In recent years, vegetarianism and particularly veganism have taken off. Many people cite health, environmental and ethical issues as the reason for doing so.
Can a dog be vegetarian? If you’re a vegetarian or vegan for ethical and environmental reasons, you might baulk at feeding your pet meat. Dogs are a species apart from us though. Meat is part of their natural diet for sound reasons.
For cats, the issue is clear-cut. A cat needs to be fed meat if it is to stay healthy. Meat contains taurine, an essential part of a cat’s diet. If you’re the guardian of an outdoor cat and you stop feeding your pet meat, they will find it elsewhere, anyway.
They’ll either hunt or inveigle themselves with a kind-hearted neighbour. And you might end up not seeing your cat again.
Dogs don’t need taurine to stay healthy. Cats are hunters, more so than dogs who are hunter-scavengers. Dogs are naturally omnivores, i.e. they eat both meat and plant-based diets. A well thought out vegetarian diet can meet their needs, and you can mix their normal food with the veggie stuff to allow your dog time to adjust.
The risks include inadequate total protein intake, an imbalance of amino acids such as taurine and l-carnitine, and deficiency in vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and iron).
Deficiencies can lead to serious medical problems in animals.
Pets4Homes suggests that if you are considering a veggie diet for your doggie, you consider the following questions:
- Is it fair to feed a dog a diet it wouldn’t necessarily choose?
- Should you impose your beliefs on your pet?
- How can you be sure the food you feed your dog is nutritionally fit-for-purpose?
- Are you prepared to research dog food and health to make sure you meet your dog’s nutritional needs?
- We’d add—are you doing this to make yourself, rather than your pet, happy? And if your dog doesn’t thrive on a vegetarian diet, are you prepared to change the diet back?
Bear in mind that many of the articles you’ll read online about dogs being vegetarian or even vegan will be opinion pieces written by people who choose that way of life themselves. A vegan or vegetarian might claim their dog thrives on such a diet, but we’d rather hear that view from someone who has qualifications in dog health.
If you do want to put your dog on a meat, fish and poultry-free diet, you must discuss in detail with your vet first.
There are Vegetarian Society approved dog food products you can check out here.