Feeding Pets a Vegan Diet?
For most vegans, the idea of having vegan pets is very appealing. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find lots of suggestions for some wonderful, naturally vegan pets.
However, our most popular pets are dogs and cats. We all know that they prefer to eat meat, but what happens if we feed them a vegetarian, or even vegan diet?
Dogs are omnivores, which means they can live on a vegetarian, or even a vegan diet. I would like to see more scientific evidence that it would be truly healthy for them to be totally vegan.
Here is one article that explains why dogs don’t do as well on vegetarian diets – Can Dogs be Vegetarians?
On the other hand, here’s a blog listing 100 healthy dogs that live or lived on a vegan diet, often to a ripe old age – http://thevegantruth.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/dogs-that-eat-vegan-directory.html
Personally, I’ve gone back and forth on the subject. My preference is feeding a vegan, or even vegan plus salmon oil and organic pastured eggs, but that is not what most canine nutrition experts recommend. Some breeds seem to do better on plant-based diets than others. Bottom line, it is up to you to decide and see how well your own pets do on whatever diet you pick.
If you know of good research supporting vegan diets for dogs, please email it to me so I can include it here. I love the idea of feeding a vegan diet and I wish there were more studies available.
According to The Medical Medium, Anthony William, if you do choose to feed your dogs a vegan or vegetarian diet, they should at least receive wild salmon oil. I highly recommend listening to his radio show on pets (you may want to skip over the first part where he talks for quite awhile about his background). You will find lots of good information about the best diets and supplements for your pets.
Because dogs are naturally omnivorous, they will eat just about anything. My dogs bring in red plumbs from the backyard and eat them in their beds (making quite a mess), and they LOVE bananas, but they also LOVE meat. I prefer the idea of feeding dogs a vegan diet, but I question whether I have a right to impose my dietary preferences on them. It is certainly not what they would have eaten in the wild, but dogs have evolved a lot since their wild days. Maybe they are evolving away from eating meat even now. I hope so!
From My Research
I’ve done a lot of research about what to feed dogs. I once owned a pet shop and I had to know what to tell my customers. I tried a variety of diets for my own dogs over the years, and read all the information I could find on the subject. Most experts, I am sad to say, tell us that dogs are healthiest on a diet of raw meat and/or fish, plus raw vegetables and fruits.
What I feed now is raw, human grade Honest Kitchen Fish and Coconut Grain Free, mixed with Orijen Original dog food. Orijen Original formula is made from a partially raw blend of pastured chicken & turkey, eggs and fish with vegetables and fruits.
Both of these foods are excellent quality, raw or mostly raw, and recommended by Anthony William, The Medical Medium. These companies have a variety of formulas available, but the two foods I have chosen are on the lower end of the EWG carbon emissions chart. If you prefer a raw, frozen food, Steve’s Real Food for dogs or cats is top quality and pasture raised, but remember you will be handling raw meat, so follow strict food safety guidelines.
However, I am gradually moving my dogs toward a vegetarian diet. It is tricky, since one of my dogs has a very sensitive digestive system. Wish me luck!
Important Note: Beware of feeding only chicken-based foods, because the omega fatty acid balance is far too low in omega 3, especially in grain-fed chicken. Orijen does a good job of combining fish and fowl for a good omega fatty acid balance.
Mixing two foods offers more variety. Plus, one brand may offer something the other is missing. I also share fresh fruits and vegetables with my dogs. They love frozen wild blueberries, spirulina tablets, raw carrot sticks, cucumber, and apple slices.
DO NOT FEED: grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocado (unless it is Haas), chocolate, coffee. More foods toxic to some pets.
Make Changes Gradually
I don’t feel very good about feeding my dogs meat. On the other hand, I wouldn’t feel good about forcing them to live on a diet that isn’t ideally suited to their digestive system. It is a hard choice we each have to make, balancing the welfare of our pets with our personal preferences.
Nature has designed the digestive systems of dogs, and especially cats, to include some meat in their diets, but many dogs seem to thrive without it. My advice is to make any changes gradually. See how your dogs do on less and less meat, or no meat at all. If they don’t do well, you can always go back to their previous diet.
It is a fascinating subject. I am definitely open to reading more research. I would love to find clear evidence that a long-term vegan or vegetarian diet is actually healthiest for dogs.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they NEED meat to stay healthy. If you are totally against feeding cats any meat at all, better to have a rabbit, goat, bird, or other naturally vegan pet (see bottom of this page).
Again, Honest Kitchen and Orijen are top quality dry foods for cats, though dry foods are not ideal. Cats naturally get water from their food, so it is best to feed wet, raw foods. Or at least soak their dry food so they don’t get dehydrated. Otherwise, most cats will not drink enough water, which can lead to kidney and urinary tract problems.
Many cats may not like the texture of Honest Kitchen, because it comes in a powdered form. Perhaps if they were started on it as kittens, they would learn to like it. Sometimes adding a little tuna or sardine will get them to try it.
Raw foods are best for the health of dogs and cats. If you don’t mind handling thawed raw meat, Steve’s Real Food is excellent and pasture raised. However, I am concerned about food safety issues connected with handling raw meat products, so have opted for dried raw foods.
Some naturally vegan animals make great pets. I have had a blue and gold macaw for over 25 years. He has been a delightful companion, beloved by family and friends alike. Smaller birds, like hand-fed cockatiels, can also be wonderful pets, but be sure you like listening to them. Some birds can make a lot of repetitive noise and they can live for 30 years or more!
Male budgies can be easily tamed if you get them soon after they leave the nest. The females tend to bite more and be irritable as they get older, but not always. Lovebirds can sometimes be very affectionate, but others like to bite, even if they were hand fed. Be sure you are ready to commit to a many years of care, even if your bird becomes noisy or nippy.
If you can find a hand-fed male canary, you will have a sweet little friend who fills your house with song. I once had one named Tweety Bird and I miss his adorable personality and sweet singing. He was very tame. We let him fly around the house whenever there weren’t too many people around who might accidentally sit on him.
Other Vegan Pets
I also had a house rabbit. Be warned, they love to chew up papers and electric wires. You have to “rabbit proof.” Always keep an eye on them when they are loose in the house. Fortunately, rabbits can be easily potty trained if you provide them with a litter box.
Rats and mice also make very affectionate pets. The females are much less smelly than the males. Sadly, they usually only live a year or two. For children, rats are a much better pet than a delicate hamster.
Outdoor Vegan Pets
For outdoor vegan pets, goats are at the top of my list. They are smart, personable, friendly, and full of fun. They come in several different sizes. Kashmir goats even provide cashmere that you can brush off and spin to make your own cruelty-free scarves and sweaters. A cool thing about Kashmir goats is that the males are not smelly like male dairy goats. At one time we had several males and there was no goat odor in the air.
Now that you know how to keep your pets healthy, visit What Vegans Eat for tips to keep YOU healthy.
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