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Dogs Can EAT Vegan Too!

Gentle World's two rescued dogs in New Zealand,
Kisses (left) and Royal (right).
Both vegan.

Note: This article has recently been reviewed for accuracy by veterinarian Armaiti May, DVM. (www.veganvet.net)
Her comments are included throughout the article in italics, and a summary from her is included at the end.

Dogs are honest about their feelings. Love is irresistible and dogs seem to easily feel someone's love for them. We've been fortunate to share life with a number of vegan dogs. Yes, Beautiful, Magic, Vegan, Miracles, Baba, Kisses, Valiant, etc. represent the pinnacle of their species and are at the helm of the 'vegan dog movement'.  We would like to share the knowledge attained from our experience caring for vegan dogs.

Baba became vegan when he came to us (at around age 8) and lived to be 17!

Gentle World's newest rescue, Valiant
(a Great Dane mix - and vegan, of course!)

A dog is by genus classified as a carnivore, but metabolically, they are omnivores. You can feel safe knowing that you can raise dogs on a vegan diet. In fact, with careful attention to their nutritional needs, (as you would give to your own), they actually thrive! They become gentler, cleaner, more lovable, and will abound with good health. The health of our dogs has surprised a few conventional vets. 
A dog's protein requirements are greater than ours. To ensure that your dog gets enough protein, calcium, vitamin D and all other nutrients, feed them a varied diet of:

tempeh, tofu, well-cooked beans, lentils, soy beans, sprouted/cooked chick peas or hummus, sprouted lentils (ground/blended), etc.

well-cooked whole grains
brown rice, quinoa, millet, corn grits, polenta or blended corn kernels, whole grain bread or pasta, oats, etc.

white or sweet, seasoned and oiled for palatability (in small pieces and/or mashed, to make it more digestible)

Seitan or wheat-meat
made of gluten flour (high in protein)

Some vegetables
(in small pieces and/or mashed, to make it more digestible)

Along with certain supplements

Fruit in small amounts if they will eat it.

And take them on daily walks in the sunshine.

This is Wiley (chihuahua/terrier) and Gracie (lab/pit).
They have both been vegan for about 8 years.
Both dogs have been thriving on a vegan diet.
Wiley is going on 11 and Gracie is going on 9.
They eat mostly commercially produced vegan dog food
with added vegetables and treats.

Photo sent in by their human rescuer and companion:
Heather Michael Leughmyer

Dr. Andy Mars with K-9, a vegan dog
who was rescued from the pound.

Approximately a third to a half of the meal will consist of a protein source (from the paragraph above). About half of the meal can be made up of a variety of whole grains, which are a source of carbohydrates and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.  The Vegan Dog Nutrition Association recommends the base of the meal to be comprised of soybeans, lentils, rice, oats and sweet potatoes. They have published a downloadable recipe for a balanced vegan diet. See their link at the end of this article.
The remaining portion should be made up of raw and cooked vegetables, as well as supplemental items listed below. Meals should be served at room temperature or slightly warmed, along with a clean bowl of water.
Non-vegan dogs generally eat one meal a day, whereas vegan dogs should get smaller meals, twice daily, and snacks. A healthy snack would be several vegan dog biscuits (see below) or a handful or two (depending on the size of your dog) of vegan dry kibble produced by one of the companies listed below. Or a few bites of toast that your dog would appreciate sharing!

Kisses, abandoned in 2000, who was lucky enough to wander into Shangri-La,
where she met Gentle World and became vegan

Beautiful, Gentle World's golden retriever who was headed for the pound. After becoming vegan, she became head protector of our rescued rabbit friends.

Oil requirements can be met with 1-2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed butter), also a source of calcium. Other oils to choose from are flax oil, hemp-seed oil, organic canola oil, cold-pressed olive oil, etc. Oil does make the food more palatable and irresistible for dogs. Their calcium requirements can be met by adding finely chopped raw or cooked dark greens (like kale) to their meal, ground seeds or almonds mixed in with the meal, calcium-fortified soy milk (as a treat, not on a regular basis) or tofu, adding (highly recommended) VegeDog supplement (from H.O.A.N.A.) and also by mixing in some marketed moist food or kibble in with meals to help meet nutritional requirements. Older dogs may need calcium supplementation. In the United States, quite a few companies (see below) produce a complete, plant-based, canned wet dog food which meets their nutritional needs. They are a superior quality than most commercial dog foods, which contain slaughterhouse by-products and other unimaginable ingredients. Our preference and practice is to mix the plant-based commercial food with wholesome homemade meals.
I have always given avocado to dogs to meet their oil requirements, however, after careful research based on a personal problem that occurred, I no longer recommend giving avocado to dogs because many vet sites believe the persin in avocados is toxic to dogs and may even cause a heart condition:

