pet nutritionIt’s been well documented that a plant-based diet is healthier for humans. Many veterinarians and veterinary professionals are vegan or vegetarian for health, environmental, or animal cruelty reasons. Could this also be a good approach to pet nutrition? The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital are exploring vegetarian and vegan diets to learn if our pets can benefit as much as we do.

Can Your Cat or Dog be Vegetarian or Vegan?

Dogs are omnivores and, as such, can obtain their nutrients from a wide variety of sources. Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores, which means they must have meat in order to obtain essential amino acids. Without meat, your cat’s health, and even their life, is at risk.

This means a vegetarian or a vegan diet may work for dogs. For cats, a vegetarian or vegan diet could be deadly. However, regardless of what type of pet you own, both need a nutritionally complete and balanced diet to thrive.

So what exactly does this mean? Pets need certain nutrients in specific ratios in order to feel their best. There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet, and thankfully, your veterinarian is a great resource and an expert in pet nutrition. We can help ensure your pet is getting a complete and balanced diet.

Dogs and Vegetarian/Vegan Diets

There are commercially prepared vegetarian and vegan diets for your dog, but there’s been little research into their health benefits.

Some dog owners prefer to cook their own vegetarian meals for their pet, but this bears several concerns from a pet health perspective. First, you must learn what will truly give your dog all the nutrients they need to survive and thrive. Then, you have to commit to providing whatever that may be. Without the guidance of a veterinarian, this can be challenging. Instead, making homemade pet treats might be a great alternative.

Cats and Pet Nutrition

The nutritional needs of cats are different than dogs (and from humans). Cats’ bodies depend on the consumption of other animals. They simply cannot maintain good health without meat. If they don’t get it, their body will start to break down their own muscle tissue to obtain the nutrients they need.

There are some nutrients that omnivores can convert to sustain themselves. However, cats need these nutrients ready-made. Among them are niacin, Vitamin A, and the amino acids taurine and arginine. These nutrients are essential for good heart health, eye health, and a healthy feline immune system.

Our diet preferences are obviously important to us and can be applied to some aspects of our pet’s health. For example, judiciously looking at pet food companies to determine where they obtain their meat is a great way to make a positive impact on the world. At the same time, making sure we feed our pets what they need to survive helps ensure their health and happiness.

If you have any questions about the proper diet for your dog or cat or if you want more information about pet nutrition, please give us a call. We can also talk during your pet’s next preventive care exam. We look forward to seeing you soon!