Decades ago, when 100% vegetable diets were first used in dogs and cats, this concern about the appearance of stones...
I WOULD LIKE TO SWITCH MY DOG/CAT TO A 100% PLANT-BASED DIET, WHERE DO I START?
Choosing the right diet for our companion animals is one of the most important decisions we have to make as responsible “parents”. A 100% plant-based diet for dogs and cats is by far the healthiest and most ethical option if it has been properly formulated. However, lack of information on this type of diet leads to a great deal of questions and concerns. That is why, in addition to publishing information contents in our blog and social media, we also offer a free veterinary advice service.
In this article, María González, veterinarian, co-founder of animal shelter Refugio La Vida Color Frambuesa and veterinary advisor for VeggieAnimals, provides guidelines to make the transition to a vegan diet for your dog or cat as effortless and easy-going as possible.
BEFORE SWITCHING DIETS
We have to make sure that the dog or cat is healthy and going through a calm period. We must rule out illnesses and life stressors before introducing the new food.
A change in diet is not recommended when the animal suffers from certain health problems, so it is advisable to ask your vet first, contact us at VeggieAnimals or, if the health problem is not chronic, wait until your dog or cat is fully recovered.
When the animal - and this is true particularly for cats - is exposed to a stressful situation like moving home, arrival of a new member to the family, or any other situation that may cause distress, we have to be careful as switching diets could increase the risk of developing stress-related diseases, such as digestive problems, skin problems or other health conditions related to the immune system.
At VeggieAnimals we always recommend a blood test as part of your dog’s or cat’s annual health check even if they are healthy. It is a good idea to make the blood test coincide with the change in diet in order to be able to identify any changes in the following health checks.
THE TRANSITION PROCESS
When switching to a 100% plant-based food we must keep in mind that changes in diet must always be gradual.
In dogs, we recommend mixing their current food to the new one over a period of 5 days.
Switching cat’s diets must be a slower process. We recommend a transitional period of a month so that in week 5 the diet is fully plant-based.
Another important factor to take into consideration is flavour. If the food doesn’t appeal our furry companions we will be in trouble!
When dogs or cats are not enticed by plant-based foods it is usually because they are used to low quality foods or foods with a lot of flavour enhancers. In these cases the transition can be tricky.
We can try and make the food more appetizing by adding - in moderation - ingredients that are new to them, such as olive oil, coconut oil, brewer’s yeast or seaweed, all of which have strong flavours. We can also resort to mixing the new food with home-made recipes that will make the new diet more appetizing.
Please bear in mind that if the transition has been gradual there should be no signs of health problems, such as vomiting, diarrhoea or any other signs of disease. If we notice any changes in the health of our dog or cat we should take them to see a vet.
THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD IS OVER. WHAT NOW?
If the transition has been rushed, the dog or cat could show signs of digestive problems, which should disappear without much trouble. If symptoms persist we should go to the vet.
With cats on a plant-based diet there is always the concern about an increase in urinary pH that may lead to stone formation. However, this rarely happens and for extra peace of mind VeggieAnimals products contain L-methionine, which is an amino acid that keeps pH levels in the physiological range to avoid this problem.
In the course of their lives dogs or cats can suffer from diseases that will require specific nutritional needs. Plant-based pet foods are suitable for dogs or cats in any stage of life, but are not adapted to specific dietary needs, so if our dog or cat requires a special diet we will have to adapt their food accordingly.
Plant-based foods will help our companion animals to stay strong, healthy and energetic, improving their quality of life.
María González, veterinarian, co-founder of animal shelter Refugio La Vida Color Frambuesa and veterinary advisor for VeggieAnimals.