“Overall we concluded that the puppies being fed the Tuggs insect protein diet had a better body condition score than those being fed a raw diet.”

In order to assert the nutritional value of Tuggs’ insect-based dog food, Tuggs worked with Mordor Gundogs, the renowned gundog breeder in Perthshire, to trial our insect-based dog food against premium raw dog food. We enrolled veterinary students from the University of Glasgow to run the trials. Overall, we wanted to test whether puppies would put on the same weight as other puppies fed premium raw dog food (to discern the digestibility of our insect-based food), and examine their energy levels, stools and overall body condition. We ran similar tests for other working dogs.

We were very lucky to be able to run these trials on almost genetically-identical puppies: the puppies’ mothers (Daffy and Wussy) were sisters and the puppies had the same father. Wussy’s puppies were fed raw dog food, whilst Daffy’s puppies were fed Tuggs’ insect dog food.

glasgow uni puppies
Puppies being weighed

Over the course of 3 months, both sets of puppies were fed the same number of calories per day and weighed every two days. At the end of the trial, it was concluded that both sets of puppies put on the same weight and that “overall the puppies being fed the insect protein diet had a better body condition score than those being fed a raw diet”.

We were also very grateful that Dr Sheldon Steinmetz, a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as well as a graduate from the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine in 1987 who holds an M.S. in Nutrition from the University of Florida, was able to observe part of our trial.

“I visited Mordor Gundogs in the summer of 2022 for 10 days where I inspected the young puppies who were trialing Tuggs insect-based food. I observed two litters of Labrador puppies approximately the same age who shared the same father and had mothers who were closely related. This was advantageous as the puppies were therefore genetically very similar meaning strong conclusions could be drawn by comparing the progress of each litter.

There was a clear difference in size and condition between the puppies who were fed Tuggs and the other litter being fed raw.

I would say that the other big advantage of Tuggs cooked diet over raw is that a raw diet always carries risks of E.coli and salmonella (chicken-based) amongst other bacteria. By gently cooking their meals, Tuggs removes this risk without compromising the nutritional value of the food.

Overall my conclusion is that I can see an upside to feeding Tuggs over both a raw diet and also a dry processed diet.

glasgow uni trial
Puppies being weighed as they grew
puppies eating
Puppies eating Tuggs

The main conclusions by the students were as follows:

Observations taken by:

Bryant J. Maloney, Veterinary Student, BVMS 1, University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, B.S. Animal and Veterinary Sciences Minor in Biological Sciences Clemson University

Brooke G. Webber, Veterinary Student, BVMS 1, University of Glasgow, School of Veterinary Medicine, Bachelor of Science in Animal Science Washington State University

Many observations were made while conducting a food trial attempting to compare a diet containing a portion of insect-based protein to a raw meat diet in puppies. The diet containing the insect protein (Black Soldier Fly larvae) was fully cooked and was, therefore, easier and safer to handle. A fully cooked diet contains fewer bacteria and is less likely to grow unsafe amounts of bacteria compared to a raw diet. The insect diet also proved to defrost from frozen quicker than the frozen raw meat packages. Additionally, the raw meat diet smelled considerably worse than the insect diet, although this is a subjective observation.

Both diets proved to be extremely palatable as each respective litter showed high amounts of interest in the diet provided.

The litter being provided the insect diet generally seemed to produce larger amounts of faeces day-to-day, despite having a smaller litter size (6 compared to 8 in the litter being provided raw meat). Inspection of the faeces led to the discovery of rock and/or grass-eating habits in both litters. However, the litter eating raw meat showed more evidence of grass eating compared to those eating the insect diet, and the litter eating the insect diet showed more evidence of rock-eating compared to those eating the raw meat diet. Perhaps this can be attributed to the litters being held in slightly different environments (the litters were kept in separate paddocks) or possibly it is evidence of each diet lacking a vital nutrient(s) the puppies were trying to obtain through the grass and/or rock-eating. Neither litters displayed any obvious signs of gastrointestinal upset.

