Countless Vegans have pets or take care of rescued dogs and cats. Whether or not pets can be vegan is still a matter of debate.
Can our Dogs and Cats Be Vegan? The answer is yes!
Dogs and cats can live and thrive in a vegan diet. A vegan dog, Bramble, has been one of the 8 oldest living dogs (25 years old). He lived in the UK, on a vegan diet of rice, lentils and organic vegetables and plenty of supplements.
Andrew Knight, a European veterinary specialist in animal welfare science, ethics and law, and a professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester, explains.
‘Dogs, cats—and indeed all species—require speciﬁc nutrients, rather than speciﬁc ingredients. There is no reason why diets comprised entirely of plants, minerals, and synthetically-based ingredients (i.e., vegan diets) cannot meet the necessary palatability, bioavailability, and nutritional requirements of cats and dogs as well as the taste our beloved friends would like.’
Cats require taurine which many people argue can only get from meat. The old method of isolating taurine was outdated in the 1920’s, being replaced with a more efficient synthetic process. The irony of the whole taurine issue is most cats rely on synthetic taurine anyway as most meat-based pet foods utilize the same synthetic taurine that the vegan cat food manufacturers do.
Are you thinking “that’s not what my veterinarian says!” Truthfully, most vets aren’t educated about vegan diets for animals. The educational materials for the few nutritional courses that veterinarians do take are written by the meat pet food companies. They consist of the results from studies the companies themselves have conducted. Furthermore veterinary students receive very little information about plant-based/alternative diets and in some vet universities even no information at all (like for example in Greece).
How pet food is produced?
The pet food industry tells us that packaged slaughterhouse waste products are necessary for proper nutrition and many of us accept this at face value.
50% of every animal slaughtered for food isn’t used in producing human food. What remains – head, feet, bone, blood, brain, intestines, organs, fat and unborn babies- goes into your pet’s food. Pet food has also the “4-d” animals: the dead, dying, diseased & disabled.However, on citizens’ requests, on April 30, 2019, the FDA announced that it would no longer be allowed.
However, FDA is not against the following:
- Pesticide contamination in excess of the permitted tolerance or action level.
- Pesticide contamination where the pesticide involved is unapproved for use on a food or feed commodity.
- Contamination by industrial chemicals.
- Contamination by natural toxicants.
- Contamination by filth.
- Microbiological contamination.
- Over tolerance or unpermitted drug residues.
- Food adulterated with secretions of cockroaches, mice and birds.
Rot meat from supermarkets are also in cat & dog food. The worst part is that it is not required to take them out of the styrofoam packages before grinding them. Moreover, many ingredients contained in pet food such as meat, poultry and seeds are considered safe and do not require FDA approval before they are placed on the market.
In addition, FDA conducted a study in order to investivate the presence of pentobarbital in pet food (the most common euthanasia drug) and the results were that it was encountered as well.
Pet Food Animal Testing
Some conventional pet food not only contain dead animals but it’s also tested on animals.
The vast majority of food tests are conducted in laboratory experiments on rodents, but some are also performed on guinea pigs, dogs and rabbits.Feeding trials – legally known as “feeding protocols” – is testing of a pet food to validate the nutritional adequacy.The unfortunate fact is that almost all feeding trials are performed in specialty kennels (laboratory kennels) often on animals that are ‘purposely bred’. Purposely bred cats and dogs are animals specifically bred to be test subjects; specifically bred to be calm under laboratory conditions. Most of these animals never have a home, often never see daylight. Most of these cats and dogs are born, raised and die within laboratory kennel settings.
Pet food’s carbon footprint – a severe environmental issue
It is not just what we feed to our pets, but also that what we feed them contributes to the environmental impacts of our pets. Pet food is estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impacts of meat production in regards to the use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates and pesticides and a UCLA research showed that dogs and cats account for 25 to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States. Furthermore, the new trend for raw food (BARF) is, in environmental terms, a step backwards.
An average-sized dog consumes about 360 pounds of meat in a year and about 210 pounds of cereal. Taking into account the amount of land it takes to generate that amount of food and the energy used, that makes your dog quite the carbon hound. A 2009 study by New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington concluded that pet dogs have carbon paw prints double that of a typical SUV. John Barrett of the Stockholm Environment Institute, in York, Great Britain, confirmed the results of the New Zealand study. “Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat,” Barrett told New Scientist Magazine.
