by Dr. Erica Anderson
– For The Capitol Hill Times -
Is it bad for my cat or dog’s health to feed it a vegetarian-based diet?
Yes, it can be, and usually is, unhealthy for a pet family member to be fed a vegetarian diet. We encourage pet families to not feed their pets vegetarian-based diets. Cats in particular are obligate carnivores. They have to eat meat because only the proteins found in meat can satisfy their nutritional needs. Plant-based protein and fat are not adequate for cats. Cats fed vegetarian diets long term will have protein deficiencies and can acquire a number of problems, including but not limited to heart disease, poor hair coat, lethargy, mental dullness, listlessness, ophthalmic abnormalities, loss of weight and muscle mass. These disorders can lead to a poor quality of life.
Dogs are scavenging carnivores; they are primarily meat eaters but can survive on plants alone. They fare better on vegetarian diets than cats do, but as Dr. Karen Becker, author and educator on pet nutrition, states, “to survive is not to thrive.” Like cats, their bodies are made to rip, chew, grind and digest meat. They lack the teeth, digestive enzymes and bacteria in their guts to fully break down and digest plant material.
Since neither dogs nor cats, as carnivores, have a natural appetite for plant material, don’t care for the taste or smell of it and can’t chew or digest it efficiently, it doesn’t seem fair to provide them with the means to subsist on a vegetarian diet. If we really want our dogs and cats to thrive and live long, healthy lives, we should feed them meat-based diets. They depend on us to care for them and their diets shouldn’t be based on our own.
Dr. Erica Anderson is a vet at Jet City Animal Clinic at 822 12th Avenue, near Seattle University. Questions for future columns can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. For immediate pet concerns, contact Jet City Animal Clinic to set up a consultation.