Overall we concluded that the puppies being fed the insect protein diet had a better body condition score than those being fed a raw diet. Although, this could be attributed to the fact that the two litters were fed different amounts per head of each diet. The litter fed the raw meat diet was given 920 grams per head per day, while the insect protein diet puppies were fed 933 grams per head per day as of June 17th. We were originally feeding the raw meat diet puppies at 5% of their total body weight, to begin with, however, due to the puppies being housed outdoors in Scotland (cold weather), we decided to up their food to closer to around 9% of their body weight by June 17th. We did this because it is best to feed dogs by monitoring their body condition in the environment they are in. However, if this study were to be done again we would want to compare the nutrient compositions of each diet, specifically looking at the protein and fat compositions to determine exactly how much food to feed per day while also adjusting the amount of diet by monitoring body condition score; to ultimately be feeding equal amounts of protein of each diet (insect protein-based vs raw meat diet).

Whilst we will continue our research and compare Tuggs against some of the leading dog foods in the UK, we are delighted with the results of our initial trial and have further stories to follow.

Interested in joining the Tuggs ruffolution? Head to www.tuggs.uk/create-plan.

Whilst raw vegetables are difficult for dogs to digest, cooked vegetables can provide many health benefits for dogs. In moderation, cooked carrots, courgette (zucchini), and potatoes can all provide benefits for your dog’s diet. Here are a few advantages of the vegetables that we include in Tuggs’ meals:

Better eye health: Beta-carotene, a plant pigment that the body transforms into vitamin A, is a great source of nutrition found in carrots. Vitamin A is crucial for keeping good vision and can guard against issues with vision like cataracts and night blindness. Along with other vital elements like vitamin C, potassium, and folate, courgette is a good source of vitamin A as well.

Stronger immune system: Carrots, courgettes, and potatoes all include vitamins and minerals that can help strengthen the immune system and provide protection from infections and disorders. A healthy immune system requires vitamin A, as was previously indicated, and courgettes are an excellent source of vitamin C, which can boost the immune system. Vitamin B6, which is essential for immune health, is found in potatoes.

Healthy teeth and gums: Carrots and courgettes’ crunchy texture can aid in removing plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth, fostering proper oral hygiene and reducing dental issues. Potatoes can also aid in dental cleaning since their starch forms a film that adheres to the teeth and helps to eliminate plaque.

Improved digestion: Soluble fibre, which is found in potatoes, carrots, and courgettes, can aid in better digestion and reduce constipation. These vegetables’ fibre content may also aid in bulking up the stool, which will facilitate smoother passage.

Weight control: Since all three of these veggies are low in calories and fat, they are a great option for dogs that are overweight or prone to gaining weight. They can make your dog feel full without adding extra calories by being added to their meal.

Cancer prevention: Foods high in antioxidants, such as potatoes, carrots, and courgettes, can help to shield the body’s cells from damage brought on by free radicals. By doing so, the risk of developing cancer and other degenerative diseases can be decreased.

Shiny coat: These vegetables’ vitamins and minerals will help your dog’s coat look and feel healthier. The carrot’s beta-carotene and the courgette’s vitamin C can make the coat appear lustrous and healthy.

Cooked potatoes, carrots, and courgettes are scrumptious and nourishing additions to a dog’s diet. They can support healthy teeth and gums, increase eye health, strengthen the immune system, enhance digestion, help with weight control, and even prevent cancer.

Interested in creating a plan with us? Head over to www.tuggs.uk/create-plan

The proposition to reduce reliance on livestock production invites the question as to the feasibility of utilising plant proteins as an alternative to, or alongside, insects. Recent research seems to suggest that plant-based diets are beneficial for our dogs and for the environment. Below, we look at the issues of plant-based diets for dogs as well as addressing the research into plant-based diets so far.

