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Unconventional feeding methods in dogs and cats
Mæhlum Benedicte - year 6
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department Animal Breeding, Nutrition and Laboratory Animal Science
Supervisor: Nikoletta Hetenyi

Abstract:

The goal of this thesis was to investigate owners’ motivation behind their current feeding regime, mainly behind the decision of using meat based or plant-based diets, as these diets are becoming more popular. Another important factor was to investigate which sources owners used to gain information about the their current applied diet.

An online survey which consisted of 42 questions was made and published in multiple Facebook groups associated with raw feeding; (“Raw food diets for dogs and cats” with 2500 members), plant-based diets (“vegan dog food” with 19 000 members) and a Norwegian hunting dog group (“Beagle Norge” with 5200 members). The data were collected in the fall of 2021.

Eighty-five responses were collected for the dog survey. The majority of respondent (69.4%) said that nutrition played a very important role in the dog’s health. A statement were given for the owners to evaluate their own perception on how well informed they found themselves in relation to their pet’s nutrition, most of them (87.4%) agreed “somewhat” or “strongly”. The general trust towards veterinarians were questioned next, owners trusted the advice of veterinarians “very much” (64.7%) and “somewhat” (32.9%) only few people said, “not very much” (2.4%). On the contrary the trust with respect to the dog’s nutrition decreased dramatically: “very much” (46.9%) and “somewhat” (38.3%), “not very much” (7.4%) and “a little” (7.4%). In almost 60% of the cases the veterinarian approved the dog’s diet, however the topic of nutrition were not frequently discussed.

Thirty-four owners applied some form of raw feeding method, three of them combined it with other diets (e.g.: raw feeding was used only during hunting season) and two used plant-based diets alone. Internet was the main source of information concerning the applied feeding method, followed by other pet owners, family, friends, and breeders. The dogs’ current diet was mostly established with the help of breeders, friends, and family. The role of veterinarians was less relevant in these questions. The most important reason behind choosing a raw diet was to “improve skin and coat” and it was considered to be a “more natural” diet. Respondents were relatively aware of the risks of raw feeding such as bacterial infections and gastrointestinal problems. However, dental problems and nutritional deficiencies were only mentioned by the minority. Almost 60% of respondents handled the dog’s food in the same place but with different instruments than human food. Cats’ questionnaire was filled out only by 8 owners and one of them applied raw feeding. It would be very important to increase the owners’ trust in veterinarians regarding pets’ nutrition. Education of owners in relation to the risk of alternative feeding methods should also be emphasized.



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