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Can Pets Go Vegetarian?

A huge debate within the pet loving community has been ongoing for quite some time. The issue predominantly revolves around the issue of how pets are fed. To the best understanding of most people, dogs and cats are predominantly carnivorous creatures, that occasionally consume some plant and vegetable matter; however an emerging trend among the ethical communities are to switch meat eating pets over from their standard commercial fare, to more ethical plant-based choices. Dog Vegetarian Carrot The argument exists because there are two sides to this belief. On one side are the people who eat ethically themselves, and on the other side are all those who believe that it is both unfair and unjust to feed meat eating companions a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. Both sides believe that they are right, the vegetarians believing that an animal can thrive on a plant based diet, and the others who believe that it is inhumane and detrimental to force your companion pet to eat in this way. The best way to settle a debate is to look at the evidence and weigh out what can be learned from scientific sources.

The Inner Workings

Dogs and cats, are not humans...but you know that already. Unfortunately, many people do not consider that their dog or cat processes vitamins, minerals and amino acids differently from how they do. This means that some of the nutrients that are produced in the human body are made in a much different way in your petís body.
  • Vitamin D is a great example of how humans differ from dogs and cats. Our bodies have the ability to synthesize this nutrient by absorbing sunlight through the skin. Dogs and cats need to derive their vitamin in the form of D3 which is sourced from animal products.
  • Taurine is another nutrient that is essential for your pet. While dogs are able to produce taurine in situations where they are receiving the right nutrition to do so, cats cannot produce taurine at all. If your cat is taurine deficient, a number of things can occur.
    • They can develop cardiomyopathy, which enlarges the heart, and decreases itís ability to pump.
    • They can experience reproductive problems.
    • The animal may not grow and develop properly.
    • The animal may have issues with their eyes.
  • Protein, which can be found in high amounts within animal sources, is not always available in sufficient amounts in a vegetarian/vegan pet diet. The general recommendation is 25 grams for every 1000 calories consumed.
  • Due to the lack of protein from animal sources, your pet could experience amino acid deficiencies. Insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals may also be an issue.
That being said, there are supplements available for those who would like to feed their dog or cat a plant based diet, while still being certain that the animals needs are being met. The problem is that these supplements are often synthetic and chemical concoctions made to mimic the effects of the real vitamins and minerals. Within their Pet Health Section, WebMD gives recommendations similar to the following:
  • If the animal is very young and still within the puppy or kitten stage of itís life, do not feed it a plant based diet. Also do not feed a plant based diet to an animal that you are hoping to breed.
  • Choose plant based pet foods that have been through all testing and trials. This will ensure that the food has proven itself as a viable nutrition source for your pet.
  • Consider meeting with a veterinary nutritionist who can analyze the food and make recommendations on how to help your pet thrive.
  • Attend bi-yearly wellness checks with your veterinary.
It is incredibly important to consider all these aspects when you are planning to change your pet over to a plant based diet. Some of those who already subscribe to this swear by it, while other animal advocates believe that it is wrong and unnatural. Before you make any drastic changes it is a good idea to speak to your vet, and gather all the information that you can in order to make an informed decision. This is a post by Ashley Williamson. Ashley is a freelance writer and a full time pet lover. When she is not working she likes to travel and read as much as she can. If you have any question feel free to leave a comment she is more than happy to answer to your questions.