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Vegetarian and Vegan Pets

 by lucy on 26 Jul 2017 |
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Approximately 7.3 million people living in the USA alone are vegetarian and the popularity of a plant-based diet and lifestyle is increasing – understandably, this means some people want to feed their pets a vegetarian or vegan diet, too. People decide to eat a vegetarian diet for a multitude of reasons based on their religious beliefs, cultural background, to protect the environment, try to improve their health and political ideals. Including their pets in this decision can sometimes seem like the logical thing to do, and it can definitely be done for some pets.
 
Many animals, like cats, some reptiles and some marine mammals, are obligate carnivores. This means they must eat a diet of meat to survive. Only meat from an animal has the complete range of vitamins and amino acids cats need to thrive, so plant-based proteins such as soy simply aren't nutritious enough to keep your cat happy and healthy. Cats can't digest carbohydrates from grains, fruits and vegetables in the same way omnivorous animals can, so meat protein is their main source of energy and nourishment. Make sure your feline friend is provided with high-quality, high-quantity moist meaty food – stay away from anything containing grains and dangerous additives and preservatives.
 
It is absolutely possible for dogs to eat a vegetarian or even vegan diet, but it's worth checking in with your veterinarian first to make sure your pooch is at peak levels of healthiness. Dogs, unlike cats, can make some of the vitamins and amino acids on their own, but they can still lack other essential nutrients such as iron and taurine that are found in higher concentrations in omnivorous diets. When cutting out meat from a diet, you're also cutting out most of the protein but it can be easily replaced with vegetable and soy protein. Both tasty pre-prepared canned and dry vegetarian and vegan dog foods, as well as home-made dog food recipes, are widely available online. Your dog will never know the difference!
 
In addition to all cats, puppies should not be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet. When you bring them home, they'll likely have been fed an omnivorous diet and a change in food on top of a change in location will only make them more stressed, upset and unhappy. Only make the change when your vet says your new friend is old enough and healthy enough to move from puppy food to adult dog food.
 
It is impossible for all animals to thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, just as it is impossible for all people. Pre-existing medical conditions and fussy eating habits might restrict your pet from getting as much nutrition or energy from plants as they could from food containing animal products. If necessary, or if a little extra boost is needed, supplements are readily available. Whatever you decide however, it is your pet's health and happiness that is the most important thing.

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