Going vegetarian and vegan is pretty popular these days, even among those that have no medical or health reasons to do so. You can find recipes for delicious vegan treats – like vegan chocolate avocado cake – pretty much everywhere, and there are many great vegan clothing lines and vegan beauty products for 2014 that help vegans to look their best.
This year, it looks like your pet might be going vegan as well….
Why Vegans Feed their Pets Vegan Food
The reason many vegans put their pets on a vegan diet is that they can’t countenance the idea of ham being done to animals. They don’t want to eat the flesh of animals, and they can’t stand their pets doing the same. It doesn’t jive with their practice and ideals of living compassionately and avoiding doing harm to all things – even animals that most people in the world treat as delicious food.
But is it harmful to feed your dog or cat a vegan diet?
Cats on a Vegan Diet
When it comes to cats, it’s best to avoid vegan diets. Cats’ bodies need the protein that comes from fish and other animals, and feeding a cat a vegan diet is actually going against their physiology – according to an article on WebMD. One veterinarian compared it to trying to get a horse to eat meat, so it’s not a healthy choice.
With dogs, however, it’s a bit different…
Vegan Dog Diets
Vegan dog diets are possible, and they can actually be good for the dog if they are done properly. However, the risk of making a mistake in your vegan dog diet is huge, and you could end up causing your dog to become malnourished if you aren’t careful.
Some of the risks of a vegan dog diet include:
- Not consuming enough protein. Dogs need at least 25 grams of protein per 1000 calories of food, and it can be hard to get protein from vegan sources.
- Not consuming enough vitamins or minerals. Some vitamins can only be obtained via meat sources, so a vegan dog diet may not contain sufficient quantities of these nutrients.
- Not consuming enough amino acids. Dogs need taurine and L-carnitine, both of which need to come from their food.
Without enough of the nutrients listed above, there’s a very real risk of dietary problems – which can in turn lead to serious and irreversible health problems. For example, a lack of taurine can lead to a dilated cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart that cannot pump blood properly and can only contract weakly.
Vegan Dog Diets Done Safely
According to Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis vet school, there are four simple guidelines to adhere to when feeding your pet a vegan diet:
- Follow commercial diets that have been approved by the AAFCO. These diets have gone through special trials, and have been deemed to be safe.
- Never feed vegan diets to puppies, or to dogs that you are planning on breeding.
- Consult with a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to ensure that your diet involves the right balance of nutrition for your pet.
- Get your dog checked out more often than normal, including blood tests. This will ensure that you can catch any health problems before they become serious.
Vegan dog diets can be done safely, but it requires an absolute commitment to ensuring that your pet is getting the proper balance of nutrients. For the average person, it may be better to let your dog stick with a normal diet – no matter how much it may contradict your commitment to a compassionate, vegan life. It’s what you should do for your dog’s sake!
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