Today, I am touching on the subject of raising a pet cat or dog as vegan. It is a subject that harbours split opinions even within vegan communities!
I think for starters, it is important to distinguish fact from fiction. And general opinion from truth. Some of the most relevant points regarding vegan diets for pets are discussed below.
Their natural diet
Dogs and cats have been domesticated over 1000s of years, and as such have adapted to a very different diet from their ancestors. All food we give to companion animals nowadays is very different to what they would have eaten naturally. (Think about cats catching huge tuna, or helping themselves to cows milk?!). Pet food has been processed and commercialised to the point its so far removed from anything the animal would naturally eat.
The meat industry
There is a great deal of cruelty throughout the meat, dairy and pet food industries.
Meat consumption has a huge impact on our environment
Ethics of pet food companies
The BUAV has discovered widespread invasive tests on animals by the four main pet food companies (Purina, Hills Pet Nutrition, Iams and Pedigree).
By buying their food you are actively encouraging them to conduct cruel tests on other dogs and cats in laboratories. Hardly seems right does it? Many of these companies sponsor animal shelters or adoption drives in order to alter their public persona and appear compassionate. Double standard anyone?
Health problems with commercial meat based diets
Studies on cats and dogs maintained on meat-based diets often show adverse health effects.
Diseases demonstrated in these studies are more likely with long-term maintenance of cats and dogs on some commercial meat-based diets. They include kidney, liver, heart, thyroid, neurologic, neuromuscular, skin and infectious diseases, as well as bleeding disorders.
The studies also illustrate hazardous ingredients that can sometimes be found within meat-based pet food.
Health problems of feeding a vegan diet
Personally, I have found a great deal of negative comment regarding owners feeding their pets on a vegan diet, with no actual scientific evidence justifying their claims.
When the media report on incidents such as this – where owners have fed their kitten a ‘vegan’ diet, they are just helping to fuel the negativity. Any intelligent reader will realise that the owners were morons! The problem was not with them feeding the kitten a vegan’ diet, the problem was what they were feeding the kitten. A well thought out and put-together diet would include all your pets vital nutritional needs, and might just happen to be vegan as well.
Choosing to change your pets diet.
Firstly, I think that any steps you take are fantastic. The impact on the environment is benefitted as well as your pets health. So as little or as much as you feel comfortable with is great and deserves applause.
Making a conscious decision on which pet foods you buy, such as avoiding those that conduct animal trials of their food.
If you want to feed your pets a meat-based diet, try to choose an organic, ethical pet food to avoid factory-farmed meat.
Consider a complete vegan food. Food such as Veganpet here in Australia.
Homemade pet food, if well thought-out and researched could also a great option.
Even little steps like switching your dogs treats to vegan treats – try vegan pets pigs ears, or my homemade dogs biscuits.
Remember to follow the dietary guidelines as listed by the manufacturer, and ensure that your companion animals receive regular veterinary check-ups.
VegePets.info – Website by Andrew Knight, a European veterinary specialist in animal welfare science, ethics and law, and a professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester. It provides information about the health and nutritional issues associated with both meat-based and vegetarian companion animal diets.
Vegepooch – in particular their FAQs section is an interesting and informative read