Click here to learn more.
Q. In the last year, I have stopped eating meat because I don't want to be part of the cruelty to animals on factory farms. I also have a problem with buying pet food made with meat that comes from these same terrible conditions. Are vegetarian pet foods good enough to keep a dog or cat healthy?
A. From a purely veterinary perspective, you’ll find very few veterinarians who’d recommend a vegetarian diet for a dog or cat, and even fewer who’d describe it as optimal nutrition for these pets. When pressed, they're likely to offer grudging acceptance of such a diet for dogs, who have more leeway in their diet, since they’re as much scavengers as hunters. While it's debatable whether or not most dogs can thrive on a diet with no animal protein, they can survive on a vegetarian diet.
Cats, however, are what’s known as “obligate carnivores,” meaning they need nutrients found in meat to survive. Pet owners who do feed cats a vegetarian diet typically supplement those nutrients, most notably taurine. However, among people who are resolutely vegetarian because they are against killing animals for food, this remains an option that’s vigorously debated.
I can suggest another option, though. The choices for pet food in North America are seemingly without end, and among them you can find almost anything. Every year I walk the conference floor at the massive Global Pet Expo — with something like a dozen football fields’ worth of booths — and marvel at the selections. It’s possible that you can find a product that offers animal protein from a source you can live with, since I’m sure I’ve noticed companies offering “free-range,” “organic” and “human-grade” pet foods.
You can also source your own ingredients and make your pet’s food at home. I don’t recommend turning to the Internet for recipes, however; ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary nutritionist who has or can formulate a diet for your pets. You can then purchase meat from animals who have been raised in a way you may find more ethically acceptable.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank You For Signing Up
for the Petwire newsletter, sending you all the pet news each week directly to your inbox.
Get the latest pet news, tips, tricks, and expert advice sent right to your inbox!
For the next four days, patrons of the café will be able to meet 16 adoptable kitties as they sip on espresso…
The last Friday in April is dedicated to undigested cat fur. To celebrate, we found photos of the cutest kitties…
A new film features 11-year-old Cory Gould, who has Asperger syndrome, and his incredible knowledge of dog breeds.
Disco, who knows more than 80 phrases, songs and sounds, is a YouTube star who's beloved around the world.
We polled Vetstreet readers and veterinary professionals to see if they drift off to sleep with their cat or dog…
Want to make some enemies in your vet’s waiting room? This funny new video from Dr. Andy Roark shows you how.
The silky-coated Burmese is a compact but heavy feline who loves to show off his impressive athletic skills.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.