Petplan debate: can a vegetarian or vegan diet be good for cats and dogs?
Dog and cat owners are often on the lookout for new and innovative ways to keep our pets fit and healthy – and our pets’ diet is one area that often receives plenty of attention.
Pet food is no longer unappetising-looking meat served from tins with little thought of the nutritional benefit. There are hundreds of products and supplements available and the choice can sometimes appear overwhelming.
However, there are an increasing amount of pet owners who are going back to basics by feeding their pets simple, natural food.
We spoke about the pros and cons of a raw food diet previously, but some pet owners are going even further and are advocating the benefits of veggie or vegan food, with many sighting ethical and environmental concerns about how pet food is produced.
Undoubtedly the first question you should be asking is: ‘is it healthy for my pet to be vegetarian?’
This is a question that has a very different answer when talking about cats or dogs.
Dogs are natural omnivores, which means they are able to get nutrients equally as well from meat or vegetation. In fact, a vegan border collie (whose diet consisted of rice, lentils and vegetables) was crowned the oldest living dog back in 2002 at 27-years-old.
There is no getting away from the fact they do eat meat in the wild though, and dogs do derive many nutritional benefits from animal flesh.
Meanwhile, cats are considered true carnivores. This means they depend on the nutrients found in animal flesh because they lack the physiology to process plant matter in an effective way.
There are supplements available and some charities concerned with animal welfare (such as PETA) recommend a vegetarian diet for cats, claiming that feeding meat to pets is incompatible with the beliefs of a true animal lover.
There is a lot of conflicting advice surrounding this issue, which is why Petplan vet Brian Faulkner wanted to put the record straight – especially when it comes to cats.
“Cats absolutely need to eat meat.” he said
“They are unable to get the amino acids they need from just vegetables and supplements, so it’s vital they have meat in their diet.”
Brian added: “ While dogs are able to be fed a vegetarian diet and remain fit and healthy, there are plenty of people who feel it’s unnatural to not feed their dog meat. As always, it comes down to what is best for your dog and their wellbeing.”
Does your dog have a vegetarian diet? Would you ever consider it? Or do you think it’s unnatural?
Let us know your thoughts below and, as always, consult with your vet before making any big changes to the diet of your cat or dog.