* Veterinarian Armaiti May says: "There seem to be mixed reports concerning the safety of avocados. I've heard of dogs eating avocados and being just fine, but there are some cases where cardiotoxicity (heart problems) has been associated with large quantities of avocado consumption (esp. if the pit of the avocado is consumed). It's not something that is fully understood, and as I said, I know there are lots of dogs who eat avocados and are just fine."

"Avocados contain a substance called persin. It's harmless for humans who aren't allergic. But large amounts might be toxic to dogs. If you happen to be growing avocados at home, keep your dog away from the plants. Persin is in the leaves, seed, and bark, as well as in the fruit."

Source link: http://pets.webmd.com/

To ensure they receive the necessary essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6, & 9), add 1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon of a vegan oil blend complete with total essential fatty acids. Some brands have a balanced blend of Borage Oil, Evening Primrose Oil and Certified Organic Flax Oil. An alternative (though it's not as complete), would be flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, or 1 teaspoon of ground or soaked flax seeds. You can also soak chia seeds for 15 minutes into a health gel and add that to the meal. (This is beneficial and important for vegan humans as well). Deva, NuTru, V-Pure, and quite a few other companies are now producing algae-derived DHA and EPA long chain fatty-acids in a vegan capsule for humans, which I recommend sharing with your companion animals. Flax or 'Total EFA' oil also serves other purposes such as heart health, helping joint function, and helping with a shiny coat. There are many studies that confirm the powerful healing benefits of giving dogs flax seed oil. These oils are especially important for senior dogs.


over 14 yrs of age, vegan, and best friend of Sky Valencia; who runs the sanctuary St. Martin's Animal Foundation



As dogs age and degenerative disc diseases occur, an anti-inflammatory such as ginger rhizome in a non-gelatin capsule can be included in their meals (or stuck into a vegan meat analog, disguising the potent taste). When using nutritional supplements or nutraceuticals to reverse or treat disorders, allow 30 days or more to see improvements. We learned this from experience as well as from veterinary advice. (One exception: we once noticed an incredible change in a dog's coat in just ONE WEEK of adding flax oil to the meal.) A bad-tasting supplement, in tab or V-cap form, can be given to a dog by sticking it inside of a piece of a vegan hot dog or Tofurky vegan sausage or the like. This makes it fun for them to take their supplements. It works with most dogs. (Baba got sick of taking supplements after a while, and figured out how to eat the meat analog and spit out the supplement, every time!) I will sometimes stick a vitamin B-12 sublingual dot (vegetarian formula) under the tongue or in the mouth of senior dogs. 
Note from Armaiti May: "I'm not aware of studies on the efficacy of vegan glucosamine and sublingual B12 in dogs. It makes intuitive sense that they would be safe and effective to give, and I take both myself, but I [can not make] a blanket recommendation about it without some prior knowledge of its effectiveness."

"My Boxer Maddy has been vegan since she was 6 months old. She was a former roommate's dog who decided he didn't want her so when I moved to NYC in 1998 she came with me and my two dogs Lucy and Lily, his loss was my total phenomenal gain. All three pups were vegan. 

"The first picture is of us in 1999 (Lucy small black dog, Lily terrier mix). Lucy became vegan at about 2 years old when I adopted her from shelter, I adopted Lily at 8 weeks old so she was vegan all her life. The second picture is of Maddy on beach last summer. The third picture is of Maddy in February 2011" - Christine

Grated raw carrots, beetroot, sprouted lentils and other sprouts and/or barley grass powder are necessary for enzymes and fiber. The raw food additions are essential for vitality (for them and for us). Some authorities recommend adding digestive enzymes to a dog's diet and the particular kind that dogs need are:  Amylase, Protease, Lipase, Cellulase and Lactase. Harbinger's of a New Age sells Prozyme; an enzyme supplement for dogs containing these enzymes. Also, another enzyme that may be included is vegan acidophilus.
Wheat germ is an important addition for a healthy coat. One teaspoon of bran aids in elimination, if necessary. Dogs manufacture their own vitamin C, but you can supplement the meal with 1/2-1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder (It MUST be Ester-C, non-acidic or buffered, to be gentle on the stomach). Holistic vets have recommended 1,000 milligrams twice daily for healing purposes. If your dog will eat bits of fruit and/or salad with dressing, that is wonderful! Some dogs will and some will turn their nose at such foods.

