After stopping meat for ethical, health or environmental reasons, some pet owners want their pets to join them on a plant-only diet. But is it safe to get our carnivorous felines and omnivorous puppies to completely forgo meat or animal protein?
The short answer is that this is a gray area: it is a possibility for some pets, but not all. And switching your pet to a plant-based diet on your own is never recommended. Plant-based diets are newer to the market, and the science is still developing. To make sure your pet is getting enough of all the essential nutrients, you’ll probably need a little help.
Many people who visit Dr. Lindsey Bullen, a North Carolina-based veterinarian and board-certified animal nutritionist, one of more than 100 in the United States, make this mistake, even though they often act with the best of intentions. “I think some customers think they can do better,” Bullen told Live Science. “But they don’t really know what goes into formulating a diet for their pet.”
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Rearranging an animal’s diet without the help of an expert is often detrimental to the animal’s health. The animal protein that cats and dogs typically eat contains plenty of amino acids in a form that’s easy for your pet’s body to use – more than is usually found in plant protein. According to Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Cats, in particular, need taurine, an amino acid found in meat protein.. In fact, they cannot live without it; If taurine isn’t properly supplemented in a plant-based diet, cats can experience poor neuronal function, reproductive issues and heart disease, Bullen said. Even poor mineral balances in a plant-based pet diet can be a problem. A poor calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, for example, can increase the risk of fractures in dogs and cats and also stunt the growth of puppies or kittens, Bullen said.
But plant-based pet diets can be done. “Vegetarian [diets] can be done safely in both [cats and dogs]”, Bullen said. “Vegan can be done safely in dogs, but it’s very difficult in cats.” Felines are obligate carnivores, so a lot of their nutritional needs are tied to ingredients. specific to meat.As a result, cats need many more additives to make a complete and balanced vegan diet.
Bullen even prescribes plant-based diets in some cases, including for pets who have skin or gastrointestinal allergies to meat products. (His own dog has both types of allergies and is on a hydrolyzed soy diet.)
If you’re considering switching to a plant-based wet or dry food for your pet, Bullen encouraged consumers to buy from brands that have performed digestibility studies, ingredient interaction studies, and dietary testing. diet on their herbal options. But before taking the plunge, it’s important to make sure a plant-based diet is right for your pet. An expert, such as a veterinarian or nutritionist whom they consult, will first look at the animal’s general well-being, including age, environment and other health issues. If the animal is otherwise healthy, it is likely that a well-formulated plant-based diet can work for it.
If a vegetarian or vegan diet is a safe option, the next step is for a veterinarian or nutritionist to come up with a very specific plan. For example, when Bullen formulates a homemade vegetarian pet diet for a client, she provides a comprehensive list of ingredients, including proportions, explicit cooking guidelines, feeding instructions, and monitoring guidelines. It specifies each ingredient, including the brand of tofu or the percentage of fat in the cottage cheese.
Bullen encourages owners to take an active role in the nutrition of their pets, but she also cautions against anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human traits to animals. “Dogs and cats are very different from the human species,” she said. “Your goals [for yourself] are great, but we need to keep the pet happy and healthy.” Working with an expert is the surest way to meet your goals and your pet’s needs.
Originally posted on Live Science.