The issue of plant proteins is two-fold. Firstly with regards to the environmental impact. Familiar, and suitable, plant proteins are: chickpeas, lentils, soy beans, peanuts, and borlotti beans.

Many of these plants are not a good match for the UK climate; they require a long growing season whilst being unable to cope with frost.[1] Equally, most R&D in the UK has gone into harvesting low-protein cereals rather than legumes which would be required to make up the high protein content required in dog food; UK farms are not structured to manufacture the required plant proteins. Thus, utilising plant protein would likely require the importation of dried plant protein powder which has a lower nutritional value than fresh produce. The most feasible plant protein to be used as a replacement would be soy protein. However, the environmental implications of farming soy are worrisome: one metre-squared of land can produce up to 0.5kg of soy feed per year. Insect farms can produce up to 750kg of feed using the same size of land.[2] Importing plant proteins from halfway around the world could compromise much of the carbon emissions gained from eradicating livestock.

The second issue, perhaps somewhat more pertinent, is the nutritional concerns of plant proteins in dog food.

The nutritional problems with plant protein starts with the fact that most are incomplete, meaning that it can be difficult to get sufficient amounts of essential amino acids in a plant-based meal.[3] Equally, plant-proteins have relatively low digestibility compared to animal proteins[4] meaning that in some cases, even if a dog is fed a much higher volume of plant protein, it would still not receive all the amino acids that it requires.[5] Equally, whilst some plant oils do contain omega-3 fatty acids, they tend to be in the form of ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) which dogs cannot convert to a usable form of omega-3.[6]

One study analysing the nutritional effects on dogs fed a vegetarian diet found that[7]:

1. Protein intake was inadequate for more than half of the dogs

2. Calcium requirements were not met in 62% of the dogs

3. Phosphorus requirements were not met in approximately half the dogs

4. 73% of dogs had an insufficient intake of sodium

5. 56% of dogs were not receiving sufficient vitamin B12

Therefore one would conclude that there are some dangers of advocating for a meat-free diet as the potential nutritional deficiencies need to be considered.

Nonetheless, a recent study on “Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Dogs” argues that dogs maintained on a vegetarian diet may be healthy if the diets are nutritionally complete and reasonable balanced.[8] A further study analysed the protein digestibility of certain plants in dog food and found certain plant proteins including soy, corn and rice to be highly digestible by dogs.[9] Most recently, an research that was covered by the Guardian claimed that vegan diets are better for our dogs.[10]

However, it should be noted that the first study, the dogs had only been fed a vegan diet for around 2-4 years, with nutritional values compared to that of dogs fed commercial dry dog food diets. Firstly, a study would need to be undertaken over a lifetime to conclude whether such a diet leads to health issues later in life. Secondly, commercial dry dog food does not provide a good comparison given the nutritional issues related to this type of food in the first place. Commercial dry dog food is void of fresh nutrition and tends to be inappropriately balanced with macronutrients. The manufacturing of this type of food can lead to cancer in dogs.[11]

In the second study, although the protein digestibility was shown to be adequate, the study does not discuss the effect of feeding dogs plant-based foods on digestion as a whole, but rather as a concentrated protein source. In fact, the study notes that “it is not possible to describe the “healthiness” of a food based on only a knowledge of protein concentration and protein digestibility”. Equally, there is no consideration of supplements that would be required to ensure that a dog meets its nutritional requirements in the form of complete amino acids and the study concludes that “[plant proteins] provide a satisfactory source for the complementation of animal protein ingredients in meeting the amino acid needs of pets” rather than being the sole source of protein for canines. Therefore, whilst promising in the fact that there are alternatives that can, indeed, be of use to dogs, one must appreciate the importance of balancing the benefits of reducing livestock consumption with that of the dog’s nutritional requirements; so far, the evidence seems to suggest that plants do not offer a payoff worth taking.