John Davis from the U.K with his vegan dogs

Taurine is an amino acid (naturally found in meat) that should be supplemented in a vegan dog's diet. Most dogs can live healthy lives without it, but there are some breeds or older, challenged dogs, that without taurine supplementation, can develop cardiomyopathy (disorders of the heart). (Vegetarian dog specialists and most companies that sell vegan dog food advise adding taurine to the diet of a vegan dog. It is inexpensive and a preventative measure. L-carnitine, also an amino acid naturally found in meat, can be supplemented. A deficiency of this nutrient can also cause dilated cardiomyopathy, a serious illness in which the heart becomes large and flabby and can no longer function. This illness generally strikes middle-aged dogs who are deficient in L-carnitine or taurine because of breed, size, individual genetic makeup, or diet. L-carnitine is expensive and can be bought at your local health food store. Taurine and L-carnitine are amino acids not naturally occuring in plant matter and that dogs can't synthesize themselves. Please make sure you supplement your vegan dogs with enough to prevent cardiomyopathy. One cardiologist specialist recommended these doses: l-carnitine: 150 mg/kg of body weight - taurine: 50 mg/kg of body weight. (However, I give much less than those recommendations!)
There has been research that recognizes MSM to be helpful in animals for joint function. For senior dogs showing signs of arthritis or degenerative disc disease, you can try supplementing with vegan glucosamine (see above note from Armaiti May), which is produced by several companies. Bone support vitamins could also be beneficial for these senior dogs. Prescription 2000, Inc., a vegan company in the United States, has both a vegan bone support and vegan glucosamine powder (the powdered form is better).
Another supplement that we have included in a vegan dog's diet is Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast (for our U.S. readers). Alternatively, you can supplement with a savory nutritional yeast rich in B vitamins and a separate source of Vitamin B12 (either in fortified plant milks or meat analogs) or simply a supplement (this is not something I have read in a study, just something I do because it is safe and may be beneficial).  Although a sprinkle of spirulina is a very good addition to your dog's meals, I don't rely on it as a source of B12 because, in humans, it can be a B12 analog and can actually interfere with real B12 (Cyanocobalamin) absorption. Dogs enjoy nori, kelp, and other sea vegetable flakes. They are a good replacement for salt in their diets and rich in trace minerals (or try nori sheets in bite-size pieces added to the meal).
Other supplements that can be included in our canine companion's meals are a teaspoon of soy lecithin for heart function, and The Ultimate Meal (www.TheUltimateLife.com). Co-Enzyme Q10 has been recognized by the holistic veterinary world as quite beneficial for canines, for heart function and for healthy gums. Keep your companion animal's teeth brushed and clean.
Also please note that it is reported that onions and raw garlic are toxic to dogs. Onions can cause the oxidization of red blood cells and lead to anemia. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and can even be fatal if consumed in large portions. Many animals love the taste of chocolate, however, chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, which causes over-stimulation of an animal's body. All body systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and nervous system, are affected by theobromine. The more concentrated the chocolate, the larger the amount of theobromine present and the greater the risk to dogs.
Also toxic to dogs are nutmeg, raisins and macadamia nuts. Armaiti May explains:
"Macadamia nuts and raisins are also considered toxic to dogs. The toxic principles are unknown, but raisin consumption (especially large quantities) has been correlated with kidney failure in dogs."

