“It is possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it is much easier to be wrong than to do it right,” according to the president of the British Veterinary Association. But the case of cats is much more complex.
In June 2016, a Tumblr user posted a photo of the dinner he was about to serve his labrador.
“Tonight, on Maggie’s menu is sweet potato puree (also known as sweet potato or sweet potato), brown rice puree, organic sprouted tofu, chia seeds, and digestive enzymes. Do you look excited? It is! “Sfveganyogi wrote.
Actually, Maggie was most likely much less excited about her food than the large number of users who responded to the post.
Many of them were outraged that the owner of a dog decided to feed their pet with mashed tubers and tofu instead of the meat-based foods, which dogs generally eat with such relish.
The publication, and especially a response that highlighted the apparent apathy Maggie’s went viral.
And the vegan blogger, author of the controversial post, finally decided to abandon her account.
Without essential amino acids like taurine, cats can die.
As veganism increases – according to recent research, it grew 600% in the United States alone between 2014 and 2017 – so has the idea that feed our animals with products Different from lfrom the meat industry It is a good idea.
The carbon footprint left by pet food is considerable. It is estimated that in 2017 the carbon emitted by the meat consumed by the animals threw the equivalent of around 64 million tons of CO2 per year into the air, which is the same as driving 13 million cars during the same period.
That figure includes only the carbon emitted by animals that end up being pet food. Apart from this, it must be taken into account the water used to grow food that they consume, in addition to the drinking water they drink, from the cleared forest in order to create their grazing land, and more and more land and water contaminated by its residues.
As the pet population increases, pet ownership is on the rise in countries like China, for example, and owners are turning to foods intended for both human aesthetics and animal nutrition, so it is likely that footprint keep growing.
In 2017, the scientific journal Plos One published an article that estimated cats and dogs in the U.S. they ate the caloric equivalent to the diet of 63 million Americans.
British law requires animal owners to feed their pets a proper diet.
Neither vegan nor vegetarian
This has led many to ask the following question: Can our cats and dogs stop eating meat and become completely vegan?
Aside from the debate over nutrition facts, the personal opinions of a pet owner may face specific legislation designed to protect the welfare of the creatures.
“In the UK, according to the Animal Welfare Act, the owner has an obligation to feed the animal with a proper diet, “explains Daniella Dos Santos, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
“If you don’t want to consume any animal protein because of your personal belief system, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet your pet’s wellness standards.”
“Cats are obligate carnivores. They need certain amounts of amino acids to be healthy and the lack of these can cause health problems,” adds Dos Santos.
“For that reason, I would not recommend a vegetarian diet, and much less a vegan“
Cats are a particular challenge because they cannot produce certain proteins, such as taurine, on their own.
Instead, they have to absorb it from their food, and beef, chicken, and fish are particularly rich sources of protein.
Cats without enough taurine are at risk of developing a life-threatening disorder called dilated cardiomyopathy, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Cats don’t grow healthy on a vegan diet
Cats need essential nutrients that only meat can provide.
In cats with dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes very thin and weak, preventing them from pumping blood and supplying oxygen to the body.
If it’s not treated from the start, this disease can be fatal, says the ASPCA in an article about cats and vegan diets.
Cats need a particularly high protein diet, which is more difficult to find with a vegan diet. In fact, it could even cause them trouble processing carbohydrates. “It does not allow them to digest plant material well, and they need essential nutrients that only meat can provide,” says the association.
All that has not stopped some companies from creating vegan cat food.
One of them is Italy-based Ami, which sells vegan cat food. enriched with taurine and other essential proteins.
But the general consensus of all but a handful of vets is that cats are unlikely to grow up healthy on a meatless diet.
¿AND dogs? Here, science seems to qualify a bit.
Some companies have created vegan cat food, but most vets say cats are unlikely to grow up healthy on a meatless diet.
Much easier to be wrong than to do it right
Part of the reason that dogs They went from being wild species to becoming animals of company It was because of the food offered to them as they approached the bonfires.
This meal was not always meat.
In the wild, wolves obviously eat meat, but they are also known to eat eggs, berries, and even grass, if they lack vitamins.
Dogs may have adapted to a diet with less meat and more plant starch. Crucially, they have amylase genes, this means they can digest the starch from plants, an adaptation that may have evolved as they ate the debris left behind by humans in prehistoric fires.
Because of this, dogs have an advantage when it comes to bringing them on a meat-free diet. But Dos Santos, the president of the British Veterinary Association, warns that It is not so simple.
“It is theoretically possible to feed a dog a vegetarian diet, but it is a lot easier to make mistakes than to do it right“It would have to be done under the supervision of a veterinary nutritionist.”
But certainly there are also companies joining the challenge of meatless dog food.
Wild Earth is one of them. Its creator, Ryan Bethencourt, is a scientist who had previously been heavily involved in new signatures of “food of the future“like Memphis Meats and Gelzen.
Wild Earth dog food includes mushrooms like koji, which gives it a meaty flavor.
More dogs than children
Bethencourt was inspired to create a food free of animal products in part due to a series of recalls, some of them due to the high levels of pollutants they produced in the United States.
“In 2018, 100 million units of pet food were recalled, in part because some had very high levels of a euthanasia drug, pentobarbital.”
Bethencourt said additional research showed her that many pet foods were made from animal by-products that they did not have to meet the same standards as those intended for human consumption.
I was also concerned about the increasing carbon footprint of pet foodAs the number of pets was increasing, it was necessary to raise more animals to feed them.
“In San Francisco, there are believed to be more dogs than children,” says Bethencourt, who lives in California, USA.
The carbon footprint left by the pet food industry is growing.
At first, Bethencourt tried to get other people’s attention to act accordingly, but failed. “If you can’t find someone who does, you end up realizing that maybe you have to be that person,” he says.
