Can My Pet Be Plant Based Too?

Recently, I’ve seen a few people on social media confessing to not feeding their pets meat. Animals dietary systems are quite different to ours, and when I worked in a pet based store there was a few times I had to explain to customers that cats in particular could not go on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Although, customers being customers were not really fussed on what I had to say back then. I’m going to go through a few different common household pets that I have been asked about in the past and talk about whether or not these can go plant based.

Dogs

I have had a lot of people telling me that their dogs have been allergic to their own dog food! How weird is that? A dogs digestive system can easily absorb and digest nutrients from fruits and vegetables, so technically yes dogs can go vegan. There is a few fruits and vegetables that dogs can’t eat and can be poisonous to them, so if you are ever thinking about this please be aware of which foods need to be kept away.

Benefits:

  • Can help manage weight gain as some of the cheaper kibbles (like pedigree) is very high in fat
  • Cummings Vetinary Medical Centre states that a vegan diet for a dog is allergy free, with the common allergens in dogs being meat, dairy and egg
  • It can help dogs gain more energy
  • The food is easily digestible

Cons:

  • Although they can digest the food, meat is digested a lot easier than fruit and vegetables in dogs
  • Collagen and Keratin is very hard to get from a pure vegan diet and dogs need this for strong muscles and joints
  • It will be more time consuming for you, you need to make sure your dog is getting exactly what they need and not losing out on any important nutrients

Cats

This is a very simple one, cats can not be vegan at all. Here’s why:

  • Cat’s are not adapted to digesting a plant based diet correctly
  • Their gastrointestinal tracts and metabolism has adapted to eating meat
  • Unfortunately, for cats, plants do not contain enough protein. They need a high protein diet which fruit and vegetables just can’t provide for them.
  • Cat’s can get taurine deficiency if they do not have the correct amount of meat or animal products in their diet, this can lead to heart issues and the blood not supplying oxygen correctly.

Snakes

Believe it or not I have been asked if an owner can put their snake on a vegan diet. Now, if you have ever worked in a pet store you will probably know that there’s a freezer out the back with mice and rats for snakes to eat. As much as I did not enjoy handling these, I do understand that to maintain a healthy diet this is what snakes must eat.

  • Snakes are obligated carnivores
  • They have a digestive system that is literally designed to consume animals
  • For further proof of this, their stomach is filled with acid which is made to dissolve bones
  • Snakes do not have the enzymes they need to be able to digest plants and their digestive tract is too short. One of the reasons we know humans have pretty much always been plant eaters is because of how long our digestive tract is.

Birds

Birds are becoming more and more common household pets recently and I am not surprised, I can’t wait to be able to get one myself. Small birds make fantastic pets for a vegan diet, there’s just a few things to remember:

  • Birds cannot live on purely a seed based diet, it does not provide enough nutrition for them
  • The best option to add to a birds diet is pellets, they provide a balanced diet which is something a bird can’t choose themselves
  • Avoid giving your bird citrus fruits, instead feed them things like corn, carrots, asparagus, apples and grapes

So, if you’re a vegan household and would like to get a pet that can be raised on a vegan diet your best options are pets like:

  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Small birds
  • Fish, although be warned if you have five or more in a tank (which you definitely should not please look into how correctly accommodate fish), you will probably see a few eating each other. 

Please always consult your veterinary dietitian before changing any animals diet at all. Handling meat to keep your pets happy and healthy is always better than them having any deficiencies.

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