Dr Andy Mars with vegan dog Sukkot

Dogs cannot process excess salt so avoid too much salt.
Cats are often more finicky than dogs, and their nutritional requirements are more complicated. Cats have very specific metabolic requirements for several nutrients found naturally in animal products, such as taurine, (an amino acid-like nutrient), the amino-acid L-Arginine, (a protein amino acid present in the proteins of all life forms), arachidonic acid, (an essential fatty acid), according to CVM research. These are found in appreciable levels only in animal tissues. Additionally, cats cannot convert the beta-carotene in plants into vitamin A. Instead, they require "pre-formed" vitamin A. Synthetic versions of these nutrients are available, and it is up to you, the care-giver, to ensure that a cat being fed a vegan diet is receiving the necessary nutrition. Insufficient amounts of vitamin A may cause loss of hearing, as well as problems with skin, bones and the intestinal and reproductive systems. A feline lacking taurine can lose eyesight and could develop cardiomyopathy. 
We've read and heard claims of thousands of healthy vegan cats, but have not personally experienced this. The cats that have wandered into our lives (we did not choose to bring them into our lives as they are hunters) eat the vegan food supplemented with nutrients designed for vegan cats, but also hunt and eat lizards, spiders, mice, etc. (At least they are eating some vegan food and therefore saving some animals' lives and evolving towards a more gentle diet). Unless a cat is kept confined inside a home, it will, most likely, have the instinctual need to hunt. The issue of raising cats vegan remains unclear at this stage of our evolution.

On the other hand, you can feel confident that on a balanced cruelty-free diet, your dog will have a sleek and clean body, a healthy coat, and plenty of energy to join you for walks in the country! Our little Magic lived a long healthy life to age 16. Beautiful, a Golden Retriever, lived to age 14, and healthy until the last year of her life. We were told by a top holistic vet that because of inbreeding, Golden Retrievers usually don't live beyond age 14. Baba lived to age 17 and his face didn't look a day over 7! Miracles, born with many birth defects, lived many many years beyond his life expectancy given by vets. He was vegan since birth and thrived. His demise was from a cause having nothing to do with nutrition or physical health. Kisses is 12 years young; energetic and athletic like a young dog.
Be gentle when switching dogs from an animal-based diet to a vegan diet. Any switch in diet can cause digestive disorders. It may take a few days for some dogs to even want to try this new cuisine and others will take to it right away. We've watched our dogs evolve from killing small animals to protecting and cuddling our pet rabbits! Vegan dogs are a wonderful species to get to know. Enjoy!

This is "Red".
She's been thriving on a plant-based diet for about 8 years.

This is Sheeba; with a lovely disposition.
She has thrived on a plant-based diet for 9 years.

Their mummy is Amanda Benham; owner of The Green Edge in Brisbane (all vegan, organic, fair-trade)

BUY V-dog HERE - Vegan-owned and operated company

Related contacts for vegan pet food:
www.VegetarianDogs.com offers information on feeding dogs vegan and a book entitled: Vegetarian Dogs: Toward a World Without Exploitation. The book offers recipes for vegan dog food and a wealth of information about nutrition, supplements, exercise, care and ethics for dogs.
Evolution Diet makes ONLY vegan dog and cat food. www.petfoodshop.com
Vegan Pet - Australia's own all-vegan pet food company, especially kn<br>owledgeable on feeding cats vegan. They have superior vegan dog and cat kibble. All ingredients are human-grade.  www.veganpet.com.au or for New Zealand, www.veganpet.co.nz.
Pet Guard - offers two vegan moist dog foods: Dog Vegetarian Feast and Organic Vegetarian Vegan Entrée with the word VEGAN on the label! They also offer Mr. Barkey's and Mr. Pugsley's vegan dog biscuits (and many non-vegan products) www.petguard.com
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Food – highly recommended vegan kibble called Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula which contains no soy products. www.NaturalBalanceInc.com 
V-Dog – vegan dog food now in Sacramento, CA. www.v-dogfood.com   or    e-mail: info@v-dogfood.com
Harbingers of a New Age - offers supplementation products to add to your home-cooked whole food meals for vegan cats and dogs and is a source of information. Owner, James Peden, was the first to sell vegan pet food products and has authored a book entitled: Vegetarian Dogs and Cats. www.vegepet.com 
Ami Vegan Dog Food and Pet Products - www.aminews.co.uk
www.VeganCats.com - offers a range of vegan pet products.
Vegan Essentials / Downbound.com - sells Animal Spirit vegan organic dog treats.
VeggiePets.com, based in the U.K., offers information and products.
Wow-Bow Distributors - home made vegan pet treats. Visit them at www.Wow-Bow.com
Doggy Delights are offered on-line.  The vegan treats by this totally vegan company are organic. www.vegan-delights.com or e-mail: vegandelights4u@yahoo.com
Evangers Dog and Cat food Company - offers a vegan canned dog and cat food called ALL FRESH VEGETARIAN DINNER with interesting fresh ingredients. They used to use non-vegan vitamin D3, but have changed to the vegan version, D2. Most of their other products are not vegan.  www.evangersdogfood.com
Boston Baked Bonz - 100% vegan company that markets hand-made dog treats.  www.bostonbakedbonz.com

