Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2013

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/185526

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 43

A ccording to the 2002 Guinness Book of World Records, Bramble the Collie dog lived on a vegan diet of lentils, vegetables and rice until the venerable age of 27 years. Similarly, a growing number of pet owners are wondering if a plant-based lifestyle would extend the health and life of their four-legged companions. Numerous studies show that a plant-based diet has important health benefits for humans, such as anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. But the question often asked of vegan Homo sapiens—"Where do you get your protein?"— also applies to Canis lupus familiaris and Felis silvestris catus. Feeding your dog a plant-based diet can help skin and food allergies, partially by eliminating unhealthy additives, antibiotics and hormones found in most commercial pet food. It also decreases the overall demand for factory farming, where often the less desirable animal parts are used in pet food. As PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) notes, commercial pet food frequently is made from the "flesh of animals that fall into the categories of the four D's—dead, dying, diseased or disabled." Dogs are descended from carnivores (from the Latin, "to devour flesh"), as indicated by their pointed molars, but a 2012 Swedish study published in the journal Nature showed that modern dogs have evolved from their ancestor wolves, and now have genes and functional support that allow them to accommodate both starch and protein. This may, in fact, have been a crucial step in their early domestication. WHAT'S AVAILABLE Left to their own devices, dogs and cats will eat whatever is available. Many a homeowner is happy to have help with rodent control, since urbanization has eliminated most natural predators, but we cannot always supply that for our pets. In some less-affluent countries, feeding meat to domesticated animals would be considered a luxury, and as New York veterinarian Lorelei Wakefield reminds us, "The canine population in India was largely vegetarian for centuries." Wakefield believes it's easy for a dog to be vegan, and points to a 2009 study of racing sled dogs fed a balanced meat-free diet for 16 weeks, including 10 weeks of competitive racing, that had normal blood values. Admittedly, however, this was a limited time period and is not a clear forecast of longterm effects. Wakefield endorses home-cooked vegan meals for dogs (but not cats, who have more specific nutritional needs), and suggests recipes found at www.petdiets.com. Jennifer Larsen, a veterinarian and assistant professor at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, cautions that, "Feeding a vegan diet to dogs is possible, but must be done carefully and with appropriate monitoring to make sure they are doing well. We are especially concerned with amino acids, but these can be monitored easily in the blood." But L.A.-based holistic vet Marc Bittan disagrees, and recommends a 70 percent meat diet, 30 percent vegetable for both dogs and cats. As Dr. Karen Becker, a regular blogger on www.mercola.com, writes, "Dogs are scavenging carnivores… primarily meat-eaters, but can survive on plant material alone if necessary. The key word here is 'survive,' which doesn't necessarily mean thrive, BY LINDSAY RUBIN 24 wholelifetimesmagazine.com Photo: Tommy Rosen Trading Bones for Broccoli

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Whole Life Magazine - October/November 2013