He and his partner, Ron Shigeta, officially launched Wild Earth in March 2018. This entrepreneur says he always intended for food to become a complete diet rather than a supplement. “The first criticism of plant-based diets is that they are low in protein, so we wanted to make sure it was a protein-rich food.”
The kibble, which can be bought online, contains all kinds of herbal ingredients, including seaweed (which Bethencourt says are rich in essential fats).
“A great ingredient is yeast. When you look at the biomass, yeast is about 40% protein, and a good steak is about 30%,” he says. Then it contains other mushrooms, specifically the koji, which is one that grows on wheat.
Bethencourt says that fungal cells “are much more related to animal cells than to plants.” The other benefit of mushrooms is that they can add a umami flavor with a hint of meat, which dogs enjoy.
Include insects in the diet?
Chippin’s Haley Russell says crickets contain the 10 essential amino acids that dogs need.
Those who hesitate to feed their animals a completely plant-based diet, but at the same time they want reduce carbon footprintThey may have other options.
Haley Russell and Laura Colagrande are the creators of a pet food company called Chippin.
The couple discovered at university the extraordinary nutritional composition of the most notable ingredient in their products: crickets.
These small animals are a food resource worth turning to. Already millions of people, mainly in East Asia, eat crickets as part of their daily diet.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, insects like crickets constitute a good alternative source protein.
Crickets have up to 65% protein by weight, and are also rich in unsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Furthermore, these insects give very real benefits as to sustainability.
Beef cattle need 8 grams of feed to produce one protein, while crickets only need two grams of feed to create one gram of this macronutrient. Similarly, crickets spend much less water, a resource that worries farmers in many regions of the world.
“Dogs love the taste of crickets”
Crickets are a good alternative source of protein, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
“They provide the 10 essential amino acids your dog needs – they are the 10 building blocks without which your dog cannot thrive,” says Russell.
“And dogs love the taste of crickets. We wanted to create a food that was healthy and delicious but also nutritious. (From the beginning) it was about finding ingredients that meet the health and flavor requirements, but also they contained something that would help with sustainability. “
Crickets do not emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and produce far fewer agricultural discharges, something that can pollute water and arable land. “From a dumping point of view, crickets are really interesting because they don’t create the same manure management problem,” says Russell.
In research published in the Journal of Cleaner Production in 2017, a group of researchers found that cricket farmers in Thailand used almost 25% less water than those who raised chickens in that country (note that in other countries, chicken farms may use less water).
In the future, crickets too they could be a source food for cats, according to Russell.
“Insects can help with the challenges of cat food diets because they are complete proteins. But we are focused on dogs for now,” he adds.
Although one is vegan and the other uses cricket protein, Chippin and Wild Earth have one thing in common: Both Bethencourt and Russell have tested their products.
“I eat it all the timeBethencourt says. “I don’t think people should sell dog food unless they eat it themselves.”
“I challenged Nestlé and Mars executives to try their own dog food and none of them have accepted it yet!”
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Human foods that are dangerous to your pet
A balanced human diet is not always adapted to animals, and in fact can be highly toxic to them. So the next time you feast on your pet by feasting on your favorite food, think again. Here are some foods to avoid giving your pet, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is toxic to pets if eaten in large quantities. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tachycardia, or an irregular heartbeat and restlessness. Dark chocolates are worse since they contain higher levels of the substance.
Consuming salt in large amounts can cause excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. It can cause diarrhea, tremors, elevated body temperature, and can even lead to death. Avoid feeding them products like chips, pretzels, and salty popcorn.
Alcoholic beverages and any type of food products that contain alcohol can cause vomiting, decreased coordination, and abnormal blood acidity. If you suspect that your pet has consumed alcohol, contact your veterinarian, since consumption in large quantities can even be fatal.
Raw or undercooked meat / bones
Raw meat contains bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can cause stomach infections in pets. Ingesting bones can cause suffocation, intestinal blockage, or tears in the animal’s digestive tract. Whenever possible, give them cooked minced or boneless meat.
Onion and garlic
They contain chemicals that can damage red blood cells, particularly in cats and to some extent in dogs, and cooking them does not reduce their potential toxicity. Onion and garlic can also cause gastrointestinal irritation.
Coconut milk and meat contain oils that are not adapted to animals. When consumed in large quantities, coconut and coconut-based products can cause stomach upset and loose stools.
Raw eggs can contain bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli and have an enzyme called avidin that can affect the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems.
Coffee / Caffeine
Coffee contains substances called methylxanthines that can cause diarrhea in pets, as well as panting, thirst and excessive urination, abnormal heart rhythm and, in extreme cases, even death.
Grapes and raisins
Although the harmful element within grapes has not been identified, they can be highly toxic to most pets and cause sudden kidney failure. In addition to grapes, foods such as fruit salads, cereals, granola bars, and raisin cookies should also be kept away from them.
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is used in many products, such as chewing gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most pets, which can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure.
Nuts, such as almonds, pecans, and walnuts, include significant amounts of natural oils and fats that can be heavy to digest and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
Avocado consumption can be a problem for most animals, including rabbits, birds, horses, donkeys, and sheep. Certain elements in avocados can be particularly toxic to birds, causing shortness of breath and severe cardiovascular damage.
These contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and depression of the nervous system if taken in significant amounts. Even small doses are capable of causing stomach upset.
Milk and dairy
Pets have lower levels of the lactase enzyme that helps break down lactose. It is preferable to keep them away from milk and other lactose-based products, as they can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Eating yeast dough can cause gas in a pet’s digestive system, which can lead to bloating and even twisting of the stomach. If a dog eats raw bread dough, he can get drunk as the yeast releases a chemical called ethanol, a form of alcohol.