BiOPet - 100% vegan formula sourced within Australia (they have a non-vegan formula also). The Vitamin D3 in their recipe is synthetic and not sourced from animals. www.biopetonline.com.au
Emma's K9 Kitchen - vegan dog treat recipes (100% of profits go to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary)
Natural Life - makes a dry food that is vegan, but most of their products are not. www.nlpp.com
VegePooch – An independent Australia-based supplier of vegan and vegetarian foods, treats and accessories for companion animals.

Please note that there are a number of nearly vegan dog foods marketed internationally, but they contain one or two ingredients that are not strictly vegan. For example, they include vitamin D3 rather than plant-based Vitamin D2. For instance, Avo Derm has a vegetarian formula (with avocado), but the vitamin A and D may originate from an animal source. Nature's Recipe vegetarian canned dog food also may have animal derived vitamin sources and most of their products are not vegan. And Wysong Vegan is not vegan, even though that is the actual name of the product, because of animal derived vitamin D3. The manufacturer also meant this product to be a supplement only, not a complete source of nutrition and it does not meet protein requirements for cats. Otherwise it does contain extremely high quality ingredients.
There is also controversy as to whether 'Menadione' a source of Vitamin K should or should not be added to dog food. You can read up on this issue at www.dogfoodproject.com, and make the decision for yourself.

Being a responsible guardian for any animal means making an effort to ensure that your animal's diet is nutritionally complete, just as you would for yourself. The best thing you can do is to continue to keep yourself informed, as there is new research being released all the time. To feel secure in your decisions, we suggest that you do some personal research as to the nutritional requirements of your dog's specific breed. But also know that it is easy to feed dogs vegan. Even dogs who turn their noses up at vegan food when it is initially offered, will change their mind the next day when they get hungry! And within days, they eat with gusto, like they never were carnivorous!

Our dogs have all made remarkable transformations on the vegan diet, both in physical health and in temperament. And for the committed vegan, it's a beautiful way to love your dog even more, to share with him or her the joys of being cruelty-free.

Vegan, Gentle World's first vegan dog.


"Chyna is a Great Dane who was adopted from a shelter in southern Indiana (USA) in December of 2007 at age 2. She has thrived on Evolution Vegan Dog Food since coming home with me. My previous companion Sahkyo, a labrador-husky mix lived to just shy of 15 years old with no real health problems, being vegan from age 3 on." - Joe Espinosa
For more information on feeding your dogs a vegan diet,
The Vegan Dog Nutrition Association
and www.VegetarianDogs.com, which offers information on feeding dogs a vegan diet and a book entitled: Vegetarian Dogs: Toward a World Without Exploitation. The book offers recipes for vegan dog food and a wealth of information about nutrition, supplements, exercise, care and ethics for dogs.

Another viewpoint on feeding pets vegan:

The following is from vegan vet, Armaiti May:

What follows is a summary I've come up with of additional potential benefits of a vegetarian diet for dogs as well as potential health concerns - especially concerning cats on a vegan diet. 

In my clinical practice treating dogs and cats, one of the most common ailments I diagnose and treat in dogs is skin allergies.  Recurrent skin allergies (itching, scratching, biting, licking, leading to recurrent inflammation and infection of the skin) are usually due to one of the following (and sometimes a combination of these factors):  (1) flea allergy dermatitis (the most commonly diagnosed); (2) food allergy (occurs in about 10-20% of cases); and (3) atopy, which is an allergy to something in the environment, such as house dust mites, pollen, grass, etc.  Atopy is relatively uncommon.  Most of the time a dog has a food allergy it is to a meat protein such as beef, chicken, or one of the other common meat sources.  Vegetarian diets may bring these food allergic dogs relief from their skin allergies.  A smaller percentage of dogs are allergic to soy, which may limit choices of commercially available vegetarian diets.  In that case, if a caretaker wishes to feed a vegan diet, a homemade diet may be the next best option, but even more care must be taken to insure appropriate nutrient balance and supplements may need to be added to the diet.

