Can Pets Survive on a Meat-free Diet?

Meat-free diets are becoming increasingly mainstream due to rising awareness of the believed health benefits and the positive environmental impact. More than 14% of Brits currently consider themselves as following a plant-based – vegan or vegetarian – daily diet and many are wondering if their pets could also benefit from eating meat-free.

While some pet owners may be happy to feed their dogs or cats anything that comes out of a can or box, others prefer to give them food made from all-natural ingredients. Is the logical next step to switch the four-legged members of the household to a meatless diet?

“With the increasing popularity of meat-free diets, it’s no surprise that a number of pet owners are willing to try this for their pets. A plant-based diet could bring a range of benefits to humans but pet owners will need to ensure it will be good for their pets before they make the change”, cautions Alex Bennett, Head of Marketing at petGuard.

It can be hard to find information on whether this is a safe option for pets, so leading pet insurer petGuard has investigated whether a meat-free diet is suitable for cats and dogs.

Can dogs live on a meat-free diet?

Technically, yes. Dogs can survive and live on a vegetarian or vegan diet. As dogs evolved from wolves, they are used to eating foods other than meat. In the wild, wolves tend to eat a diet made up of plant starch.

Dogs are omnivores, which means that they don’t require as many specific nutrients as an obligate carnivore does but still may benefit from having plant sources like fruits and vegetables. When preparing for changing a pet’s diet, it is always best to seek advice from a vet or pet nutritionist to ensure that you provide everything they need to stay healthy.

Can cats live on a meat-free diet?

Cats may not be able to adapt to a meat free diet as they have much different nutritional requirements than dogs. Cats are considered obligate carnivores, which means they depend on meat for survival, as their bodies cannot digest plant material properly.

The challenge for cats is that their bodies struggle to produce certain proteins, such as taurine. Instead, cats get taurine and amino acids from meat such as chicken or beef that can be found in commercial cat foods.

“It is important for pets to have a balanced diet to make sure they are not lacking anything their body needs” adds Bennett.

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