Yes, they can!
But isn’t it going against nature?
Commercial meat-based pet foods comprise assorted body parts from cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens and fish- animals that cats and dogs never naturally eat. They are also heavily laced with unnatural additives of questionable safety. Are these to be considered a “natural” diet?
Will they still be healthy?
Cats, dogs and other species, have requirements for specific dietary nutrients, not ingredients. There is no scientific reason why a diet comprising plant, mineral and nature-identical ingredients cannot be formulated to meet all of the palatability, nutritional and bioavailability needs of the species for which they are intended. In fact, a growing number of commercial products are now available and studies demonstrate that animals maintained on nutritionally sound vegetarian and vegan diets can be perfectly healthy and active.
How will I get them to change?
Changes are best made gradually, e.g., by feeding a 90%/10% old/new dietary mixture for a few days, then 80%/20%, and so on. This allows an appropriate transition of digestive enzymes and intestinal micro-organisms, minimizing adverse reactions such as abdominal discomfort, flatulence and diarrhoea.
Are there any benefits in vegan diets?
Yes, plant-based diets have reportedly been associated with a range of benefits, such as improved coat condition, allergy control, weight control, increased overall health and vitality, arthritis regression, diabetes regression, cataract resolution, and decreased incidences of cancer, infections, hypothyroidism and ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites).
Wouldn't you want the best for your cherished animal friend?
Andrew Knight MANZCVS, DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DACAW, PhD, FRCVS, SFHEA
Veterinary Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics
Further advice and guidance is available at www.vegepets.info
For vegan pet food available in New Zealand see Resources - Shopping - For your pets