A vegan diet is now scientifically proven to be safe and even benefits animal health when consuming safe vegan foods, designed with all the necessary supplements and far superior to conventional ones.
What is worse?
Providing cats and dogs a vegan diet that is formulated for their nutritional needs or giving them a highly processed meat-based food consisted of tumors, nerve tissues, styrofoam and a poison designed to kill them?
If everyone stopped eating meat but continued to create a demand for meat-based pet food, the animal slaughter industry would continue to be profitable and animals would continue to suffer unnecessarily.
In a veterinary conference in Finland two years ago, ithe set up of chicken farms exclusively for pet food production has been mentioned, so the pet food not always comes from the remnants of animals slaughtered for human consumption. Likewise there is a Greek family farm of calves and lambs, which are exclusively bred for BARF food.
The moral choice of what to feed the animals is on us, not on our pets. There is a variety of vegan dry food, canned and delicacies for dogs and cats. If you try some and your pets are not satisfied, don’t give up, try other brands until you find the one that suits them the best.
Cat and Dog food
Italian pet food Ami cat & Ami dog. In Greece we can get them from the German online shop Simply Vegan.
Spanish pet food Veggie animals / pienso natural.
Greek wet canned dog food supplement Naturest.
The majority of the following options can be found at the online pet store Zooplus which has different addresses for each EU country (zooplus.gr for Greece, zooplus.es for Spain etc):
Dutch dog food & dog treats Yarrah.
German dog food Veggie Dog which come in paper bag although there is a thin plastic membrane in between the papers.
The German cold pressed pellet Lukullus Veggie which is the ONLY one that comes 100% in paper.
The cheapest among all is Pitti Boris which does not contain though L-carnitine & taurine so only with a supplement can be given with safety.
Two more Italian choicess: V.E.G. Vegan Ethical Gourmet & Benevo. For dogs with allergies the dutch ones Denkadog Hypo-Sensitive and finally one more German option the Terra Pura Bio.
Supplement for dogs made in Germany here. From the same website, you can order the dry dog food Greta and the wet dog food Pauline.
Dog treats made in UK here (Soopa healthy bites).
Vegdog (not available through zooplus, but through Simply Vegan)
American Evolution which is the oldest that in Europe can be purchaded from the Dutch e-shop Vega Life (this brand also has canned food suitable for both dogs and cats but maybe it’s a supplement as well as the Naturest).
Italian Forza 10 Bio
Here you can find all vegan pet food suppliers worldwide
Update 2023: I started ordering cat and dog food from a German, exclusively vegan, online petfood store named Simply Vegan. I prefer ordering from there for several reasons: 1) The package comes plastic free, 2) It’s always better to support exclusively vegan (and small) businesses.
Vegan Canine Nutritionists
Germany – Lisa Walther – website
1) Arielle Griffiths – website & 2) Shevega team – website
(There are also in US some, but they charge 200-500 dollars which I find insane so I am not going to post them here)
One of them though, published a book which is affordable (and especially the ebook): The plant-powered dog – Unleash the healing powers of a whole-food plant-based diet to help your canine companion enjoy a healthier, longer and a link for the ebook here.
Relevant scientific publications
Cats and Carbohydrates: The Carnivore Fantasy?
Vegan cats live long and healthy lives – preliminary study (Very good news that there was not observed any correlation between urinary problems and nutrition)
A cross-sectional study of owner-reported health in Canadian and American cats fed meat- and plant-based diets (No differences in reported lifespan were detected between diet types. Fewer cats fed plant-based diets reported to have gastrointestinal and hepatic disorders. Cats fed plant-based diets were reported to have more ideal body condition scores than cats fed a meat-based diet. More owners of cats fed plant-based diets reported their cat to be in very good health.)
