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Vegetarian petfoods

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Abstract

Vegetarian petfoods Quite a few people maintain their pets on vegetarian diets. Most of these caregivers follow a vegetarian lifestyle for religious, ethical or health reasons and decided to feed their pets in a similar fashion. Vegetarian-fed dogs and cats receive homemade diets without or with supplements, table scraps, commercially prepared foods and/or combinations. The nature of these various rations can be flexitarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarian canine diets must contain adequate amounts of added vitamins D and B12 as they are missing in most plant products and synthesized marginally or not, respectively, by the dog's body. Apart from the vitamins D and B12, cats also require dietary vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid (AA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which all are insufficiently produced by the cat's metabolism and principally present in animal feedstuffs only. Thus, vegetarian feline diets must be supplemented with preparations containing the six nutrients. Feeding a veggie diet to dogs and cats requires special attention. The basic nutrient profile of homemade, meatless foods should be appropriate and topped up with the lacking nutrients. The adequacy of commercially prepared vegetarian foods should be verified. Pets fed on vegetarian diets should be monitored continuously for any abnormalities that might occur. This care, of course, is not reserved for vegetarian diets only. Pet owners The general founding belief of vegetarianism, as rooted in religion or ethical concern, is not killing or causing harm to other living beings. People may also go vegetarian to acquire healthy nutrition and/or to counter the eco-unfriendly meat production. By feeding their pets a diet free of animal products, owners transfer their attitudes about food and distance themselves further from animal consumption. Vegetarians giving their pets conventional food may do so because of convenience, health benefits or their animals' preference. Non-vegetarian fanciers may keep their pets on vegetarian food because of presumed meat-induced allergy or intolerance. Critical nutrients Self-prepared and commercial vegetarian diets can be designed to provide adequate nutrition, but the critical nutrients must be considered. Recommended allowances (1) for dry food (1.5 MJ/100 g) fed to adult cats are as follows: vitamin D3, 250 IU/kg; vitamin B12, 20 µg/kg; vitamin A, 3,000 IU/kg; AA, 55 mg/kg; EPA + DHA, 90 mg/kg, taurine, 360 mg/kg. Dry dog foods are recommended to contain 495 IU vitamin D3/kg and 30 µg vitamin B12/kg. For wet foods (0.5 MJ/100 g), the allowances are about one third. Vegetarian canine and feline diets may be enriched with vitamin D3 using egg yolk as carrier or a chemically synthesized preparation. Vitamin D3 may be replaced by vitamin D2, but then the allowance is about 50% higher (2). Vitamin B12 can be added as component of milk and/or some yeast products or in purified form. Cats should also ingest pre-formed vitamin A with egg yolk or as
Creature Companion 2015; February: 50-51.
Anton C. Beynen
Vegetarian petfoods
Quite a few people maintain their pets on vegetarian diets. Most of these caregivers follow a
vegetarian lifestyle for religious, ethical or health reasons and decided to feed their pets in a
similar fashion. Vegetarian-fed dogs and cats receive homemade diets without or with
supplements, table scraps, commercially prepared foods and/or combinations. The nature of these
various rations can be flexitarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian or vegan.
Vegetarian canine diets must contain adequate amounts of added vitamins D and B12 as they are
missing in most plant products and synthesized marginally or not, respectively, by the dog’s body.
Apart from the vitamins D and B12, cats also require dietary vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid
(AA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which all are insufficiently produced by the cat’s metabolism
and principally present in animal feedstuffs only. Thus, vegetarian feline diets must be
supplemented with preparations containing the six nutrients.
Feeding a veggie diet to dogs and cats requires special attention. The basic nutrient profile of
homemade, meatless foods should be appropriate and topped up with the lacking nutrients. The
adequacy of commercially prepared vegetarian foods should be verified. Pets fed on vegetarian
diets should be monitored continuously for any abnormalities that might occur. This care, of
course, is not reserved for vegetarian diets only.
Pet owners
The general founding belief of vegetarianism, as rooted in religion or ethical concern, is not killing or
causing harm to other living beings. People may also go vegetarian to acquire healthy nutrition
and/or to counter the eco-unfriendly meat production. By feeding their pets a diet free of animal
products, owners transfer their attitudes about food and distance themselves further from animal
consumption. Vegetarians giving their pets conventional food may do so because of convenience,
health benefits or their animals’ preference. Non-vegetarian fanciers may keep their pets on
vegetarian food because of presumed meat-induced allergy or intolerance.
Critical nutrients
Self-prepared and commercial vegetarian diets can be designed to provide adequate nutrition, but
the critical nutrients must be considered. Recommended allowances (1) for dry food (1.5 MJ/100 g)
fed to adult cats are as follows: vitamin D3, 250 IU/kg; vitamin B12, 20 µg/kg; vitamin A, 3,000 IU/kg;
AA, 55 mg/kg; EPA + DHA, 90 mg/kg, taurine, 360 mg/kg. Dry dog foods are recommended to
contain 495 IU vitamin D3/kg and 30 µg vitamin B12/kg. For wet foods (0.5 MJ/100 g), the
allowances are about one third.
