Can cats and dogs follow a meat-free diet?


By AGENCY

Photos: 123rf

Is it possible to feed your pet without meat? While vegetarian diets are often praised for their benefits to human health, the question arises as to whether they can be suitable for cats and dogs.

Vegetarian diets are often associated with human health benefits. But what about pets, such as cats and dogs? Scientific research is providing some initial answers to this question, exploring the possibility of meat-free diets for our four-legged friends.

Not recommended for cats

The cat is a strictly carnivorous animal whose digestive system is uniquely adapted to animal proteins. As Dr Charlotte Devaux explained in 2018 to Sciences Et Avenir magazine, “The cat is a strict carnivore that needs animal tissues in its diet to obtain the essential elements it needs.”

Nevertheless, a 2023 British study reported that “vegan” cats made fewer visits to the vet than those following a more conventional diet. They also tended to take less medication than their carnivorous counterparts, even if they were of a certain age or neutered. Spayed or neutered cats must follow a special diet to prevent them from becoming overweight and forming bladder stones.

However, despite these findings, the study data should be treated with caution. Firstly, because the subject requires further research, but also because, like humans, cats can suffer significant nutritional deficiencies.

The cat is a strictly carnivorous animal whose digestive system is uniquely adapted to animal proteins.The cat is a strictly carnivorous animal whose digestive system is uniquely adapted to animal proteins.

Dr Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), has commented on the subject, warning of the potential risks: “While on paper, a vegan diet for cats may include supplements or alternatives to animal- based protein, for example, there is no guarantee that these would be bioavailable to the cat or that they wouldn’t interfere with the action of other nutrients.”

It is therefore advisable to wait for more in-depth research on the subject, and above all, to consult a veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet.

More potential for dogs

Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores. Dogs have become accustomed to eating leftovers from human diets. Their food intake is more varied: It includes meat, starchy foods and vegetables.

A study from the University of Winchester, published in 2022, showed that dogs on a meat-free diet appeared to be healthier than those fed a diet that included meat.

The study reported that dogs on a meat-free diet were four times less likely to require a visit to the vet than those on a more conventional diet. In addition, these dogs generally showed better overall health and were less prone to digestive disorders. Dogs with allergies or difficulty tolerating conventional kibbles may also benefit from a vegan diet.

But it’s important to remain vigilant about dogs’ nutrient intake, to avoid deficiencies.

“Dogs are omnivorous animals, so they can cope with a vegan diet, as long as they get enough plant proteins,” says veterinarian Francis Perin, contacted by Futura magazine. “Even so, (a dog) needs more protein than humans (30-35%). It will also need to be provided with complementary vitamins and minerals,” says the expert. – AFP Relaxnews

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Pets , pet diet , pet food , meat-free

   

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