Many animal-loving vegetarians are faced with the dilemma concerning how to deal with their pets’ nutritional needs. They don’t like the idea of other animals being slaughtered to feed the pets that they love. On the other hand, they don’t want to subject their pets to malnutrition. This can be a tough game of give and take for many pet owners.
The truth is, it is possible to provide a healthy, vegetarian diet for dogs – but it is very difficult, and often more expensive than conventional choices. Your dog is not a true carnivore, but rather an omnivore. Read the ingredients on the back of the bag of dog food some time. The first ingredient listed is corn. The second is soy. The first meat product, poultry product (not even meat), doesn’t come in until number three.
What does this mean? It means that while meat may not be as dominant in Fido’s diet as you might have believed, your dog is still getting many of his essential nutrients from animal by products. And while a dog may not be a true carnivore-like, for instance, a cat-he is much more carnivorous than a human. Putting your dog on a vegetarian diet is much more complicated and must be monitored much more tightly than the vegetarian diet you provide for yourself.
There are many products available for those interested in canine vegetarianism, including commercial dog foods (of varying degrees of quality), and various books which provide recipes and tips for ensuring that your pet gets all of the amino acids and vitamin B12 that he needs from his non-animal sources. Even if you don’t choose to go entirely vegetarian with your dog food you can still choose natural and organic foods too. Natural dog food is made up of ingredients that have not been processed and do not have added chemicals or hormones. Organic pet food is made from at least 90% organic ingredients that also do not have chemical ingredients or hormones.
However, even if you manage to meet all of your pooch’s protein and vitamin needs through vegetarian or organic means, there are still issues that must be addressed. For example, a vegetarian diet is likely to make your dog’s urine more alkaline. Therefore, you must continually take urine samples to monitor this. If his urine becomes too basic, it will put him at risk for urinary tract infections which can be extremely painful for your dog.
Another issue to take into account is the dog’s intestines. Humans have a long intestinal tract, which helps us in breaking down the plant matter (the dominant component of our natural diet). Dogs have a much shorter, simpler intestinal tract. This is because, in theory, their natural diets contain less plant matter (and more animal matter) than does the human diet. Therefore, even in his nutritional needs are being met through the diet they may provide additional strain on his intestines, thus creating digestive problems.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended that, if you insist on putting your dog on a vegetarian diet, that you consult your veterinarian before doing so and that you have the vet work with you in creating the diet and in subsequently monitoring the animal’s health. Whatever you do, do not assume that a vegetarian diet that may be optimal for you will be sufficient for your canine companion. Humans and dogs have very different nutritional needs.
Also, while it may be doable (if very challenging) to put dogs on a vegetarian diet without jeopardizing their health, it is nearly impossible for cats. Cats are designed for a highly carnivorous diet, and must obtain many of the nutrients that humans and dogs can produce for themselves from animal sources.