- Some people who are vegan want to put their pets on vegan diets too.
- It’s easier for dogs to be vegans than cats.
- Cats only eat meat, so they require strict supplements to sustain their nutritional needs.
- There are companies that make vegan pet food, and you can even make your own.
- But it’s a lot of work to make sure your pet is getting what it needs, so make sure it’s worth it for you.
In recent years, there’s been an uptick in interest around putting dogs and cats on a vegetarian or vegan diet, according to the Guardian.
But not everyone is in agreement about whether vegan diets are acceptable for cats and dogs, especially since both species have very specific nutritional needs.
If you want your pet to go vegan, here’s what you need to know.
Vegan diets affect cats and dogs differently.
“Cats are strict carnivores. Cats could live on meat only; dogs actually need both,” Jennifer Marschel, a veterinarian at Orangewood Animal Hospital, told us.
Because of the differences in diet, it’s a lot more challenging for a cat to eat a vegan diet than a dog. But Marschel doesn’t recommend it for either.
“I just don’t know that [dogs are] going to get all the nutrients that they need … [For cats], a vegan diet doesn’t actually have everything that they need to stay healthy,” Marschel says. “I would say it’s probably not a good idea.”
The ASPCA agrees with this sentiment, and its website states, “It is possible — though challenging — to keep dogs healthy on a plant-based diet, [but] a vegan diet is not appropriate for cats at all.”
This is because cats can develop heart issues if they’re not eating enough taurine, which is only found in animal by-products and not in plants, according to the ASPCA.
There are some advocates for vegan pet diets.
PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch told us in a statement:
“A nutritionally balanced vegan diet can offer dogs and cats health benefits, such as healthier skin and coats, cleaner teeth, better digestion, easier weight management, and better protection against diseases.”
There have also been studies that show the benefits of veganism for pets. A 2014 Austrian study of 174 dog owners reported that 38 owners said their pets had healthier and shinier coats after eating vegan food. A blood test of 20 dogs found that their vitals were all normal even on a vegan diet.
You’ll need to know your supplements.
Both species need supplements to maintain a vegan diet. Notably, dogs need taurine and L-carnitine and cats need vitamin A, taurine, and arachidonic acid, according to PETA.
CNN also reported that dogs require higher protein intake than humans. And since cats subsist only on meat, they also require high levels of protein. Failure to supply your pets with all their required nutrients can lead to fatal diseases, per the ASPCA.
If you’re considering a vegan diet for your pet, it’s important to consult your veterinarian and purchase powder supplements or vegan pet food supplements like Vegepet, as PETA recommended.
There are several vegan pet food brands on the market.
In addition to supplements, you can cook vegan food for your pets yourself or purchase them from vendors. PETA recommends brands like Amì, F & O Alternative Pet Products, and V-dog, Be sure to check the ingredient list closely to see which nutrients your pet still may need to have a balanced diet.
PETA recommends you add small amounts of the new vegan food to their normal diet and slowly scaling back on the meat until they’re eating only vegan foods.
There are better alternatives for your pet than a fully vegan diet.
“If somebody doesn’t want to use commercial dog food, that’s fine,” Marschel said. “There are some homemade diets that you can make that are balanced … There are veterinarians that do nutrition that can put together a recipe for you that is nutritionally sound.”
Contact your vet to ask if they provide that service or if they can recommend someone who does.
Ultimately, Marschel just wants pet owners to know that healthy eating requires effort and attention to detail to make sure your animal is getting the proper nutrients and isn’t developing dietary issues.