There are many reasons why vegans choose a compassionate diet for themselves. Some of us may even choose to include our furry friends in our lifestyle. Choosing a vegetarian diet for your pets will lower your overall carbon footprint as well as not contribute to the unneeded suffering of domestic farm animals. Nevertheless, the overall well-being of your pet needs to be taken into consideration before transitioning them to a vegan diet because even if our intentions are good, it could have serious consequences for your pet. Considering the anatomy of dogs and cats, a 100% vegan diet is not inherently natural. For example, they both have pointy teeth that are designed more for tearing flesh and breaking through bones, not for grinding plantation. This does not stop most dogs and cats from consuming vegetation as those of us with house plants know all too well. Dogs and cats do not share the saliva enzymes that we have, which help break down plant matter. The digestive tracts of dogs and cats are designed for a diet largely composed of fresh meat due to the fact that they can only get many of their nutrients, especially complete proteins, from eating flesh.
If you do choose to put your beloved pet on a vegan diet there are some definite dos and don’ts.
Consult a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to see if a vegan diet is optimal for your pet. Many vets have been prescribing vegan diets to dogs with food allergies, liver disease, and bladder stones, which helps these pets; but know that there are some breeds that will not do well on a vegan diet.
Do your research and figure out exactly what your pet needs as far as nutrition, for every animal is different. Dogs have evolved with humans and are a scavenger species, so they will pretty much eat anything. They do need certain nutrients that are only found in meat items so make sure to look at supplementing your pup’s new veggie diet. There are certain foods like onions, garlic and chocolate that can be toxic or even fatal to dogs. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need meat to make most of the essential nutrients their systems need, and a vegan diet is not optimal for them. It’s possible to transition cats but they thrive better on a diet that has some animal protein.
Consider feeding your fur child a commercial diet that has been tested by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This way the food has gone through a series of trials that test it to see if all nutritional needs are being met. Peta states that it is easy and entirely possible to feed both dogs and cats a vegan diet and have them thrive. They also recommend Vegepet brand food and supplements.
Feed a vegetarian or vegan diet to puppies and kittens or to dogs or cats you plan to breed. These animals need all the nutrients that they can get and it is not recommended for them to be on a vegan diet.
Forget to schedule for frequent wellness visits with your veterinarian to check nutrient levels and make sure your pet is healthy. Dogs and cats can succumb to nutritional deficiencies that can have dire consequences.
Ignore the potential problems that might arise like inadequate protein intake, imbalance of certain amino acids, like taurine and L-carnitine, and vitamin and mineral deficiency. Any of these can lead to any number of problems, such as: reproductive failures, eye problems, and cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarging of the heart.
A vegan diet is not impossible for cats and dogs. It does involve a lot of planning, research, and consultation with a veterinarian. A lot of pets, especially dogs, do show improvement in vitality and in the shine of their coats when going vegan. If you are not considering a vegan diet for your pets because you feel it’s unnatural, remember that regular commercial kibble is not natural either and is loosely regulated for harmful ingredients such as diseased animal carcass, sawdust and by-products. Often, commercial kibble allows ingredients that are not safe for human or animal consumption. Still not comfortable feeding your pet a vegan diet? Try investing in high quality, organic pet food. Consider food that is high in protein and doesn’t contain by-products for ultimate health benefits. Our pets are our children, why not give them the best to help them thrive and have an amazing life?
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Photo: Nadja Robot via Flickr; mk30 via Flickr