The debate surrounding putting pets (namely cats and dogs) on a vegan diet is a complicated one, and something that people seem to feel disproportionately passionate about; people who have never shown much interest in the wellbeing of animals before can become furious that a dog or a cat might have it’s right to live as it would “naturally” taken away (despite the fact that a natural diet for a cat would be birds and mice).
As a pet owner you have the responsibility to keep the animal as healthy and happy as you possibly can, and many people see feeding them the nutrients that a meat rich diet would give them as the kindest way to do this. However, cats and dogs have very different needs; whilst dogs can enjoy a long and healthy life on a vegan diet if monitored properly, it is far more difficult (though not impossible) to offer this to a cat.
According to petmd.com, “It is true that dogs belong to the order Carnivora, but they are actually omnivores. The canine body has the ability to transform certain amino acids, the building blocks or protein, into others, meaning that dogs can get all the amino acids they need while avoiding meat.”
- Is it natural?
Are you forcing your beliefs unnaturally on an animal? – Is one of the first arguments put forward for keeping a pet on a carnivorous diet. However allamericanvegan.com argues, that they have no idea and to consider who suffers if a pet goes vegan if it gets all the vitamins and minerals. Is it natural for animals to be vegan? Is it natural to be vegan yourself? What is natural? Is it natural to have a pet at all? I think it’s pretty clear that natural is just a word we use to make other people feel bad about their choices that have nothing to do with anyone else; such as bleaching their hair or being gay. So lets move on.
2. Is it fair?
If the animal can get all of its vitamins and minerals, without causing harm to another animal then everybody wins! However there are differing views on whether it really is healthy or not.
Lew Olson, PhD, author of Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, makes this analogy: “Trying to feed a cat a vegan diet would be like me feeding my horses meat. You’re taking a whole species of animal and trying to force it to eat something that it isn’t designed to handle.”
“For cats, it’s really inappropriate. It goes against their physiology and isn’t something I would recommend at all,” says Cailin Heinze, VMD, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.Vitamins A and D: Dogs and cats cannot make vitamin D in their skin, so it needs to be in their diet. And the vitamin D needs to be D3, which comes from animal sources, not D2, which comes from plant-based sources. “People and dogs can use D2 to some extent, but cats really need D3,” Heinze says.
However, Halo, a vegan range of dog food is thriving. Lyskanycz has seen a surge of interest in Halo’s vegan range, which swaps meat for chickpeas, peas, oats and vegetables. “It’s our fastest growing product in the company.”
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Cats are often more finicky than dogs, and their nutritional requirements are more complicated. Cats need a considerable amount of vitamin A, which they cannot biosynthesize from carotene, as dogs and humans do. Insufficient amounts may cause loss of hearing, as well as problems with skin, bones, and intestinal and reproductive systems. Cats also need taurine. A feline lacking taurine can lose eyesight and could develop cardiomyopathy. Commercial pet food companies often add taurine obtained from mollusks.
Dogs and cats who are eating only cooked or processed food also benefit from the addition of digestive enzymes to their food. These are obtainable through animal supply catalogs and health food stores. Any raw vegetables in a dog’s diet should be grated or put through a food processor to enhance digestibility.
Supermarket pet foods are often composed of ground-up parts of animals deemed by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors unfit for human consumption. The flesh of animals who fall into one of the categories of the four D’s—dead, dying, diseased, or disabled—is what often goes into pet food. Many of these animals have died of infections and other diseases.
- all from Peta
That hasn’t stopped thousands of people switching their cats to plant-based diets and swapping tips on Facebook groups such as Vegan Cats, which has almost 7,000 members. – the guardian
But, with humans increasingly demanding human-grade meat for their four-legged family members, pet food is estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impacts of meat production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates and pesticides. And this trend for raw food is, environmentally speaking, a step backwards.