For both ethical and health reasons, many vegetarians and vegans choose to feed their companion dogs and cats vegetarian or vegan diets. Up to 50% of commercial pet food brands are comprised of "meat meal" and "byproducts," which include various body parts (such as beaks, brain, spinal cord tissue, bones, lungs, intestinal tracts) slaughterhouse wastes, 4-D meat (from dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals), supermarket rejects, as well as rendered dogs and cats from animal shelters. Other contaminants which have been found in commercial dog and cat foods include old restaurant grease complete with high concentrations of dangerous free radicals and trans fatty acids; PCBs, heavy metals and other toxins, particularly from fish; bacterial, protozoal, fungal, viral, and prion contaminants, along with their associated endotoxins and mycotoxins; hormone and antibiotic residues; and dangerous preservatives. Many speculate that the dramatic increase in incidences of cancers, kidney failure, and many other degenerative diseases in our companion animals in recent years may be due to the harmful ingredients in many commercial meat-based pet foods. This has led people to feed alternative diets.

Although cats are biologically carnivores, in many cases they can be successfully maintained on a vegan diet as long as it meets all of the nutritional requirements specific to cats and their overall health is adequately monitored, with particular attention to urinary tract health especially in male cats. Cats require the same nine essential amino acids that are needed in the diet of all mammals. However, in addition, cats also require arginine and taurine. Taurine is found naturally in meat but can be supplied in synthetic form. (In fact, most of the commercially available meat-based cat foods are supplemented with synthetic taurine.)  Without adequate taurine, cats will suffer retinal damage and go blind and may also develop dilated cardiomyopathy (a type of heart disease). Other essential nutrients that cats require include arachidonic acid and vitamins  A and D, which can also be supplied to formulate a balanced, nutritionally complete vegan diet for cats. 

One problem which can afflict cats on a nutritionally balanced and complete vegan diet is FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease), which is a syndrome that is more likely to occur if urinary struvite crystals or stones form secondary to urinary alkalinization and a diet too high in magnesium.  Due to anatomical differences, male cats are much more likely to get FLUTD and urinary obstruction, but female cats can (rarely) be affected as well. Ensuring adequate water intake is important for preventing excessive urine crystals, and eventually stones as well.  This can be accomplished by feeding a canned diet, adding water to dry food, or adding a pinch of salt to food to stimulate thirst. Cats on a vegan diet can develop abnormally alkaline (high pH) urine due to the more alkaline pH of plant based proteins in comparison to the acidic pH of meat-based foods which cats have evolved to eat.  When the urine pH becomes too alkaline, there is an increased risk of formation of struvite (also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate) bladder crystals and/or stones.  Calcium oxalate stones can also occur, but these do not occur if the urine is too alkaline, but rather if it is too acidic.  Such stones can create irritation and infection of the urinary tract and require veterinary treatment.  In male cats who form such crystals or stones, they can suffer more severe consequences than simply irritation or infection of the urinary tract because the stones can actually cause an obstruction of the urethra so the cat cannot urinate.  This is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate veterinary care; this involves passing a urinary catheter to relieve the obstruction, placing an indwelling urinary catheter, and starting supportive intravenous fluid therapy, along with appropriate pain management and antibiotics if indicated.  These "blocked" cats frequently need to be hospitalized and monitored closely for several days before they can go home and the associated veterinary fees can easily be between $1000-$1200. Depending on the duration and severity, urinary blockage can be fatal due to accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream and/or complications associated with urinary bladder rupture, tears in the urethra, and damage to the lining of the bladder and urethra from stones, crystals, and even the catheterization itself.  The sooner a problem is identified and the cat is treated, the better the prognosis for recovery.  As a practicing veterinarian, I have had several cats with life-threatening urinary blockage come in to see me.  (None of these cats were on a vegan diet, to my knowledge.)  To emphasize the severity of this condition, I will add that one of these cats was euthanized due to re-blockage after catheterization and lack of caretaker finances to pursue treatment further (especially in light of the worsening prognosis, as cats who block once are at a high risk for blocking again), and another cat had to be referred to a specialist for surgical repair of a urethral tear.  Some cats who get blocked repeatedly require a highly specialized (and expensive, ~$2000) surgery called a perineal urethrostomy (PU).

