One of Australia’s top vets has cautioned against people feeding their pets plant-based diets, after a new study found more people are removing animal products from their pets’ diets.
According to the study, published in peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, pet owners are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of modern pet foods.
Canadian researchers surveyed 3,673 pet owners and found that only 1.5 per cent fed their cats and dogs solely plant-based diets, but an additional 15 per cent were interested in doing so.
Of those, the most common concern regarding strictly plant-based pet foods was the nutritional completeness of the diet, but vegan owners expressed no concern over this.
Amongst all pet owners, the concern most commonly reported regarding meat-based pet foods was for the welfare of farm animals.
Now, speaking to Starts at 60, Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) President Paula Parker says a vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t recommended for pets.
She said in order to keep out pets healthy and happy, it’s incredibly important to give them a diet that meets “their nutritional requirements and doesn’t given them unnecessary excesses or deficiencies which can be harmful”.
“[Crafting] a home-made diet that meets all those nutritional requirements is possible, but it is incredibly difficult and time consuming,” Parker explains. “And more often than not, pet owners have tried to do that and what they end up with is [a] diet for their pet which doesn’t meet all of their pets needs.”
“You’ve got to acknowledge that getting all those nutrients in the right amount is really difficult.”
Animal rights associations, such as PETA, have previously claimed the nutritional needs of dogs and cats are easily met with “a balanced vegan diet and certain supplements”.
The organisation referred to a 27-year-old border collie whose vegan diet of rice, lentils, and organic vegetables earned her consideration by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest living dog in 2002.
However, Parker cautioned: “I would caution people from where there has been a correlation between the diet of the pet and the ageing of the pet.”
She said the most important thing is if people do have questions about their pets’ diets to have that conversion with their vet.
The comments come after chef Pete Evans launched a new range of Paleo cat and dog food in May last year.
Paleo Pete, as he’s known, said that just like humans, our pets are suffering from the perils of modern-day food and claimed most cat and dog food on the market is full of “dodgy fillers”.
“So many pets are suffering the diseases of modern day humans – cancer, diabetes, joint issues, skin issues – and a lot of that can be taken back into what we feed our pets,” he told Fairfax last year.
“If you look at what’s out there on the market, so many are filled with these really dodgy fillers, such as grains and legumes and other things, it’s completely crazy.”