An experimental meat-free diet maintained haematological characteristics in sprint-racing sled dogs
Domestic dogs maintain positive clinical, nutritional, and hematological health outcomes when fed a commercial plant-based diet for a year
Vegan versus meat-based dog food: Guardian-reported indicators of health
The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet
100 Vegan-Eating Dogs; An encyclopedia of Vegan Dog Nutrition
Vegetarian versus Meat-Based Diets for Companion Animals
Plant-based (vegan) diets for pets: A survey of pet owner attitudes and feeding practices
Three studies on vegan diets for dogs
For both dogs and cats
Amino acid content of selected plant, algae and insect species: a search for alternative protein sources for use in pet foods
Vegan versus meat-based pet foods: Owner-reported palatability behaviours and implications for canine and feline welfare
Sustainable pet info – summary
Some more resources not provided in the text
Dog food industry exposed – The shocking truth about dog food
Many pet owners keen to have vegan pets
Taurine – Technical Evaluation Report
Scientific Opinion on the safety and efficacy of taurine as a feed additive for all animal species
Latest article on the subject: I put my dog on a vegan diet, so do you.
Whole food plant based feeding for dogs
Jack’s Place- Plant Based-Canine Support Group targeting food allergies
Veterinary vegan network (page) & Veterinary vegan network (group)
Relevant article: Why Aren’t More Veterinarians Vegan?
We don’t encourage pets’ guardians to give them cooked food because it lacks of some necessary nutrients such as L-carnitine and taurine. This could happen only if supplements were added in the cooked meals but this needs caution with the dosage. However, for the ones who want such relevant information there is this book and this book. Supplements here.
Disclaimer 2 (for cats’ guardians):
As you can see here (4 – Urinary alkalinisation) there is a doubt in regards to male cats since from a sample of thousands vegan cats, although the 85-90 % of them were healthy, the rest 10-15% had kidney stones (a fact that is encountered often in all male cats though, regardless their nutrition).
In addition, a research, which is analyzing 2 vegan pet food brands (the one being the canned Evolution wet food for both cats and dogs) concludes that these 2 specific brands do not have all necessary ingredients. However, there is an answer to that research by Dr. Andrew Knight in which it is stated that that the sample tested was nutritionally inadequate, but most samples sold and used are adequate, and that a formulation error occurred at the factory.
On the other hand, here you can see the lab’s analysis on Benevo cat food (look at the 1st graph) shows that this vegan cat food contains the necessary taurine a cat food needs to have. Finally, a publication based on blood tests conducted on vegan cats living in the States, showed that 14 out of 17 had blood taurine concentrations within reference range.
Ethical disclaimer (3) – food for thought:
Our fight should not be limited in spaying stray animals and pets and in making sure pets are microchiped or on changing their diets, but it should be extended in the idea of NO LONGER “owning” companion animals which is the actual problem.
Imagine how many animals have suffered in order for vaccinations to get produced and go out in the market…same goes for the peventinve products we give to them in order to protect them from parasites as well as for vet medications etc.
Reflect for a moment, on how normal it is to take a dog out on the leash, to be us the one who decides when they eat and what, when and where they will take they pee / poo (and then having to pick it up in a bag) etc. Moreover, spaying may be something non avoidable but this does not mean that it’s not painful and an intervention.
Giving them food with taurine and all the necessary nutrients that cannot be found in the nature, produced in labs, is the best and most ethical choise although this does not mean that these food alternatives are not having an environmental impact. They are produced in other countries, they need to be transported to our country, they come in packages, most of them in plastic ones… The pet industry is one more huge sector of capitalism.
The only way animals are free – the true animal liberation, will come when all breedings of animal species will stop taking place and at the same time all living domesticated animals get spayed. THIS is the goal (but of course unfortunately it’s an utopia). But it should not be to perpetuate ways of better welfare conditions for domesticated animals. No animal should be depended from humans for its survival.
We may love them and they may make us happier, but it’s a selfish anthropocentric need / way of thinking. We shall find ways to coexist with other fellow human beings in peace. Our soul’s emptiness should not be covered by adopting animals. There is something very wrong happening in our curent civilization. Human relationships go through deep crisis. We should work on get back to maintaining healthy human relationships instead of withdrawing from humanity and live in isolated areas surrounded by animals that we love and take care of. Of course as long as there are animals bred, we would rescue, adopt and take care of them but we need to reset our minds on the why this is happening. Interpsecies friendship is fair when both species are free and there is no dependece among them. Unfortunately this is not the case among humans and domesticated animals.
Currently volunteering at a farm sanctuary myself, I feel extreme sadness when seeing their dependence on us.
Relevant article on the ethical issue published at the Guardian: Should we stop keeping pets?