Is it Safe to Feed my Pets a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet?
Switching pets over to a vegan or vegetarian diet appears to be a growing trend. Debate on whether it is safe, or even ethical, has gone back and forth. With emerging vegetarian dog and cat food companies, it is important to determine whether or not these diets are, or can be, safe.
Creating healthy, real-food nutrition for pets is our passion, so this question was an important one for us. This article will help you determine if it is safe to feed dogs & cats vegan diets.
Why Would People Want to Make Their Pets Vegan?
There are several reasons why people may want to feed their pets a vegan or vegetarian diet.
- Concern over the quality of meat in commercial pet foods.
- The pet owners are vegetarians or vegans themselves.
- Medical issues, like the inability to process iron, which can sometimes be found in dogs.
Quality of Ingredients in Commercial Pet Food
One of the biggest reasons that people want vegan or vegetarian pet food is the quality of commercial pet foods. There is a real fear that the by-products, untraceable meats and low quality ingredients used in most commercial pet foods may be harmful to your pets. People want to provide their pets with healthy, natural food.
This is something that resonates with us. The inferior quality of ingredients in traditional commercial pet foods was the problem Tom&Sawyer was created to solve. Getting the right nutrition from real ingredients is essential for longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Vegan Pet Owners
The majority of pet owners who want to switch their pets over to a meat-free diet, are vegans or vegetarians themselves. Some believe that if possible to switch cats and dogs off of meat-based diets, it is only ethical to do so. Others argue that since dogs and cats naturally eat meat, it is not ethical to remove meat from their diets.
Aren’t Dogs and Cats Carnivores?
Dogs and cats are both carnivores. The difference is that cats are obligate carnivores, whereas dogs are not. Dogs are actually considered omnivores (can eat both meat and/or plant foods, just like humans). This is an important distinction if you are considering switching your pet to a meat-free diet.
Because of this key difference cats and dogs must be looked at separately in deciding if you can safely feed your pets a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Can Cats Eat Vegan/Vegetarian?
There have been cases of cats being able to survive on vegan and vegetarian diets. However, it can be difficult or even dangerous to attempt to create a nutritionally balanced diet for cats without meat. Cats on vegetarian diets can be at risk of sickness, suffering, or even fatality.
Why Can Vegetarian Diets be Dangerous for Cats?
As we stated earlier, the fact that cats are obligate carnivores is an important distinction. Being an obligate carnivore means that they are biologically required to eat meats.
Cats have complicated nutritional requirements. The biology of cats is not designed for them to get their nutrients from carbohydrates and vegetables. Cats do not have the digestive enzymes needed to break down carbs for usable nutrition. The carbs a cat would receive in the wild have already been digested in their prey, so they are able to receive these nutrients through the food chain.
Without meat in their diet a cat cannot, naturally, receive the nutrients they need for proper health. Such as certain amino acids only available in meat proteins. Attempts to feed cats a vegetarian diet have required a heavy use of supplements.
Supplements for Vegetarian Cats
For a vegetarian diet, supplements for cats are essential. The supplements used for vegetarian cats can be beneficial for cats on a traditional diet. Over-reliance on supplements is one of the reasons many cats do not thrive on a vegetarian diet. A supplement is not intended to be a substitution for real food nutrition.
Vitamin A is essential for cats. Unlike dogs and humans, cats cannot biosynthesize vitamin A. They can only get it from eating meat or through supplements. Insufficient vitamin A may result in hearing loss, skin & bone problems, and problems with the intestinal & reproductive systems.
Cats are used to getting their taurine from meats. They will not be able to get enough from veggies alone. A taurine deficiency can result in eyesight problems or loss, and cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a potentially fatal heart disease.
Cats require supplemental digestive enzymes to attempt to break down veggies and carbs into usable nutrition.
Is it Safe to Feed My Cat a Vegetarian Diet?
Although there have been cats that have survived on vegetarian diets, there is no guarantee. Even with cats fed carefully balanced vegetarian diets severe health problems often arise. Urinary tract infections, for example, are common among vegetarian cats. These infections can be extremely painful, or even fatal.
All the research into feline nutrition suggests that it is not in a cat’s best interest to attempt to feed them a vegetarian diet and any personal beliefs around consuming meat is not in the best interest of your cat’s health.
Can Dogs Eat Vegan/Vegetarian?
While a dog is a carnivore, they are not obligate carnivores. This means they do not require meat for all of their nutrition. Dogs are omnivores, with a digestive system very similar to humans. Many dogs do appear to be able to thrive on a vegetarian diets, although some do refuse it.
Plant-Based Nutrition for Dogs
Even if you are not planning on switching your dog to a vegetarian diet, they can benefit from the addition of plant based-nutrition. It helps to diversify and balance their nutrition. Unlike a cat, dogs can get usable nutrition from plants. This means veggies can help get the essential nutrients for dogs.
Supplements for Vegetarian Dogs
Although canines can often get a lot of their nutrients without meat, they still rely on supplements for dogs. Here are few they will require:
L-Carnitine & Taurine
These are essential amino acids dogs would typically get from meat. A deficiency can result in dilated cardiomyopathy, a potentially fatal heart disease.
Dogs may need digestive enzymes to help digest a vegetarian diet in a way that breaks down nutrients for usability.
Will My Dog Accept a Vegetarian Diet?
With images of dogs picking through garbage or begging from the table, it can be hard to picture them as picky eaters! However, dogs have complex taste profiles. Most dogs seem to prefer meat. It is not uncommon for a dog to reject a vegetarian diet.
Is it Safe to Feed my Dog a Vegetarian Diet?
It appears that dogs can, in many cases, be safely fed a vegetarian diet. Every individual dog reacts differently to a vegetarian diet, so they should be monitored carefully for skin and intestinal problems. If your dog is failing to adapt to the diet, they should be taken off of it.
Should I Feed my Pet a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet?
While some dogs are able to adapt to vegetarian diets, balancing the nutrition is still difficult. For cats, meat-free diets are much riskier, and potentially fatal. So it is advised to refrain from attempting to implement a vegan/vegetarian diet for cats.
Finding pet food with high quality, natural ingredients is important. If you are trying to find an alternative to commercial pet food, that is what pet meals are designed for. We wanted to improve the quality of nutrition our pets were getting. Say goodbye to commercial pet foods, and join us in revolutionizing the pet food industry.