Plant-based protein dog food rivals meat in minerals

As plant-based proteins have grown in popularity in human diets, so too have they grown as a pet food trend.

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photo by rodho | Bigstock.com
photo by rodho | Bigstock.com

Plant-based protein may rival meat when it comes to providing minerals, like calcium, in dog food. Scientists used dog foods made with plant- versus animal-based protein sources to evaluate the digestion of phosphorus, iron and other mineral nutrients that dogs need in a healthy diet.

“The apparent digestibility suggests that vegetable and legume sources (e.g. soybean) are just as effective at delivering nutrients to the animal as animal ingredient sources are,” Kate Shoveller, PhD, assistant professor of animal biosciences at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, told Petfood Industry.

“These results, combined with further study, could help determine whether ingredients can provide most, if not all of the minerals these animals require, which could greatly reduce the need for additional supplementation in the diet,” she said.

Mineral digestibility in dog food experiment

Eight Beagles were fed one of four diets for 10 days, then cycled through each of the other diets for 10 days, as well. Two of the diets got their protein mostly from fresh beef, fresh chicken and fish. The other two contained plant-based protein sources: corn gluten meal, green and yellow peas, and soybean meal.

Researchers examined the Beagles’ feces from the sixth to the tenth day of the experiment. They calculated how much of the minerals in the dog foods had been digested and determined apparent and true digestibility for each of the four diets.

“The study did show both diets were highly digestible and that dogs that were fed vegetable-based diets had greater digestibility of calcium and phosphorus,” Shoveller said. “However, those two minerals were also lower in vegetable diets and may also have contributed to these differences. Digestibility is not simple and is controlled by various factors.”

The results of the plant-based protein dog food study were presented at the Annual Meetings of the American and Canadian Societies of Animal Sciences. The abstract was published by the Journal of Animal Science

Growing popularity of plant-based protein in dog food

As plant-based proteins have grown in popularity in human diets, so too have they grown as a pet food trend, for many of the same reasons.

“Animal protein tends to more expensive than vegetable protein sources and being able to include vegetable protein sources into the diet at a higher inclusion could help reduce costs and improve overall sustainability,” said Shoveller.

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