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New Scientist


Sep 22

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Can your cat or dog remain healthy and happy on a meat-free diet? Here are the benefits and potential pitfalls to making your pets go vegan…

Emerging research suggests vegan pet food may be able to keep dogs and even cats healthy and happy, reducing the massive impact that traditional pet food has on the environment…

Vegan pet food: Can cats and dogs be happy and healthy without meat? | New Scientist

Thousands of new pet food products come onto the market every year. In recent years, a lot of those have been plant-based, as the human trend for vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism grows…

“Many people these days are much more concerned than they used to be about the environmental impacts of food production, in particular the livestock sector,” says Andrew Knight at @University of Winchester’s Centre for Animal Welfare…

However, just because so many owners are buying into these diets doesn’t mean that their pets are thriving on them – or that the environment is benefiting

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Tens of thousands of years of coevolution with humans have bent the diets of dogs towards omnivory They will eat meat, but there’s nothing a dog needs nutritionally that can’t be obtained from plants, says Andrew Knight @University of Winchester…

Cats, meanwhile, need certain nutrients only present in meat One of these is the amino acid taurine, which is virtually non-existent in plants and which cats can’t synthesise. They also need a dietary source of arachidonic acid, which is found mainly in animal fat

Feral cats obtain most of their calories by eating small mammals, birds and insects


This doesn’t look like a promising starting point for quitting animal products, but, in fact, all of these needs can be fulfilled from plants and supplements, says Andrew Knight @University of Winchester

It also matters little what the main source of protein is as long as the diet is “nutritionally sound”, meaning it conforms to the legal requirements to meet all the animals’ nutritional needs

Dogs on a meat-free diet can be as healthy, if not healthier, than dogs who eat meat

Golero/Getty Images

The proof of any pudding is, of course, in the eating. Just because nutritional needs can be met doesn’t mean the diet is acceptable. “Some people have claimed that it’s cruel to maintain cats and dogs on vegan diets,” says Andrew Knight @University of Winchester

In a survey of 2300 dog and 1100 cat owners, there were no significant differences in terms of whether or not they enjoyed a vegan diet or meat-based diet In other studies, dogs and cats on plant-based diets were reported to be in above average health

Signs your dog likes a food include wolfing it down, stealing it from cupboards and begging for more

Shutterstock/Aleksey Boyko

Vets, however, remain sceptical “There's currently a lack of robust data mapping the health consequences of feeding a vegan diet to a large number of dogs over many years,” says @Justine Shotton of @BritishVets Learn more:…

Would you consider feeding your pet a plant-based diet?

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