With regards to the study covered by The Guardian, the study tracked 2500 dogs over the course of a year and based the conclusion on how many times the dogs went to the vet and other health-related issues. However, an incredibly weak point of this study is the sample size – only 13% of the dogs studied were on a vegan diet with 54% on a ‘conventional meat’ diet and 33% on a raw diet. Interestingly, the dogs fed the raw diet were found to be healthier than dogs fed vegan food, with the study noting that dogs fed raw food were younger which, they stated, may have offset the results. There is no mention of how the unbalanced sample sized could have influenced the results. It is also unclear what a ‘conventional meat’ diet consists of, considering there are significant problems plaguing the dog food industry of cheap, processed, dry dog foods causing a myriad of health issues. Could it be that, in fact, the conclusion to be drawn is that processed food, full of cheap fillers, is causing health issues, rather than the fact that vegan food might be better for dogs? The article is misleading in that it does not highlight issues of sample sizes or the fact that most foods would prove better for dogs when compared to poor-quality, processed kibble.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that a growing body of population studies and case reports have indicated that cats and dogs maintained on vegetarian diets may be healthy, and this is something that Tuggs will keep an open mind to in our research. What is vital is that such diets need to be fresh as well as nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced, which is the real issue of this topic.

Furthermore, arguably of most importance is the quality of the food, especially in line with findings on how unhealthy current commercial dog foods can be. Tuggs stands for fresh food for dogs to help dogs thrive, and not just survive, without sacrificing the planet.

[1] Kew.org. 2021. Plant proteins: Can they grow in the UK? | Kew. [online] Available at: <https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/plant-proteins-grow-uk> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

[2] Better Origin | Fixing the food chain. 2021. The Black Soldier Fly: everything you need to know.. [online] Available at: <https://betterorigin.co.uk/2021/05/black-soldier-fly-guide/> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

[3] Healthine, “Are ‘incomplete’ proteins a myth?”. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/incomplete-protein#vegetarian-and-vegan-diet

[4] Wang, T et al, A review on plant-based proteins from soybean: Health benefits and soy product development, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666154321001678

[5] Olson, Lew. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. North Atlantic Books (2015) page 22

[6] Ibid page 34

[7] Ibid page 165

[8] NCBI. 2016. Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5035952/> [Accessed 22 July 2021].

[9] NCBI. 2020. Cats Have Increased Protein Digestibility as Compared to Dogs and Improve Their Ability to Absorb Protein as Dietary Protein Intake Shifts from Animal to Plant Sources. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7143243/> [Accessed 22 July 2021].

[10] The Guardian, “Like a dog with a bean … vegan diets found to aid canine health”, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/apr/13/vegan-diets-are-healthier-and-safer-for-dogs-study-suggests

[11] National Cancer Institute. 2021. Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. [online] Available: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet

Tuggs has a secret super power – insects!

Why do we include insects?

The UN estimates that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on the planet and, in order to feed this exponentially growing population, more food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than has been produced in the entirety of human history.[1] However, with the shrinking availability of crop-bearing arable land combined with forecasted water shortages, humans will be unable to produce the volume of livestock required to feed the world unless alternative, sustainable protein sources are utilised. With this in mind, insects have become a leading contender in the future of food production. Livestock production accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gases[2], but insects are a sustainable source of protein with a carbon footprint 4% that of beef.[3] Additionally, insects use 95% less land than beef and 94% less water for the same output of protein, permitting a much more effective means of food production.[4] As a result, insect-based products are being slowly integrated into western society as an alternative, sustainable food source.

So what type of insect did we research?

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

The black soldier fly (BSF). Black soldier fly larvae contains up to 50% of high-quality protein, as well as necessary vitamins, fats, and all essential amino acids required to form a complete canine diet. They are also rich in antimicrobial, medium-chain fatty acids which have proven gut health benefits.

BSF has also been shown to have antioxidant properties.[5] A research paper studying BSF’s potential health benefits in 2020 noted that BSF protein derivatives were effective in protecting animal cells from oxidative damage – oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins and DNA and subsequently can play a role in the development of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.[6]

Are insects actually suitable for dogs though?

