Numerous vegan-friendly foods are appropriate for dogs to eat, including:
- broccoli, carrots, and other vegetables
- Certain kinds of beans (although keep in mind that beans generally cause flatulence in dogs)
- dark, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach
Dogs should never eat a variety of plant-based foods, of course. You should conduct extensive study before introducing a vegan diet to your dog.
A vegan dog diet also needs to pay close attention to amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in addition to whole foods that are suitable for dogs. To choose the right kinds, quantities, and supplements to give pets all the nutrients they need, it is crucial to speak with a pet nutritionist.
Nowadays, there are more professionally produced vegan dog diets available, which is a sensible choice because these foods have been designed to satisfy a dog’s nutritional needs.
Is feeding a vegan diet to a dog cruel?
Some individuals are thinking about giving their pets vegan food as a “cruelty-free alternative to traditional meat-based kibble” as a result of the growing popularity of vegan lifestyles. People feel comfortable imposing their ethical ideas about eating animal products or the agriculture business onto their pet’s lifestyle since marketing has persuaded them to believe that their dog or cat can survive on a vegetarian diet. But in this instance, human morality not only does not apply to animals, it also turns out to be gravely brutal when it should be ethical. Both feline and canine bodies have evolved to be able to survive on a diet that primarily consists of meat, with cats being obligate carnivores and dogs being opportunistic omnivores. Vegan-fed cats are certain to be unwell and run the risk of dying from malnutrition, while dogs on a vegan diet are quite likely to experience malnourishment that will significantly reduce their quality of life. Recent studies on the gastrointestinal systems and evolutionary history of dogs and cats demonstrate that feeding them a genuinely vegan diet is foolish, if not downright cruel.
Visible Physical Attributes Indicate Meat Is A Primary Food Source
The physiological evidence for this innate propensity to carnivory in household cats and dogs is readily apparent in a number of locations. The molars of both species are designed to efficiently crush bone and ground viscera. Animals that eat more plants will have different shaped teeth. For example, cows have flat molars to crush up plant stuff, whereas humans have a combination of tearing and grinding teeth to allow for an omnivorous diet. Compared to dogs, cats have significantly fewer grinding surfaces since their entire dentition is designed to shear through bone and meat (Bowen, 2006). This is even clear in the way that jaw motion differs between herbivores and carnivores. For example, herbivores like cows have wide, flat molars and jaw muscles that enable them to chew side to side repeatedly with ease (Orr, 2016), while carnivores like cats and dogs have a wide vertical range of motion in their jaw that enables efficient removal of a single mouthful of food without the need for chewing.
Digestive Systems Directly Indicate Dietary Specializations
The layout of an animal’s digestive system, specifically the proportion of its gut length to its body size, is the most evident indication that it needs a meat-based diet. Every living organism will need the same six essential nutrients in species-specific amounts: protein, fat, carbs, water, minerals, and vitamins. While all creatures require glucose, different animal groups have different “preferred sources of energy.” For example, while carnivores are optimized to use protein sources, herbivores are optimized to use carbs.
Animal stomachs can break down protein, but the cellulose in plant matter needs to spend much more time in the intestines before it can be converted into nutrients that can be absorbed. Therefore, an animal’s diet is more herbivorous the longer its gut is compared to its body length. It has been demonstrated that this rule applies to all species of animals, including fish, birds, and mammals. The greatest ratios are found in ruminants: cows and horses both have a 30:1 ratio. Humans have a ratio of roughly 10:1, as they have evolved to consume a diverse diet. Comparatively, cats have a very low ratio of only 4:1 whereas dogs, depending on breed, have a ratio of 6:1. (Chiba, 2014).
The surface of the gut is also crucial in determining the best diet; for instance, the human intestine has many twists and bends that increase its surface area per unit of length, which is perfect for increasing carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Carnivores like cats, however, have intestines that resemble a slightly wavy tube. They don’t require the extra length and surface area to digest fiber as they derive the majority of their energy from protein, which is digested and absorbed higher up in the small intestine. We also know that an animal’s digestive capacity is partially determined by its gut size, particularly in herbivores. The smaller the animal’s gut size or the ratio of its gut length to its body length, the faster the gut’s passage rate and the more nutrient-dense and easily digestible its diet must be, the better (Demment & Van Soest, 1985). The coyote, a carnivore, has a shorter, far less complex gut than a deer, which eats a high-fiber diet, as we can see below.
Cats and Dogs Are Internally Primed For Protein Digestion
Obligate carnivores like cats and ferrets can only digest a little amount of carbs, but they are incredibly good at producing fresh glucose from non-glucose sources (a process called gluconeogenesis). Humans can use the gluconeogenic cycle to generate energy as well, but because our livers are able to regulate it, we can turn it on and off as necessary. The gluconeogenic cycle is constantly active in cats, which can be very problematic if their diet is deficient in protein. A cat’s body preferentially burns protein for fuel since the cycle is perpetual; if the animal doesn’t consume enough easily digested protein, the body will begin dissolving and digesting its own muscles. According to a recent study, cats on high-carb diets were unable to prevent their bodies from converting any protein that was present into glucose, as opposed to switching to using the glucose from the carbohydrates in their food (Harmon, 2016). In extreme circumstances, this can result in the cat having to use its own muscles as fuel.
