There are so many human vegetarians that some of you may have wondered if your beloved four-legged friend is able to share the same passion and cause as you. If you have ever been interested in having your pet become a vegetarian, it should be helpful to know the nutritional needs of your pet, in order to make the right decision regarding vegetarianism.
There is no scientific basis for the idea that a specific breed cat or dog would fare better as a vegetarian, it is simply an issue between the species. In the canine world, being a vegetarian has no negative effect on nutritional needs.
Dr. John Bauer, professor and professor of clinical nutrition at he Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said, “Dogs are opportunistic carnivores, which means they will eat meat when they have the chance or when no other type of food is available. For wild dogs, prey is not guaranteed, so especially in the colder seasons, dogs will eat more plants and vegetables, as meat is difficult to find. As for pet dogs, they can easily be converted to vegetarians, and if done properly, it is just as healthy as an omnivorous diet is for a dog.
Dogs have the same types of protein balances in their bodies that humans have, thereby making it easy and safe for them to convert back and forth from a vegetarian diet to omnivore. “One problem with having your dog become a vegetarian” said Bauer, “is that it is easier to feed him meat and vegetable-based diets without having to worry about protein type diets.” There are commercial plant and vegetable based diets around for dogs, which seem to work well for the animal’s health and overall well-being.
If you happen to be a cat lover, you must be aware that feline nutritional needs are entirely different from those of dogs. “Cats are obligate carnivores,” said Bauer. “It is essential for cats to have animal-based material in their diets for five specific reasons.”
The first reason is because cats have dramatically higher protein requirements than other mammals. Secondly, cats have an absolute requirement for one protein component, called taurine (an amino acid), that is present in meat products, muscle and skeletal tissue. Both dog and human bodies are able to produce taurine, but cats cannot.
Thirdly, cats have a special fatty acid requirement for a specific omega-6 fat, which is a dietary fat not present in vegetables, only in animal tissues, and cannot be manufactured by a feline’s body. Reason four is that cats cannot make vitamin A from beta-carotene that both dog and human bodies produce from vegetables such as carrots. Vitamin A is only present in animal tissues. The fifth reason cats are required to eat meat is because the B vitamin, niacin, cannot be made from protein precursors, and is readily only found in meat products.
Because these five nutrients cannot be manufactured by a cat’s body, the only place to get them is from animal tissue, so trying to make your pet cat become a vegetarian would be an ill-advised experiment, and you can be sure it is unhealthy. “There is always the possibility that new, vegetable-based sources for cats may be discovered” said Bauer.
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