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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

Is a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet Right for Your Cat or Dog? A Closer Look at Pet Nutrition

Despite the range of dining options, only a small percentage of Americans self-identify as vegetarian or vegan. Often stemming from personal feelings regarding animal products (or the meat industry in general), this lifestyle can be a healthy choice for many people.

But can the same be said for our pets? Optimal pet nutrition hinges on exact portions of high-value ingredients, but does it make sense to eliminate meat altogether for obligate carnivores (e.g., cats) or opportunistic omnivores (e.g., dogs)?

Dogs and Wolves

Research indicates that the two main differences between domesticated dogs and wolves involve behavior traits and the ability to properly digest starch. While many people feed their dogs a diet consistent with the perception of their inherited appetite for meat, it’s not the only option.

In other words, because dogs produce more of the enzyme required for the digestion of starch, meat doesn’t have to be the main ingredient in their diet. Considered nutritionally unique, dogs benefit from various nutritional elements and can process both meat and non-meat foods. Fruits, vegetables, and grains round out a versatile diet that doesn’t necessarily depend on (or require) animal protein.

Going Veg

Providing a strictly vegetarian diet for your dog is possible, but for overall success and safety, we urge you to speak with us first. Together, we can determine the best time and methods to transition from an omnivorous diet to one that excludes meat.

Good pet nutrition is only possible when it’s balanced and complete. Despite their ability to utilize vitamin A and D from plant products, supplements like B12, taurine, and amino acids may be necessary.

Please observe your dog’s behavior closely and make notes about any changes you notice. Shifting between diets must be done carefully and slowly, and we’re always here to help with any questions or concerns.

Reliable Pet Nutrition

Cats are obligate carnivores. That means in order to survive and thrive, they must eat meat. Not only do felines require abundant essential acids, they also have high requirements for vitamin A and numerous B vitamins.

Cats lack the ability to convert plant-based vitamin A and cannot produce arachidonic acid, an essential fatty acid needed to combat inflammation. The only way they can obtain this substance is through the consumption of meat.

Owners should not provide a vegetarian and/or vegan diet to their cats. While your pet may eat whatever you put in their bowl, only a meat-based diet will address their nutritional needs. If you’re convinced that your cat needs a diet adjustment, please contact us. Even subtle changes in their routine can have far-reaching effects.

Hits the Spot

Pet nutrition can be complicated. After taking into account your best friend’s age, lifestyle, current weight, and medical history, it is possible they may benefit from some degree of meat restriction. However, it’s absolutely vital that you consult with us prior to making any changes to their diet.

Remember, at Hanford Veterinary Hospital, we’re committed to providing your pet with the best possible care. Please let us know how we can help.

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