As vets who take an interest in unusual diets, we often get asked if dogs and cats can be vegan. The answer is yes.
I’ll start with dogs. I won’t bore you again about the dietary differences between dogs and wolves. Let’s get straight on with the diets.
Problems With Vegan Dog Diets
So if dogs can be vegans, is it easy to do it? Certainly not. There are still at least four reasons why you need expert help in making a vegan dog diet:
- Vitamin B12 is very hard to get from vegetable sources alone
- Plant proteins have a lower biologic value and digestibility
- Amino acids like methionine and taurine can be deficient in plants
- Calcium levels are often too low
So let’s talk about safe vegan diets for dogs!
Vegan Diet Plan 1: Commercial
This is so easy, it’s like cheating. There are at least three vegan pet foods available to purchase online in Australia.
- BIOpet is made in Australia and available online
- Veganpet is also Australian and sold in my local supermarket
- V-Dog is made in the USA and sold online
I have no personal experience with any of them. All three should do what they say on the packet: provide a complete and balanced diet.
Even though the risks are low, I would not rely entirely on any one food from a small manufacturer. Read why here. Many people choose to use these together with option 2 below.
Vegan Diet Plan 2: Homemade
I imagine most vegans would like to know what goes into their dog’s food. That’s why we commissioned a vegan diet from specialist veterinary nutritionists. It has been made with great care for both safety and taste. It’s even grain-free!
I think it’s awesome but I’m only sorry that I can’t publish it online. It may be hazardous for all but healthy adult dogs. If you want to use it, there are two choices:
- Come in for a checkup. As long as your dog is suitable we will supply a tailored version for the consultation fee alone.
- If you don’t live locally, ask your vet about getting the same thing done in your clinic. You can get your vets to contact us to see who we used.
What about special snacks for dogs? There are quite a lot you can choose from. We sell Veggie Ears that look spookily like the real thing and dogs love them. However, there are plenty of other options out there.
What about my pet obsession, raw bones. You already know how much I value these for dental care and enjoyment in dogs, but they certainly aren’t vegan. However, they are a waste product of the meat industry.
Therefore, if your reason for having a vegan dog is to reduce animal deaths, bones should be a (nearly) guilt-free purchase. This is only my justification of course!
Other Vegan Pets
If you’re still deciding on a pet, what about a rabbit? They come vegan right out of the box and are just as fun to have around. Search our site for lots of rabbit-friendly info.
Vegan Cat Diets
Until recently I would have denied the possibility of having a vegan cat. Previously, if you tried to feed a vegan diet to cats, they would usually die.
Then, right out of the blue a vegan cat food turns up in my local supermarket! First impressions are that it looks OK.
A Compromise Option
Once again, my obsession with making compromises comes out. Stay with me on this one!
I don’t feed my cat vegan, but I certainly try to keep the body count as low as possible. Chicken necks are close to a natural diet for a cat and are as much a waste product as bones. By this I mean that chickens aren’t slaughtered for their necks.
Necks of course alone won’t be enough, but they could be a start. If you get a nutritionist to build a diet around them you should at least have a kill-free diet. This way cats still get to eat the food they’ve adapted to.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
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