Therefore, cat guardians who decide to put their cat on a vegan diet should bring their cat to their veterinarian to have the urine pH tested 1-2 weeks after switching them to a vegan diet and then once a month for the first several months to ensure the pH remains stable.  If the pH is too high, there are urinary acidifiers which may help the urine pH to be more acidic.  Urinary acidifiers that may be used include methionine, vitamin C, and sodium bisulfate.  James Peden, author of "Vegetarian Cats and Dogs" states there are also natural urinary acidifiers, including asparagus, peas, brown rice, oats, lentils, garbanzos, corn, Brussels sprouts, lamb's quarters (the herb Chenopodium album, also known as pigweed), most nuts (except almonds and coconut), grains (not millet), and wheat gluten (used in kibble recipes).  Once the pH is regulated (with or without the use of appropriate urinary acidifiers, the urine pH should be checked at least twice a year.  If a cat shows signs of pain or straining while using the litter box, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.  It is important to not supplement the cat's diet with urinary acidifiers unless it is actually needed because a too acidic pH can cause a different kind of stone to form (calcium oxalate stones). While many cats appear to thrive on a vegan diet, there are also many anecdotal reports of cats having recurring urinary tract problems, including urinary tract infections associated with previous urethral obstructions caused by crystal formation.

For cat guardians who find it too tedious to monitor their cat's urine pH, they should perhaps consider not keeping a cat as a companion. Another option is a special pH-adjusted vegan formula available through Harbingers of a New Age(
http://www.vegepet.com/) which requires the caretaker to make home-baked kibble using the supplement mix and the vegan recipe provided by HOANA.

Also, many cats are very picky eaters.  Although adding vegan mock meats and nutritional yeast to flavor vegan cat food will encourage many cats to eat it, there may be many cats who still refuse to eat, especially if they are sick. Cats who are anorectic for a prolonged period are at high risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver syndrome, which is a serious condition requiring extended hospitalized care. Some cats may require more patience and a gradual transition from a meat-based diet to a vegan diet if they have been accustomed to eating a meat-based diet.  Most commercial pet foods contain "digest" which consists of partially digested chicken entrails, that makes the food more palatable.

On the positive side, many cat and dog guardians have reported improved overall health, vitality, coat quality, and fewer problems with skin allergies, food allergies, and various degenerative diseases. 

A recent study published in JAVMA (Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association) by Gray, Christina M.; Sellon, Rance K.; Freeman, Lisa M. Nutritional Adequacy of Two Vegan Diets for Cats. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2004, 225(11):1670-1675 showed two commercially available vegetarian cat foods (Vegecat KibbleMix and Evolution canned diet for adult cats) to be deficient in several key nutrients. The two vegan diets were subjected to nutritional analysis and compared to Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles for the maintenance of adult cats. The Evolution food was determined to be deficient in protein, methionine, taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A, pyroxidine, and niacin. Vegecat KibbleMix was found to be deficient in methionine, taurine, arachidonic acid, and pyroxidine.  According to both of these vegan cat food companies, thousands of the cats on their diets are healthy, which raises the question of how this could be if the diets are truly inadequate.  Only one sample of each diet was used in this study, so it is entirely possible that the sample represented a rare occurrence of a mixing error at the factory, but this still raises legitimate concerns about the quality control measures (or lack of appropriate quality control measures) at these companies.  The manufacturer of Harbingers of a New Age (producer of Vegecat KibbleMix) expressed shock at the results of the study and showed an intent to find and correct the source of the problems in the production of his cat food supplements. In response to the results of the study, Eric Weisman, Evolution Diet CEO (2004) stated, "We have ten to twenty thousand healthy and long living dogs, cats and ferrets living on the Evolution Diet. … Major animal sanctuaries use our products and stand behind them. These sanctuaries use our products because they have lower rates of illness and mortality when their animals are placed on our foods." It is unclear whether any reliable quality control measures have been instituted since the publishing of these results. A survey of the health of cats on various vegan diets was performed by a veterinary student at University of Pennsylvania and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in July 2006. It showed that most of the cats surveyed on a vegan diet did not suffer from subnormal taurine blood levels and were for the most part in good general health.

In summary, more studies are needed to document the health of cats on a vegan diet in the scientific literature. More rigorous quality control measures need to be implemented at the factories of vegan pet foods to prevent future mistakes in mixing and consequent inadequate diets. Guardians need to be educated about the potential health benefits and risks associated with meat-based and vegetarian diets, and should demand appropriate quality control assurance from any pet food manufacturer they do business with. It is also crucial that future studies involving nutritional adequacy of a particular diet test many samples of the diet in question rather than just one.

