Can Our Pets Be Vegetarian / Vegan?

Now into the New Year and all our New Year resolutions have been set. I noted a lot of people moving towards a vegetarian or vegan diet this year, way more than in previous years and with that there has been a lot of chat recently about vegetarian & vegan pets. The main question being should we feed our pets a vegetarian / vegan diet?
My interest in this started when I read an article about Bramble, she lived to 175, (in dog years) which is 25 years old in human years. Bramble was recognised by the Guinness World Records for being the “worlds oldest bitch”.
Her owner put this down to her vegan diet feeding Bramble Brown rice, lentils, vegetable protein, herbs and yeast extract. I should mention her owner Anne Heritage was a vegan herself.
What got me thinking a bit more about it was the now well known documentary The Game changers, not to spoil it but it focuses on the benefits of a plant based diet. The documentary really drives home the benefits of a plant based diet to us as humans, as long as we do this responsibly ensuring we get all the right nutrients in our diet.
Over the last few years, hundreds if not thousands of businesses have sprung up around plant based eating such as Beyond Meat & Impossible foods.  These guys are making meat free meat. Not only start ups are operating in this space, the likes of Kellogg’s have also started releasing their own meat alternatives.
As always the pet market isn’t far behind with vegan dog foods popping up such as Wild Earth & Halo.  It’s not just dogs either, traditionally meat-eating animals such as cats, ferrets, birds and snakes are going vegan.
A lot of this change in behaviour for both people and animals is driven not only by the health concerns and concern for all the animals we share the planet with but because of climate concerns (Which we all know is a huge issue for our planet).

Our dogs and a plant based diet

If you are considering a vegan or vegetarian diet for your dog, you need to ensure they get the right balance of nutrients.
 For a pet food to be sold as “complete” (look out for this when buying any pet food) in the EU it must contain all the nutrients required for a healthy dog. These Guidelines are set the the European Pet Food industry Federation, they do state that “It is possible to avoid animal based proteins, but diets will need to be formulated carefully.”
Another option to consider is to make your own pet food. Lindsey Nixon a vegan blogger talks here about how she makes her own pet food and mentions the supplements she also gives her dogs to make sure they have all the nutrients they need.
It is important to note that there is still a lot more research to be done on alternative protein sources and vegan / vegetarian diets for dogs is still in a period of testing.
One last option for dogs is insect food, a company called Yora is providing just that, they call themselves the world’s most sustainable dog food. They have created their food out of Hermetia Illucens Larvae, which they say is the most nutritious and environmentally friendly option. This company has set out to reduce the global footprint of our pets.
 In short dogs can survive on a well-balanced vegetarian or even vegan diet (with all the right synthetic supplements added in).
If you are going to move your dog onto a vegetarian or vegan diet please do consult with your vet first. Always put the health and well being of your dog first. ?


Our cats and a plant based diet

Our cats are quite a bit different, they are true carnivores, cats can’t synthesise key nutrients from vegetables because they’ve evolved to get those vitamins and amino acids from the bodies of their prey. One example is Vitamin A, Cats can not biosynthesise it from carotene like dogs and us humans. Without going too much deeper into the science it basically says that its a really poor choice to try and feed your cat a vegetarian or vegan diet so please don’t do it.
There is the option of powdered supplements but the debate is still open if a cat’s body would absorb these properly rather than just ingesting.
There is a lot of research and development going on right now in the world to create sustainable vegetarian and vegan solutions for all pets but a great option seems to be quite a while off, especially for cat owners.
So coming to a conclusion, your dogs can go vegan, BUT be sure to involve your vet in this decision and follow all their advice in doing this. This is crucial to ensuring the health of your pet.
For our cats it appears, they are true carnivores and they need to keep meat in their diet to ensure their health and well-being.

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