You’ve heard about the benefits of humans going vegan. Do these same benefits extend to your cat or dog? Will they enjoy the diet? Will it give them the nutrients they need? We’ve asked experts in the field to weigh in on the wisdom of making vegans out of your furry friends.
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt
An experienced companion-animal vet living and working in the U.K.
Although it is theoretically possible to force any animal that is dependent upon us to be vegan, that doesn’t mean it’s right. Cats, for instance, are obligate carnivores- they cannot produce everything their body needs from a vegetarian or vegan diet and will eventually suffer illness and disease because of it. Dogs are slightly more flexible- although they can survive on a vegan diet it would be difficult to keep them healthy. They have a high requirement for protein and this can be difficult to provide without them eating meat. Dogs and cats have evolved over millennia to eat meat, and since they cannot voice a decision over their diet as we can, it is only fair that we feed them a biologically appropriate diet.
No – you absolutely can’t turn your dog or cat into a vegan. While there is some debate over whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, both camps agree that dogs require a meat-heavy diet to stay healthy. Plant-based protein won’t be enough for your pooch, and you’ll see malnutrition through deterioration of their skin, coat, and energy. This is true of cats too, who are actually pure carnivores and can’t even process grains or veggies in the way that dogs are at least physically capable of doing.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Hermes is highly motivated by the arts and the digital world. He has a BA in Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeology from the University of Puerto Rico where he experienced the richness and diversity of humanity with a holistic outlook.
I believe dogs could be part of a non-strict vegan diet. I say strict because it should only be administered as long as the diet includes all the minerals and protein which are important for the growth and sustainability of dogs. Grains are not only add-ons to their food, but they are also nutritious components in their food pyramid. They work as great sources of protein which could add the missing pieces from the meat absence. All in all, I do not see a problem with the initiative as long as it is kept balanced and of high quality.
There’s a lot of talk right now about the “right” food for your pet. Should it be grain free? Should it have peas? Occasionally people will talk about wanting their dog to be vegan, and I have to go back to the hard facts. We should most likely be categorizing dogs and cats biologically as carnivores given science-y stuff like fermentation coefficients and intestinal length. Even if we were to slide into the omnivore territory, the focus then is on grains, not other animal products like eggs and dairy. I’m cool with you eating whatever you want for your own diet. But to prescribe a diet onto your pet based on a philosophical premise rather than the actual science of the food chain and their dietary needs, you’re putting yourself before your pet. Short answer: no, your dog or cat should not be vegan. It’s not in their biology and it will not make for a healthy life for them.
Marissa Rocheleau runs Mutt Menagerie, a pet sitting service in Fernandina Beach, FL. When not hanging out with awesome dogs and cats, Marissa enjoys spending time with her husband Gabriel and dogs, Bunsen and Petri.
A grade school teacher and I live with two lovable felines that I can’t help gushing and learning about on my blog Cat Mindful.
A cat cannot be turned vegan. Absolutely not. Cats are carnivores, and they need to eat meat to get appropriate levels of Vitamin A in their diet. When people and dogs eat vegetables, their bodies convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Cats cannot replicate this process. Toying with the idea that a cat can survive on a vegan diet is to toy with a cat’s health. Pet owners ought not to impose their own dietary philosophies on the animals they love, but respect biological differences and feed their cats foods that will give them the best possible life. That life is not vegan.
Just because you can be a vegan does not mean that your dogs and cats can. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require meat to survive. While this is not true for dogs, a vegan dog will not exhibit optimal health and wellness. While dogs can survive as vegans, they will not thrive by any means. Dogs have protein requirements that vary throughout their lifespans, and soybeans and lentils will not be sufficient to ideally meet those needs. Soybeans in particular can disrupt endocrine function leading to cancers, Cushing’s and other diseases. We are beginning to see indeed that dogs fed raw diets or lightly cooked home diets live longer and healthier lives than those fed other diets, including kibbles, which often include beans and lentils to supply more cost effective protein. Many dogs fed vegan diets will crave meat and develop behavior issues related to food seeking that can disrupt relationships with other animals and people in their lives.
If a pet guardian insists on feeding a dog a vegan diet, close work with a holistic veterinarian to insure a balanced diet and proper supplementation is highly recommended. These dogs may require more frequent blood work to insure that they are healthy, and perhaps these dogs should not be actively breeding or engaging in high levels of performance.
Holistic physical therapist for pets and people, Sally Morgan, PT CST is a pioneer in Equine and Small Animal Craniosacral Therapy, practicing and teaching this work since 1992. She is the author of the Amazon best seller Dances of the Heart–Connecting With Animals, a TEDx speaker on this topic, and has been featured at many international conferences and pet expos.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado.
It is quite easy for dogs to eat vegan. All of the nutrients they need, including protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fat, can be supplied by plant-based ingredients. Like any pet food, however, it is vitally important that a vegan diet for dogs be nutritionally complete and balanced. Look for vegan dog foods that follow the guidelines put forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and are made by reputable companies. If you want to feed a home-prepared vegan diet, be sure to work closely with a veterinary nutritionist.
Cats are obligate carnivores. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to design a vegan diet for cats that is completely plant-based and safe for long-term feeding. For example, a cat’s diet must contain taurine, an amino acid that can only be produced by other animals.
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