If your motivation to go vegetarian or vegan was a moral one due to the unnecessary cruelty that goes around in farms and slaughterhouses, you must have at some point felt a little guilty about the ingredients in your dogs’ or cats’ food.
Indeed it is the great loophole in your effort to reduce animal cruelty in farms. Most animal feed manufacturers get their ingredients from whatever is left over form the human food industry, so indirectly you are buying into the cruel practices of animal farming. If you want a way to get around this we might have the solution you have been looking for.
Dog and cat food
Trying to feed vegetables to a carnivore is no different than trying to feed meat to a herbivore. I cannot imagine any of you trying to feed meat to a horse. You would be feeding something the animal is not designed to digest so you should not do it. If it crosses your mind to one day put your cat on a vegan diet, slap yourself and stop right there. All felines need taurine from their food, which is not found in plant material, and therefore cats need to eat meat or animal products.
Although dogs are omnivores and can certainly survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet there are dangers to this. Home made diets can be difficult, if not impossible, to get right, even when meat is included, let alone when it is excluded. A suitable diet is one that is complete, offers the essential nutrients in the right amounts and proportions and in a form that is available for use by the animal. If you manage to design a diet that has the right amount and proportion of nutrients, many dogs may not be able to digest and extract the nutrients in plant material even when it is there. And if you manage to overcome this, you still haven’t replaced the effect of meat and bones on dental hygiene, digestive pH and curbing boredom.
If you’re a vegan specifically because you care about animal well-being you shouldn’t do that to an animal unless you know what you’re doing because you are a nutritional scientist specializing in the nutrition of your pet’s species. I would personally aim to reduce meat consumption and buy feed that is cruelty free/organic/free-range but not everyone can foot the bill for that.
What’s the Alternative?
There is an alternative. You might want to rethink the species you keep as pets once your current ones live a fully healthy life. There are several pet animals that are naturally vegetarian or vegan that have no qualm about not eating any meat. While I wouldn’t imagine most of you getting a horse, it is perfectly plausible to keep rabbits. Many (not all) rodents, birds, arthropods, and reptiles are vegan, as are alpacas and goats if that’s your fancy. If their natural diet is purely vegan or vegetarian then you may have just found your new best friend.
But please don’t forget about the many many many dogs and cats needing homes. Irrespective of your dietary choices, abandoned cats and dogs on the street are vulnerable to abuse, injury and disease and living their life in a kennel is no walk in the park either. The MSPCA works tirelessly to reduce the number of strays while also trying to rehome as many unwanted pets before they end up on the streets. Help us by adopting instead of buying or by contributing to our neutering campaigns.