There are humans all across the world that choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially those who hold animals in high regard. There is evidence that human diets with little to no animal products might be better for the environment and could have some attractive health benefits. But does that mean that they can or should make their household pets vegan/vegetarian?

There are a lot of differing opinions on this very subject. The differing views are also widely varied between cats and dog lovers as well. Below we will take a look at what can happen if you decide to feed your furry friends a plant-based diet.

A recent study found a growing number of pet owners are feeding their dogs and cats vegetarian or vegan diets or would like to do so.

However, meat-free diets can potentially kill or sicken pets.(2)

We as human beings decide what to eat based on many different life factors, such as religious convictions, family upbringing, personal well-being, political views, ecological views, social gatherings, or strict dietary goals. For specific individuals, that continues into how they decide to take care of their household pets.

In one study, 100% of individuals who feed their cats or dogs a vegan/vegetarian diet, were also a vegan or a vegetarian themselves.(3)

Regardless of the straight forward nutritional information given to the pet owner, your personal views can, in fact, land you in hot water with the authorities for imposing this type of diet on your pet.

“In the UK, under the Animal Welfare Act the owner has the obligation to feed the animal an appropriate diet,” says Daniella Dos Santos, the president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) “If your belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet.”(1)

The way an animal’s teeth are shaped, as well as the overall length of its digestive tract, are perfect indicators of exactly what type of diet that specific creature requires for overall health and happiness. Plant eating creatures or herbivores like dairy animals and many farm animals have enormous flat teeth that they use to grind up their plant-based diet. They also have a very long digestive tract, which helps their body break down and absorb the nutrients from the plants they eat.

Felines of all types are carnivores, which means they are genuine meat-eaters that must consume flesh to survive. Meat furnishes felines, even your household cat with a primary amino acid called taurine; they are not able to make taurine themselves. They cannot obtain taurine from a vegan/vegetarian diet. They must obtain this amino acid from food, whether it’s beef, chicken, or fish, which are all excellent sources of taurine. Cats that are severely lacking in taurine are in grave danger of contracting a lethal heart condition. They can likewise become susceptible to certain eye and liver issues as well.

The overall evolution of the canine, aka man’s best friend, and their proximity to their human partners, began long ago. Because of this, even though dogs have carnivorous needs, they have developed some clever adaptions for living with humans and eating alongside their masters. Thus, dogs are considered omnivorous eaters, as they will consume both plants and animals.

That being said, dogs, despite being able to eat plants, need a compelling blend of both plant and animal food that offers a healthy dose of protein. Vegetarian/vegan canines can and do battle to process the high fiber of plant-based diets and are in danger of nutrient deficiencies. But dogs are also able to be given certain supplements if they are eating a diet higher in plant material to balance their diets and ward off any vitamin issues. In one study of vigorously exercising dogs, those eating a plant-based diet showed damage to their blood. The blood remained normal in meat-eating dogs.(2) And if allowed to continue, these types of diets can cause lasting and sometimes irreversible damage to your pet.

With that being said, you may ask, what about vegan manufactured pet food?

Even though plants and meat may contain comparative supplements, plant sources are not in every case effectively edible or have supplements in the right sums for these animals.

The short digestive tracts of both dogs and cats mean that plants are less edible than meat since pets have less time to separate the supplements they need as the food clears its path through their bodies much faster than that of an omnivorous eater. Subsequently, some plant proteins, such as the soybean, are not considered safe for your pet. Vegan manufactured pet food is currently readily available for your cat or dog, but whether it is entirely safe or truly nutritional remains to be seen. Independent analysis shows 25 percent of meat-free pet diets in the US have nutrient deficiencies despite claiming to be nutritionally complete.(2) Only consider or feed commercial diets that have gone through feeding trials and meet the requirements for AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) compliance.(3)

But what about cooking your own vegan/vegetarian meals for your pet then?

It is hard to adequately prepare a nutritionally sound diet at home for your pet. Many dogs have a problem digesting milk, and if you feed your dog too many eggs, then they can become deficient in specific nutrients as well. Puppies, as well as kittens, require significantly more protein than their adult counterparts. It would be very difficult to incorporate that much protein into a meal made in your kitchen. If you decide to do this, then you run the risk of growth issues, calcium deficiencies, and bone disease.

What can you take away from this article? Simply this, if you are going to change your pet’s diet, however drastic, consult a licensed and practiced veterinarian before you decide to do anything.

You can also see, by the data given above, that trying to force a naturally carnivorous or omnivorous animal to go without meat can be both cruel and detrimental to your animal’s health and well-being.

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200304-can-you-feed-cats-and-dogs-a-vegan-diet
  2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-07/can-your-pet-become-vegan/10969616
  3. https://pets.webmd.com/features/vegetarian-diet-dogs-cats#1

Author

  • Cori lives and breathes everything animals. Given her cumulative 25 years of owning cats, dogs and guinea pigs, she's considered a breed expert by many. Cori's dog, Skipper, has been her best hiking and camping buddy for the last 5 years. She started blogging in 2010 to share what she knows. She's since won several industry awards and become one of the premier blogging experts in the pet industry.

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