Posted by: Ingrid | March 30, 2009

Vegan pet food – not a good choice

There’s been a recent media buzz about vegan food for pets.  ABC News reported that it might be a bit easier for dogs than cats to live the vegan lifestyle.  A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times suggested a vegan diet for cats as a viable option to reduce the over-depletion of fish stocks.  This was followed a few days later by an article in The Huffington Post titled “Vegan Pet Food – Is It Okay To Raise a Cat Vegan?”, which generated hundreds of comments.

Dogs are omnivores and are able to suvive on plant materials alone, but keep in mind that they are meat eaters by nature and do best with at least some meat in their diet, so a vegan diet is not in the best interest of your canine companion.

Cats are carnivores, and as such, cannot sustain life unless they consume meat in some form.  They are extremely sensitive to even a single meal deficient in arginine, an amino-acid that is a building block for protein.  A cat’s natural diet in the wild consists of mice and birds, both of which are almost all protein.  This is why diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates are best for cats. 

People adopt the vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, some of them health related, others as a conscious choice to help the planet.  While I applaud people who choose this lifestyle, it’s too restrictive for me.  I’m mostly vegetarian, but I do eat fish and seafood.  I even occasionally allow myself to give in to a craving for some meat or poultry – cravings that probably have very little to do with any physical need and are more emotionally motivated dating back to growing up on the heavily meat-based diet of my native Germany.

However, no matter what your reasons for being vegetarian or vegan, please don’t subject your cat or dog to the same choice.  They’ll be healthier and happier if they’re allowed to be the meat eaters nature designed them to be.  As for cats depleting the planet’s fish stock, I’ll worry about Amber’s carbon footprint when she starts driving an SUV.

Amber’s preferred proteins are turkey and salmon.

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Responses

  1. Good morning Ingrid, thanks for the info!
    This has got to be one of those issues about which you can ask three “experts” and get seven different opinions.
    I recenly referred to two popular books on natural pet care.. both advocating holistic/ herbal based health and healing. One insisted that a diet of raw, organic meat (bones and all) was the way to go. The other recommended mostly vegetarian fare with occasional cooked meat, no bones. Hmmm.
    The latter was, however, open minded enough to relate a cautionary tale which I feel compelled to pass along: A Midwest vegetarian, eager to share the health benefits of her diet with her beloved dogs. began to prepare homemade veggie meals for them. Heartbreakingly, two of them later succumbed to DCM ( dialated cardiomyopathy), associated with canine diets deficient in taurine & carnitine.
    Ironically, many vegans/ vegetarians arrive at that place through a love and respect for nature, yet how natural is a vegan cat? Bowl’o’carrots, please; hold the mouse.
    Thanks to Ingrid ( trust and appreciate your opinions) and to all that offer insight. Will check out the Natural Pet Store & the products/ services endorsed in the Marketplace.

    Blessings, Shoshanna

  2. Hi Shoshanna,

    I agree – this is a “hot” topic, and people have the best intentions when changing their pets’ diets to something they consider better or healthier. The example of the dogs who became ill due to taurine and carnitine deficiencies are a prime example of why I don’t recommend home-made diets. It’s just too hard to make sure a pet gets all the nutrients he or she needs.
    I’m not a proponent of raw feeding, although I acknowledge that the benefits can be numerous. Unless you know the source of the meat and can be absolutely sure that it’s pathogen and parasite free, the risks outweight the benefits. For people who want to feed their pets a homemade diet, I recommend petdiets.com – veterinary nutritionists will formulate a balanced diet for healthy pets and pets with special dietary requirements.


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