Plant-Based Diets Deprive Your Pets Of Crucial Nutrients
Grain-heavy diets for dogs and cats have other issues besides the inability to effectively use carbs as energy sources, such as the lack of key elements. The idea of essential nutrients is well-known; they are elements that an animal needs consistently obtain from its diet in order to thrive. The body cannot produce necessary nutrients on its own. (For instance, it is commonly recognized that vitamin C is an important nutrient for humans, guinea pigs, and some types of bats.) These can be vitamins, fatty acids, or amino acids, which are used to create proteins and lipids, respectively. A dog or cat can become seriously ill if any of these are out of balance or deficient, and many of them are biologically impossible for carnivores to synthesis from plant-based diets.
Build organs and filter urine with essential amino acids:
Additionally, cats have a particularly high need for arginine, an amino acid required for converting ammonia into the significantly less harmful urea before it can be eliminated through urination. Ammonia is a consequence of gluconeogenesis, the cycle that cats are specialized for and that their systems are unable to stop. This cycle involves the breakdown of protein for energy. Due to the cat’s high rate of gluconeogenesis, excessive blood levels of ammonia, another condition that is lethal if left untreated, will cause the cat to develop ammonia poisoning (McNamara 2014). Cats become seriously unwell or even pass away after just one arginine-free meal, thus it is essential that they consume enough of this amino acid, which is present in the highest proportions in meat (Morris, 2002).
The Digestive Tract and Immune Response are Controlled by Essential Fatty Acids:
Vitamins Aid Pets in Seeing and Digesting Food
Cats, who lack this route and need a dietary source of pre-processed vitamin A like animal fat or organ meat, cannot digest beta-carotene from plant tissue the way that most mammals (including dogs) can (McNamara, 2014). A chronic vitamin A shortage will result in night blindness and muscle weakness. Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and nerves.
Could Kill Them
Because their bodies are continually on the verge of nutrient shortage, dogs on vegan diets rarely thrive. Unlike a plant-only diet, which frequently supplies these elements in amounts that are difficult for dogs to digest, a meat-based diet easily provides all the critical components they require to survive. Due to their physical inability to digest huge amounts of plant food, vegan dogs will be more likely to suffer from B and D vitamin shortages and will be undernourished.
A cat on a “really vegan diet will, at the very least, be very unwell and in risk of suffering long-term health harm. Racecar engines and cat metabolisms both need high-quality fuel that burns quickly and can only function properly in a very specific set of circumstances. Cats need to consume enough high-quality animal protein on a regular basis to keep their bodies from starting to break down their own tissues. Arginine deficiency will be fatal after only a few meals, and chronic taurine and arachidonic acid deficiency will cause irreversible degeneration of teeth and vital organs. Plant-based diets lack the necessary concentrations of every essential nutrient a cat needs in large quantities. The effects of this shortage on a cat’s health are horrifying. Any one of these shortcomings alone or in combination can and will kill a domestic cat.
Vegan pet diets are just unable to consistently meet the specific and complex requirements of animals designed for a carnivorous lifestyle, including the proper balance of accessible nutrients and protein to carbohydrate ratio. Because of how our evolutionary history has turned us into omnivores, humans can exist on a vegan diet. No vital amino acid we need comes from animal tissue. In contrast, meat, an easily digestible complete protein that satisfies their evolutionary demands, contains the majority of the most important needed nutrients for both dogs and cats in the right concentrations. No amount of wishful thinking will move an animal’s digestive system from the gluconeogenic cycle it has been designed for over thousands of years. These animals, especially cats, did not evolve to survive on carbohydrates.
Giving a species the diet it has adapted to survive on is the most moral thing to do. Dogs and cats should be provided a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that has been tailored to meet the specific nutritional requirements of the animal species. There are high-protein, low-carb pet feeds available that are also high in fiber to support intestinal health and maximize nutritional absorption. Most pets don’t have a lot of control over their diets, so it is up to their human owners to ensure that they are receiving a balanced diet that will enable them to live long, fulfilling lives. It is improper to try to impose human-centric moral norms on an animal that would be negatively affected by them.
* It’s crucial to avoid giving cats too much protein because they excrete so much ammonia as a result of protein metabolism. With an imbalance in magnesium and phosphorus as well as too much ammonia, unpleasant urinary tract problems can result. This is why it’s crucial that cats are fed high-quality protein as part of a well-balanced diet because the best approach to avoid it is through regular hydration and feeding the cat several small meals rather than a few large ones.
The guest author’s bio
University of California, Davis PhD candidate H.C. Dougherty is a modeler of sustainable cattle production systems. Dougherty graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Animal Science and a minor in Ag Business.