Since you’ve chosen to live with a carnivorous companion, be clear about your pet’s dietary requirements.
While a vegetarian diet is something you might consider for yourself, making the same choice for a dog or cat can lead to potentially dangerous consequences. It’s neither natural nor optimally healthy. Here are a few reasons why…
The anatomies of a dog and cat are different. Humans are omnivores, and everything about us – our teeth, digestive tract; even our saliva is designed to help us break down plant matter. While we have adapted to eating other kinds of food like meat and fats, our pets have not. Dogs and cats are carnivores. Their digestive systems are designed to consume meats and fats – not soy, rice or peas or food containing large amounts of vegetables.
Protein is essential for healthy organs and skin. Protein consists of many amino acids that each have a specific job and work together to maintain and repair the body.
What’s interesting is that vegetarian diets for pets are often very similar to vegetarian diets recommended for people – they’re high in grains and vegetables and often include soy products.
Promoters of vegetarian diets argue that by combining certain vegetables and grains you can cover most of the essential amino acids a human needs. However, pets do not need high amounts of carbohydrates in their diet.
Furthermore, the digestibility of proteins and carbohydrates found in vegetables is different for humans and pets. Dogs and cats cannot digest plant proteins well and this may lead to gastric upset and large piles of smelly stool. Furthermore, high carbhydrate diets are very fattening and increase the risk of pet obesity!
Tests have shown some dogs fed purely vegetarian diets are low in taurine. Taurine is important in the diet of both dogs and cats to prevent cardiomyopathy and in a cat’s diet to prevent the deterioration of eyesight.
Soy is not a complete protein and is a common allergen for pets. Replacing animal protein with organic soy protein may work well in a human diet but it is definitely not recommended for your pet.
Plants are a rich source of minerals for humans and are beneficial for dogs in the appropriate amounts. However, they are incomplete sources of minerals for our pets. For example, vegetables can be good sources of phosphorus, potassium and magnesium but are poor sources for sodium and calcium – both essential to your pet’s health.
Vegetarian diets usually consist of ingredients that are high in phytates, i.e. corn, oats, potatoes, rice, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Phytates bind with minerals and prevent their absorption which can lead to deficiencies.
Interestingly, the pet food industry has been aware of the action of phytates since the early 1980’s but rather than reduce the high amounts of grains and starches in conventional pet food much of it chooses to merely add more calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
If you’re interested in adding more of these minerals to a homemade vegetarian diet, it can be difficult to determine a healthy balance. In some cases using too much, or the wrong combinations can be as harmful as a deficiency.
Vitamins are essential for human and pet health. However, the bioavailability of vitamins differs from a plant versus an animal source. If you are preparing a vegetarian or vegan diet, your pet is probably not getting enough vitamins. Here are some examples
Feed Your Pet What Nature Intended
We advocate feeding a species-appropriate diet that is largely dependent on fresh, good quality meats. Rest assured Furchild is mindful and deliberate in sourcing high-quality ingredients.
Our meats come from farmers and ranchers that are recognized for their superior, human-grade quality ingredients and their highest level of food handling safety. All of our meats are free of hormones and antibiotics, free-range, cage-free, farm or ranch raised, grass-fed, and Halal. Our oils, fruits and vegetables are organic certified so you can be assured of the highest quality.
Nutritional Adequcacy of Vegetarian Diets. www.burns-pet-nutrition.co.uk.