Bramble’s Vegan Dog Food Trial. Here’s What Happened.

April 16, 2023

Why We Wanted to Prove It’s Healthier to Feed Bramble’s Vegan Dog Food

Even though it is well-settled that dogs are omnivores, there is still controversy surrounding feeding dogs a plant-based diet. Many people complain that we shouldn’t impose our moral beliefs onto our pets by forcing a vegan diet. That dogs wouldn’t choose plants over animal products. At a minimum, pet parents wonder whether vegan dog food is as healthy as meat-based diets are for their beloved fur family’s overall well-being.

Bramble was started by a dog mom, Amanda, who had these very same concerns and questions! Anyone who follows a plant-based diet is used to encountering the most common, albeit misguided, question: “But where do you get your protein?” While it’s well understood that a plant-based diet will not lead to protein deficiency in humans, when it came to her own fur kids, such concerns nonetheless surfaced for Amanda. Even though dogs are biologically omnivores, and get all of their essential nutrients from a carefully balanced plant-based dog food, can they really thrive on a plant-based diet? Putting aside the whole omnivore vs. carnivore debate, do they need meat — are animal products better for dogs? Truth be told, if feeding her fur kids plant-based dog food would compromise their health and longevity, Amanda would not do it. Like many pet parents, she dug into the available information.

Research showed that dogs can do really well on a carefully designed vegan diet that meets all of their nutritional needs. Indeed, one more recent study revealed that dogs fed a vegan diet outlive dogs fed other commercial pet food by an average 18 months. But even with more and more studies about the positive health benefits of feeding a vegan diet to dogs, something was noticeably missing: The digestibility — meaning how many nutrients are actually absorbed by the body — of a commercial vegan dog food had never been studied. When literally put under a microscope, could a plant-based vegan pet food compete, let alone outperform, a pet food made of animal products? Including, let’s be honest, taste?

Understanding first-hand the education and scientific data that would be needed for pet parents to consider feeding — and for veterinarians to consider recommending — Bramble’s vegan dog food, we decided a thorough feeding trial was a necessary and important step to widespread consumer acceptance. To conduct Bramble’s groundbreaking feeding trial, we turned to one of the most highly regarded study facilities, the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois. Dr. Kelly Swanson and his team tested Bramble’s recipes against a leading, “premium” chicken-based kibble. They fed the plant-based diets to dogs for three weeks and sampled the dogs’ blood chemistry, fecal quality, and microbiome. The trial measured all of the same blood and serum biomarkers as an AAFCO feeding trial would. Notably, Bramble’s trial used 11 dogs, whereas a standard AAFCO trial uses only 8 dogs. The peer-reviewed results were published in the Journal of Animal Science.

Takeaways From Bramble’s Feeding Trial:

  • The digestibility of Bramble’s plant-based protein was just as high as the chicken, proving that animal products are not “better” protein
  • The digestibility of Bramble’s high-quality fat was even higher (94%) and characteristic of gently cooked (meaning, non-dry/non-kibble), human-grade pet food
  • Dogs fed Bramble’s vegan diet had lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which is a huge benefit for overall well-being and maintaining a healthy weight
  • The Bramble dogs showed healthier microbiomes making Bramble a scientifically proven gut-healthy food
  • Bramble meets — and exceeds! — the standards set by AAFCO for “complete and balanced” nutrition for adult dogs.
  • Most importantly, the dogs loved it!

Bramble’s Plant-Based Protein is as Highly Digestible as Animal Protein

Formulated by veterinary nutritionists, Bramble’s vegan pet food itself was studied. Bramble’s meaty-texture comes from non-gmo pea protein. The rest of the vegan recipe is made up of human-grade, whole foods, such as garbanzo beans, lentils, sweet potato, brown rice, and antioxidant-rich superfoods, such as carrots and blueberries. All of Bramble’s whole food ingredients serve a nutritional, not filler, purpose. Calcium and taurine, among other minerals and vitamins are added. The food is gently cooked, not processed at high-heat temperatures like dry food or wet food, and then frozen for delivery without any preservatives. The trial team confirmed that Bramble’s vegan dog food met the standards set by AAFCO for “complete and balanced” nutrition for adult dogs. (The chicken-based dry food diet also met AAFCO standards.)

As for taste, all 11 of the dogs loved both recipes, happily devouring Bramble throughout the trial.

