3 Feb

As a canine nutritionist, I am often approached by people who are vegetarians and want to feed their pets a vegetarian diet as well. Although I feed my dog’s left over cooked vegetables, this certainly does not make up the bulk of their diet.

Dog’s and especially cats require animal protein to make up the majority of their diet. gallery-thumbnailsSimply put, they need amino acids and nitrogen and the most effective and easiest way to obtain these are through meat.cat_and_dog_206704

All dogs require 22 amino acids for proper growth and maintenance. They are able to make 12 of these on their own, and require an intake of 10 amino acids, derived from food. If there is a deficiency in the amino acids, this could cause an imbalance or metabolic disturbance. Protein intake must be balanced so that all the essential amino acids are being fed.

Cats, on the other hand, are obligatory carnivores. Cats require taurine in their diet, as they cannot synthesize this on their own. Taurine is essential for cats and meowing_cat_194269a deficiency could cause heart and vision problems. Taurine is found in meat, seafood and eggs. Furthermore, cats do not have the ability to conserve nitrogen from their body’s reserves. The only alternative that ensures sufficient conservation of body protein is for them to consume high levels of protein.

Plants break down into dietary fiber when fed. There are certain microbes that are found in the large intestine of dogs and cats that are able to break down the fiber to some degree. This bacterial fermentation produces short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Ruminants and herbivores are able to derive a significant amount of energy from the SCFAs produced from the fermentation of fiber. Dogs and cats are not ruminants or herbivores and therefore cannot derive significant amounts of energy this way. This is due to the relatively short and simple structure of their large intestine, which is made to digest meat and pass it through quickly. Although SCFAs are an important energy source for dogs and cats, because it helps the epithelial cell lining of the gastrointestinal track, it does not gallery-thumbnails-3provide the energy that protein does for proper growth and maintenance. Fiber can be used to regulate stool consistency. Since fiber normalizes the water content in the intestines, it either adds moisture to help with constipation or absorbs water to help with diarrhea.

There are vegan and vegetarian diets on the market, which are balanced, however, I get concerned when someone is feeding a home-prepared diet in this manner. It also interests me when dogs are fed carrots and apples as snacks or treats. Dog’s and cats are unable to break down the cell wall structure of raw plant matter, including fruits and vegetables. Over time they may develop crystals in their urine as a result. Carrots and apples contain a lot of sugar, making them not the low fat treat as their owners think. Cooked or pulverized fruits and vegetables are a safer option than feeding raw, however, gallery-thumbnails-1it is more important to feed high quality protein found in meat, rather than plant material to your omnivore and obligatory carnivore.


Written by:  Brenda M. Tobin-Flood, Cert. C.N.

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With a background in Animal Science, Animal Nutrition, and Natural Health, I can help you to create a holistic wellness plan for your animal companions.  Does your pet have an acute or chronic disease? I use natural curative treatments such as homeopathy, herbs and essential oils.  Have any questions, or to schedule an appointment,  email


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