Vegetarian and vegan diets for pets – what you need to know
Everyone has their own tastes and preferences when it comes to food. Some people might choose to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, but making this meat-free choice for your pet dog or cat can be dangerous as they can potentially become unwell. Your veterinarian is the best source of information on pet nutrition, they can provide expert advice on what is the best type of food for your pet to keep them healthy.
Cats are obligate carnivores
Dogs and cats are naturally carnivorous, with their teeth and gut having developed for a meat-based diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require meat to survive – as the meat provides cats with several essential dietary substances including the amino acids taurine and arginine, the fatty acid arachidonic acid, and vitamins A and B.
Commercially available cat foods include supplements of these essential vitamins and minerals. If you feed your cat a vegan or vegetarian diet there is a real risk that they will develop a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals which will affect their health. If you have any queries or concerns about your cat’s diet, please speak with your veterinarian to get the best advice specific to your cat.
Dogs are omnivores
Dogs have evolved slightly differently to cats, and are adapted to a more omnivorous diet including meat and plants. But the dogs’ gut is still better adapted for meat protein-based diets. Plant-based diets with a higher amount of fibre can be more difficult for the canine gut to adequately digest. As a result, dogs eating a purely plant-based diet can be at risk of developing vitamin deficiencies and other diseases.
Some dogs may remain healthy on vegan or vegetarian diets, and under veterinary advice some dogs who are allergic to animal proteins in foods, or who have other types of health problems, can be prescribed a meat-free diet by a veterinarian. However in this situation, and for any pet who may be on a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is vitally important to gain dietary input and advice from a veterinarian, to discuss the dog’s needs and to develop a diet plan that minimises health risks.
Your veterinarian will also be able to provide further advice around the use of eggs or dairy products in your dog’s diet. So whilst you may have ethical or other concerns about eating meat, nutrition is a complex area, and the feeding of vegan or vegetarian diets to dogs and cats can mean your pet is at risk of disease or death.
So it is very important to speak with your veterinarian for nutritional advice specific to your pet, to ensure your pets welfare and that they will always be in optimal health.
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