We all know that a dog’s stool is one of the best indications of overall well-being. Before Bramble’s feeding trial, the digestibility of a commercial vegan dog food had never been studied. Like other vegan dog food brands, Bramble is a high-protein pet food. But critics of vegan pet food have correctly pointed out that protein quantity is less important than high-quality protein, which is the amino acid profile. High-quality protein refers to its bioavailability and digestibility — meaning, how many nutrients are absorbed by the body. The trial’s analysis revealed that all essential amino acids in both of Bramble’s plant-based recipes not only well exceeded AAFCO recommendations (high quantity), but also were highly digestible (above 80%, which is very high quality). This counters the concern that animal protein is “better” than plant-based protein, because, even with a high fiber content, the quality and bioavailability of Bramble’s plant-based protein is just as high as the chicken-based pet food. And Bramble’s high-quality fat was 94% digestible, which is very high — even higher than the chicken-based recipe — and characteristic of a gently cooked, human-grade diet.

Dogs Fed Bramble Had Lower Cholesterol and Healthier Microbiomes

The standard American diet has led to health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Whereas plant-based diets have been connected to improving health outcomes. The USDA has even admitted that people who eat more plant-based foods tend to have “lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality.” With the humanizing of pets, people tend to feed their pets with (or without) the same health concerns they have with respect to their own diet. Unsurprisingly, dogs are experiencing a very similar range of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer, which can largely be linked to the predominance of low-quality, highly processed processed pet food.

Bramble’s feeding trial yielded even more impressive and promising results that could have a great impact on a dog’s health. Dr. Swanson and his team were surprised to find certain blood metabolites – chemicals in the blood that can indicate health status – differed between the vegan diets and the chicken-based diet. Notably, blood triglycerides and cholesterol, measures of circulating fats, were significantly lower in dogs fed the vegan diets. While this result had been seen with other fresh pet food diets, it had never been seen to this extent and never this consistently. In light of these statistics, Swanson says that Bramble could help maintain a healthy weight and particularly benefit overweight pets.

Even the Bramble dogs’ fecal quality was impressive! Fecal metabolites are organic acids that benefit dogs by providing energy, regulating intestines, and reducing inflammation. In prior studies that had examined human-grade, fresh (non-vegan) diet versus dry-food diets, there was no difference in these fecal metabolites. But here, Bramble dogs had higher concentrations of these beneficial metabolites, which suggest that the fiber in Bramble’s lentils, chickpeas, and peas were more fermentable than the fiber in the grains, tomato pomace, chicory root and pea fiber present in the kibble diet.

When humans eat an animal or plant-based diets, there is a noticeable effect on our microbiomes. As it turns out, the same was seen here! The Bramble dogs’ had healthier microbiomes, making Bramble an extremely gut-healthy diet. Bramble’s vegan recipes increased short chain fatty acids, which feed gut cells, so this is a really beneficial change that promotes digestive health and well-being. Another way of understanding this positive outcome is to remember that adding prebiotics to a dog’s diet has become popular recently as a way to improve gut health. Whereas Bramble’s plant-based diet naturally supports gut health without the need for adding (and paying for) such supplements.

We Feed Bramble Because It’s Healthier

Vegan dog food is gaining popularity, but skepticism remains. We think validly, as we understand that a vegan dog food recipe is harder to get right. One of the most common questions asked is whether we feed Bramble because of moral conviction or for health reasons. The answer: Bramble’s plant-based pet food is healthier.

This first-ever study showed that, when carefully and properly formulated, a gently-cooked, human-grade plant-based pet food can actually outperform an animal-based pet food. Bramble is highly palatable (tasty!), highly digestible (high-quality protein and fat!), and achieved all the utmost-desired measures of health and well-being (basically, blood markers, fatty acids and poop!). Even more importantly, Bramble dogs had lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Finally, Bramble proved to be a gut-healthy diet, leading to healthier microbiomes without having to add supplements to your fur kid’s pet food.

Even making small choices, like feeding Bramble in part alongside another pet food that might contain animal products, could make a difference. In a country where dogs are suffering from the same diet-linked health conditions as their humans, incorporating a heart-healthy, plant-based diet could have great outcomes on maintaining healthier weights, improving gut health, and your overall dog’s health. If you’re considering removing animal products, even just in part, from your dog’s diet, Bramble is a scientifically-proven healthy and deliriously delicious veggie choice!

You can try Bramble’s recipes here!