Can my pet be a vegetarian?

Photography by: Christian Northeast
Can my pet be a vegetarian?

Cats need meat Cats are obligate carnivores—they must eat protein, which is then broken down into glucose and used as energy. A cat’s metabolism doesn’t allow them to fully utilize the sugars found in grains and carbohydrates, and what they can’t process ends up stored in fat tissue. (Look for dry cat foods that are high in protein and meat products.) For optimum feline health, your kitty’s diet should comprise about 75 percent protein—and that’s a tough mark to hit with vegetarian proteins. Meats and meat-based foods are a high-quality protein source and are not very difficult to incorporate into your cat’s diet.

Dogs need protein As omnivores, dogs are theoretically better adapted to live on a vegetarian diet than cats are, but protein should still make up 40 to 60 percent of what they eat. If your brand of dog food has a high-carbohydrate content, add protein-rich wet food to their dry mix, such as eggs sunny side up (uncooked yolks, cooked whites), Jack mackerel (which is low in mercury), grilled chicken or salmon. You should also occasionally toss your furry friend some raw organ meat, which should make up 10 to 15 percent of a dog’s diet. (Check with your veterinarian before altering your pet’s diet to avoid digestive issues.)

B’s for better health A meat-based diet also contains high amounts of B vitamins—in particular B12 and folic acid, which help with practically every function of your dog’s or cat’s body. Among their many benefits, these crucial B vitamins detoxify the liver, boost energy levels and promote healthy eyes. The bottom line: While you might benefit from a vegetarian diet thanks to a lower fat and calorie intake, don’t extend the lifestyle to your pet. For cats and dogs, plenty of meat is healthy, natural and necessary. — Dee Blanco, D.V.M, holistic veterinarian and veterinary homeopath in Santa Fe, N.M.