Vegetarian and vegan diets are spreading more and more in our society. Many studies are showing that indeed, humans can survive and even be healthier on a plant-based diet as long as it is balanced. However, the great dilemma appears when we think of our furry ones.
Having decided to change my eating habits, does it mean that my dog should too?
The answer is no. Dogs are naturally carnivorous animals, and cats in particular are strict carnivores. Morphologically they are not prepared to eat plant based. Proof of this is the design of their teeth, the complexion of their digestive system, or their nutritional needs.
Both dogs and cats have teeth that, in particular, draw attention to the fangs and molars. Unlike ours, its mouth is designed to shred and shred meat. The mouth, which is the origin of digestion, is not fully adapted to the breakdown of vegetables.
Once the matter has been processed by the first digestive phases, it ends up passing through the intestine. The intestines of humans or other omnivorous animals are long enough to process a wide variety of foods. Dogs - and especially cats - on the other hand, have a much shorter intestine which makes it difficult to break down certain plant compounds such as cellulose. The length of the intestine is a key determinant in understanding what type of diet the animal needs.
In addition to the obvious morphological composition of cats and dogs that makes them keen on animal protein, our pets need a series of amino acids and vitamins that they would not get in a vegetarian or vegan diet. An example of these are L-carnitine, taurine, or other essential amino acids. They would also lack vitamin B12 and vitamin D, or essential fatty acids such as arachidonic and linoleic.
It is true that dogs have a certain digestive flexibility, since over time they have adapted to more omnivorous diets. However, there is a tendency to humanize dogs that, if extended too radically in the diet, can interfere with their health and well-being. It is important to understand that both dogs and cats need to meet their basic needs and for this, diet is a fundamental aspect.