Why a Vegetarian Diet for Cats and Dogs Can Be Risky

Cats need some nutrients found only in meat.Cats need some nutrients found only in meat.Many vegetarians forgo eating meat in the pursuit of optimal health. However, there are just as many, if not more people who choose a meatless diet because they are against eating animals. Whether farm animals are killed humanely or not, eating animal flesh is something that many people just cannot do.

So what happens when a vegetarian has a dog or a cat and must feed her pet when nearly all pet foods contain meat? Some attempt to make their pets fellow vegetarians.

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But before you feed your pet an exclusive non-meat diet, consider these health concerns.

Dr. Marty Becker over at Vetstreet says to think twice before switching your carnivorous pet to an all vegetable diet:

"From a purely veterinary perspective, you'll find very few veterinarians who'd recommend a vegetarian diet for a dog or cat, and even fewer who'd describe it as optimal nutrition for these pets. While it's debatable whether or not most dogs can thrive on a diet with no animal protein, they can survive on a vegetarian diet."

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While dogs have a better tendency to tolerate a meatless lifestyle, cats are "obligate carnivores, meaning they need nutrients found in meat to survive." However, some people do feed their cats a vegetarian diet and supplement additional vital minerals that cats need like taurine, which is an acid only found in meat. This can be a risky choice as cats need to be carefully monitored to ensure they are receiving proper nutritional needs.

Instead of going to this extreme, Dr. Becker suggests buying organic or free range meat from farms in which the animals were humanely raised.

If you are considering feeding your pet a vegetarian diet, check with your vet first who will be able to help you supplement your pet with necessary vitamins and minerals to ensure that she stays healthy and happy.

- By Danielle Sullivan
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