Vegetarian canine and feline diets may be enriched with vitamin D3 using egg yolk as carrier or a
chemically synthesized preparation. Vitamin D3 may be replaced by vitamin D2, but then the
allowance is about 50% higher (2). Vitamin B12 can be added as component of milk and/or some
yeast products or in purified form. Cats should also ingest pre-formed vitamin A with egg yolk or as
industrially produced compound. Taurine must be administered as chemical. In addition to EPA, cats
might need docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Specific algae can serve as source of EPA, DHA and/or AA.
Cats can synthesize AA from gamma-linolenic acid in evening primrose or borage oil (3).
Studies in dogs
A controlled experiment has demonstrated that a carefully balanced, meat-free diet sustains
excellent physical condition in exercising sled dogs (4). In practice, day rations may be unbalanced. A
German PhD study (5) computed that vegetarian, homemade rations of individual dogs often had
nutrient levels far below the recommended allowances. In contrast, none of the animals showed
clinical abnormalities related to malnutrition.
Recommended allowances include a buffer of safety. Furthermore, each daily ration is not required
to be complete and balanced as long as the over-all diet is. Day-to-day variations intercept short-
term insufficient (and excessive) nutrient intakes. For 66 adult dogs fed different types of vegetarian
rations, the PhD study (5) showed that the average intakes of 32 nutrients, including vitamins D3 and
B12, were sufficient.
Studies in cats
The PhD study (5) also found that the home-prepared vegetarian diets of 6 adult cats provided on
average 2.5% of the recommended allowance for taurine. One cat showed retinal degeneration
associated with a very low blood taurine level. Under controlled, experimental conditions, taurine
deficiency as the sole dietary variable causes lesions across the retina (6).
US investigators published (7) that two vegan cat diets claimed to be complete actually contained
too little taurine and AA. The report involved a canned food, which also fell short of vitamin A, and a
homemade ration based on a commercial supplement and the manufacturer’s directions. Other
investigators documented (8) two years later that cats eating one or both of those diets had
adequate blood taurine concentrations. Probably, the manufacturers had improved their products.
When assessing the intake of nutrients by cats, it should be realized that many well-fed pet cats
spend time outside their house and engage in hunting. A conservative estimate puts the number of
preys eaten by inside/outside house cats at one item every day (9). Daily consumption of one vole
would provide twice the cat’s taurine requirement (1, 10).
Commercial foods
Before purchasing a complete vegetarian food, the contents of the critical nutrients should be
checked. Possibly, all information wanted is not presented in the food label, brochure or website.
Then, the manufacturer can be asked for the dietary concentrations of the critical nutrients.
True meat allergy is uncommon in dogs and cats (11). Nevertheless, protection against meat-induced
allergies is an important selling point of vegetarian foods. Endorsement comes from some
veterinarians prescribing vegetarian, hypoallergenic foods. Vegetarian foods often tout to solve skin,
fur, stomach and intestinal problems, fatigue, inappetence and hyperactivity. However, there is no
objective evidence that well-formulated vegetarian foods are healthier than complete foods
containing animal ingredients.
Literature
1. National Research Council. Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. National Academy of Sciences,
Washington DC, 2006.
2. Morris JG. Cats discriminate between cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr
2001; 86: 229-238.
3. Sinclair AJ, McLean JG, Monger EA. Metabolism of linoleic acid in the cat. Lipids 1979; 14: 932-936.
4. Brown WY, Vanselow BA, Redman AJ, Pluske JR. An experimental meat-free diet maintained
haematological characteristics in sprint-racing sled dogs. Br J Nutr 2009; 102: 1318-1323.
5. Engelhard R. Feldstudie zur vegetarischen Ernährung von Hunden und Katzen. Inaugural-
Dissertation, Tierärztliche Facultät der Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität München, 1999.
6. Sturman JA, Gargano AD, Messing JM, Imaki H. Feline maternal taurine deficiency: Effect on
mother and offspring. J Nutr 1986; 116: 655-657.
7. Gray CM, Sellon RK, Freeman LM. Nutritional adequacy of two vegan diets for cats. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 2004; 225: 1670-1675.
8. Wakefield LA, Shofer FS, Michel KE. Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their
caregivers. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006; 229: 70-73.
9. Krauze-Gryz D, Gryz J, Goszczyński J. Predation by domestic cats in rural areas of central Poland:
an assessment based on two methods. J Zool 2012; 288: 260-266.
10. Kremen NA, Calvert CC, Larsen JA, Baldwin RA, Hahn TP, Fascetti AJ. Body composition and
amino acid concentrations of select birds and mammals consumed by cats in northern and central
California. J Anim Sci 2013; 91: 1270-1276.
11. Beynen AC. Hypoallergenic petfoods. Creature Companion 2014; December: 54-55.
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