Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2013

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Page 24 of 43

Should your pet be vegan? Photo: Kamala Lopez even if it is to the age of 27." She believes that dogs don't have the gut bacteria necessary to properly break down plant matter. Los Angeles veterinarian Armaiti May takes a more moderate view that, "Dogs can do well on a well-balanced, nutritionally complete vegan diet," but suggests supplementing with taurine. Since taurine and L-carnitine are often missing, even in meat-based diets, she recommends a supplement such as Vegedog to help bridge the gap. Checking labels will help determine if supplementation is needed. MAKING THE SWITCH Diet changes should always be done gradually over a couple to several weeks, starting with 90 percent old and 10 percent new food. Once adjustment has been made to the new diet (no vomiting, diarrhea or negative changes in behavior), start to adjust the ratio of old to new. With commercial vegan pet food, look for a label that indicates it meets AAFCO Standards (Association of American Feed Control Officials). For home-cooked meals, keep them plain (no added salt or sugar) and moderate closely. For example, start by adding a bit of unseasoned steamed carrots or another vegetable into your pet's usual food, or as a treat. Remember, dogs should never eat grapes, chocolate, raisins, garlic or onions. Just like humans, dogs have their own preferences. My six-year-old whippet Riley, for example, has a fondness for chickpeas, steamed kale and broccoli, mashed pumpkin and even blueberries. He went from chicken-based dry food to a vegetarian dry formula plus fresh fruits and vegetables as treats. Chickpeas and carrots are Riley's favorites, but I know a pair of golden retrievers that come running when they hear lettuce being chopped. Bramble the vegan Collie dog lived to a ripe old age, but how was it for him being vegan all those years? We'll have to wait 'til we get to dog heaven to find out if it was easy or "ruff, ruff." F WHAT ABOUT CATS? eline intestines are specifically designed to digest raw meat quickly and efficiently. If you've ever seen the remains of a cat's hunting feast, you'll notice they eat every part of the catch, except perhaps a mouse's tail. Since cats also have much higher protein requirements than dogs, Dr. Wakefield, who runs the resource page www.vegetariancats.com, cautions that a cat's vegan diet must be more regimented than a dog's. She warns that, "Home-cooking pet food (vegan or not) without a supplement can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies that can cause problems such as heart and eye disease." In a study group of vegan cats on fully supplemented diets, Dr. Wakefield reports no serious nutritional deficiencies, although three of the cats had low—but not critically low—taurine levels. However Dr. Larsen, who has treated taurine deficiency in a cat that almost died on a commercially available vegan diet, cautions that, "Home-prepared options would be expected to have similar or even more concerning problems." —Lindsay Rubin is a writer and social media consultant. october /november 2013 25

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