One concern that is often targeted at insect-based foods is the digestibility of the protein and nutrients, with an argument that there may be a health trade-off by substituting traditional meats for insect protein in the diet. A 2016 study which looked at the In vitro digestibility and fermentability of black soldier fly in dog food concluded that the “in vitro digestibility of amino acids of selected insect larvae was high” with levels similar to that of traditional meats.[7] Further research has concluded similarly, with a 2021 research paper concluding that “the digestibility analysis of a dog food containing insect meal as the sole source of protein (36.5% inclusion) showed promising results in terms of it presenting similar values as a meat-based diet, indicating its suitability as a sustainable protein source for pet food.”[8] Therefore, one can conclude that there are little health concerns regarding the digestibility of insect protein, with a permissible argument that insect protein is akin to traditional meats in this regard.

A 2015 study researched whether “edible insects [are] more or less ‘healthy’ than commonly consumed meats”, concluding that insects and meat do not show significant divergence in nutritional composition and that there is no health-related trade-off in promoting insect foods over meat.[9] In fact, in 2019 The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said that some insect-based foods may be better for pets than prime steak.[10]

Therefore, the team at Tuggs reached the conclusion that insects offer an innovative solution to reducing livestock production whilst including a novel protein that offers them the same nutritional benefits without compromising on any of the benefits of meat. We include 10-20% insect in our meals in order to meet these goals and in line with the research we have to date. This research lead to us working with Glasgow University students and comparing Tuggs freshly-cooked dog food to raw dog food, with incredible results. Read more about that research here.

[1] Roser, M. and Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2000). World Population Growth. [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth.

[2] The Guardian. 2021. EU’s Farm Animals ‘Produce More Emissions Than Cars And Vans Combined’. [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/22/eu-farm-animals-produce-more-emissions-than-cars-and-vans-combined-greenpeace> [Accessed 16 January 2021].

[3] van Huis, A. and al, E., 2013. Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,. Page 59

[4] Baker, A., 2021. Is Insect Protein The Future Of Pet Food?. [online] Mintel. Available at: <https://www.mintel.com/blog/food-market-news/is-insect-protein-the-future-of-pet-food> [Accessed 16 January 2021].

[5] Franck, T., 2020. Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) Larvae Protein Derivatives: Potential to Promote Animal Health. [online] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/6/941. Available at: <https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/6/941> [Accessed 12 July 2021].

[6] Medicalnewstoday.com. 2021. What is oxidative stress? Effects on the body and how to reduce. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863#summary> [Accessed 12 July 2021].

[7] Boschaj, G., Vervoortb, J. and Hendriksac, H., 2016. In vitro digestibility and fermentability of selected insects for dog foods. [online] Science Direct. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0377840116305272> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

[8] Livio, P., 2021. In vivo and in vitro Digestibility of an Extruded Complete Dog Food Containing Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) Larvae Meal as Protein Source. [online] Frontiers In. Available at: <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.653411/full> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

[9] Payne, C., Scarborough, P., Rayner, M. and Nonaka, K., 2015. Are edible insects more or less ‘healthy’ than commonly consumed meats? A comparison using two nutrient profiling models developed to combat over- and undernutrition. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4781901/> [Accessed 20 July 2021].

[10] BBC, Harrabin, Roger. 2019. “Insect-based food ‘better for pets than top steak’”. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49450935


Transitioning your pup onto Tuggs should be done gradually, and our nutritionist has created the above guideline for you to follow.

We suggest that a small volume of Tuggs is mixed in with your dog’s current food, incrementally increasing the volume each day for 7 days. After a week, your pup should be fine to gobble down a whole portion of Tuggs!

It’s best to take things slowly to avoid an upset tummy, especially if you’re transitioning your pup from dry food. After day 3, if your pup’s poop is a bit runny, take things extra slow. It might take a bit of time, but it’ll be worth it when you see that wagging tail!