Dogs are much easier to maintain on a vegan diet than are cats. Dogs can be healthy and in fact, thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as all necessary nutrient requirements are met. Dogs are biologically omnivorous, and can adapt well to a plant-based diet which meets all their nutritional needs. It's important that the food have good bioavailability (digestibility) as well as palatability.  The transition to a plant-based diet should be a gradual change (mixing the 2 foods in different proportions until the new food is given exclusively) to minimize the occurrence of gastrointestinal disturbances (such as diarrhea and sometimes vomiting). When evaluating a pet food, care should be taken to make sure it is labeled as meeting the nutritional standards of the US Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The largest manufacturer's of vegetarian dog food in the U.S. are Evolution (
http://www.petfoodshop.com/) and V-dog (http://v-dogfood.com/).

In my clinical practice treating dogs, one of the most common ailments I diagnose and treat in dogs is skin allergies. Recurrent skin allergies (itching, scratching, biting, licking, leading to recurrent inflammation and infection of the skin) are usually due to one of the following (and sometimes a combination of these factors):  (1) flea allergy dermatitis (the most commonly diagnosed); (2) food allergy (occurs in about 10-20% of cases); and (3) atopy, which is an allergy to something in the environment, such as house dust mites, pollen, grass, etc. Atopy is relatively uncommon.  Most of the time a dog has a food allergy it is to a meat protein such as beef, chicken, or one of the other common meat sources.  Vegetarian diets may bring these food allergic dogs relief from their skin allergies. A smaller percentage of dogs are allergic to soy, which may limit choices of commercially available vegetarian diets.  In that case, if a caretaker wishes to feed a vegan diet, a homemade diet may be the next best option, but even more care must be taken to insure appropriate nutrient balance and supplements may need to be added to the diet.

Although dry kibble is generally better for dental health, if the dog is predisposed to urinary problems such as urinary crystals, canned (moist) food would be a better choice because the higher water intake helps to dilute out the urine and reduce the incidence of crystal and stone formation. One of the potential risks associated with vegetarian diets in dogs is the occurrence of struvite crystals, which are more likely to occur if the urine pH becomes too alkaline. (This problem affects certain breeds of dog more commonly; the affected breeds include shih tzus, miniature schnauzers, bichon frises, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, and Lhasa apsos.)  Adding water to the dry food or encouraging the dog to drink water would be another way to address the issue of urine concentration which is related to crystal formation (the more dilute the urine, the less likely crystals are to form. To avoid any problems associated with urinary alkalinization secondary to the dog being on a vegetarian diet, I recommend that 2-3 weeks after switching the dog from a meat-based to a plant-based diet that he/she be brought to a veterinarian to have a urinalysis performed. This simple test will show what the urine pH is, as well as whether or not struvite crystals are present, therefore heading off any problems before they start. If the urine pH is too high (too alkaline) and/or struvite crystals are present, various acidifying agents can be used.

Although diet-related problems are unlikely to occur for dogs on a nutritionally complete and balanced diet, certain dog breeds are predisposed to DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), a form of heart disease which may be influenced by lack of sufficient intake of taurine and/or carnitine (amino acids which are naturally occurring in flesh foods but can be added to the diet via synthetic supplements which are readily available.  Doberman pinschers, boxers, "giant breeds" (Scottish deerhounds, Irish wolfhounds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Afghan hounds), and cocker spaniels are the dog breeds predisposed to DCM. The role of carnitine and taurine in the therapy of DCM remains controversial. American cocker spaniels with dilated cardiomyopathy generally respond favorably to taurine supplementation. Those not responding to taurine will often respond to the addition of L-carnitine. This
http://www.carnitine-taurine.com/index.htm contains info on ordering supplements of taurine and carnitine for affected dogs. If someone has one of the predisposed breeds, it may be beneficial to supplement with taurine and/or carnitine if not already present in the vegetarian diet, in conjunction with consulting one's veterinarian.

Diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, cystitis, kidney and liver disease, skin problems, obesity, thyroid dysfunction and various cancers are becoming more common in our domesticated animals.  This increase in disease incidence is attributed in part to commercial pet foods as well as over-vaccination.

For more information about vegetarian/vegan diets for dogs and cats, I recommend
www.vegepets.info, a site created and maintained by a veterinarian in the U.K. who is an avid supporter of animal rights.

Click here to see how vegans from around the world responded to the survey question:
'Do you have any vegan pets?'