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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 certain nutritional needs that your pet has, in order to make
the right decision regarding vegetarianism.
There is no scientific basis on the idea that a specific breed
of 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 their nutritional needs.
"Dogs are opportunistic carnivores" said Dr. John Bauer, M.L.
Professor of Clinical Nutrition at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, "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, therefore making it easy and safe for them to
convert back and forth from a vegetarian diet to one of an
"One problem with having your dog become a vegetarian" said Dr.
Bauer "is that it is easier to feed him meat and vegetable based
diets, without having to worry about protein types. There are
commercial plant and vegetable based diets around for dogs, which
seem to work well for the animal's health and overall
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 not present in vegetables.
This particular Omega 6 fat is only present in high enough
concentrations in animal tissues and cannot be manufactured by a
feline's body. Reason four is 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 and final reason cats are required to eat meat,
is because the B Vitamin, Niacin, cannot be made from protein
precursors, and is readily found in meat products."
The five nutrients mentioned above, cannot be manufactured by a
cat's body. The exclusive place to get these nutrients is from
animal derived tissues. Trying to make your pet cat become a
vegetarian would be an ill-experiment, as you can be sure it is
"There is always the possibility that new vegetable based
sources for cats may be discovered" said Bauer. "Also, as we learn
more about metabolism in cats, it might be possible to make plant
and vegetable based diets for them. Of course it is a very low
possibility at this point, so it is best to not try out
vegetarianism on your own cat, as it would be hazardous to their
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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