plant-based diet in companion dogs.”

Plant-based pet food protein

Plant-based pet foods appeal to people for primarily ethical reasons. Vegan and vegetarian pet owners seek to manifest their consumption convictions in their pets’ food too. Pet owners concerned about sustainability look for plant-based proteins in dog and cat foods, citing crops’ lower resource use and pollution production compared to livestock. However, dog, cat and other pet owners may put aside ethical concerns if they don’t know plant-based pet foods are nutritionally balanced and healthy. Even more so, pet owners want to know that plant-based ingredients are safe, especially following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation.

In July 2018, the FDA publicly announced the agency’s investigation into correlations between dog foods and DCM. Federal authorities examined reports of DCM in dogs eating certain diets labeled as grain-free, including some containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. However, the investigation was inconclusive. In Dec. 2022, the FDA stated it had insufficient data to establish causality among DCM case reports and pet food products eaten by afflicted dogs.

“The ability to ensure individuals maintain health on non-animal-based food sources is a key component of the ongoing societal shift towards sustainable and more equitable food systems in a global health context,” she wrote.

Popular beliefs about plant-based ingredient nutrition may discourage people from choosing those diets for their pets.

“The common view that plant proteins are incomplete and inferior to animal proteins is a fallacy from a nutrition science perspective since protein from non-animal sources provides sufficient essential amino acids to maintain health,” they wrote.

Research on pea protein in dog food

A growing body of empirical evidence supports the potential for plant-based proteins to provide all the amino acids that dogs and cats need.  The California-based researchers added to that knowledge by conducting a year-long study on the effects of feeding pea-protein-based dog food to pets living in homes in the United States.

Their study included fifteen clinically healthy adult dogs living in households in Los Angeles County, California. The dogs ate Kind Kibble from V-Dog. The scientists evaluated clinical, hematological and nutritional parameters in dogs at 0, 6, and 12 months. The evaluations measured complete blood count, blood chemistry, cardiac biomarkers, plasma amino acids and serum vitamin concentrations.

Throughout the study period, the dogs maintained their health based on these evaluations. Plant-based dog foods provide pets with all essential amino acids, while maintaining L-taurine (plasma) and L-carnitine (serum) levels. What’s more, eating a plant-based diet may have addressed a nutritional deficiency.

“Almost half (7 of 15) of the dogs presented with insufficient levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D at baseline,” the researchers wrote. “In contrast, we found that vitamin D levels normalized in most dogs at six months (6 of 7 vitamin D insufficient dogs), and all dogs at 12 months, which was achieved with [plant-based, dog food] alone and without supplement use.”

Proteins from plants can serve as nutritious dog food ingredients that meet pets’ needs equally to animal-based ingredients.

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