The number of veterinarians knowledgeable and supportive of plant-based diets for cats and dogs is growing daily. These dedicated professionals have created a strong community advising a responsible approach to a vegan diet. They urge dog and cat guardians to choose quality, well-balanced plant-based products, and educate community on benefits of healthy plant-based nutrition. They base their opinions and recommendations on a growing body of research studies as well as their personal experiences from their practices. Here is what they say:
Dr. Armaiti May, DVM
Armaiti May is a practicing veterinarian and an outspoken vegan advocate, living in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Armaiti May is knowledgeable in plant-based nutrition of dogs and cats believes that if a healthful vegan diet can be provided, it should be.
"What we feed our companion animals is an ethical dilemma," she says, referring to the inconsistency between loving some animals and consuming others. Luckily, healthy, cruelty-free options are available for our pets.
"Animals do have requirements for nutrients, but not necessarily ingredients." Dr. May recommends choosing products formulated in accordance with AAFCO standards, to ensure that nutrient guidelines are met.
Common question from people - “What are health benefits of plant-based diet for cats and dogs?”
“The health benefits of a vegan diet are tremendous… meat products like chicken and beef are common allergens, causing a host of skin issues in dogs. Not to mention that the “meat” found in commercial pet foods contains byproducts like diseased animal parts, beaks, and bones -- all junk deemed unfit for human consumption -- and even euthanized dogs and cats. Bacterial contamination and degenerative diseases like cancer and arthritis are also a concern.”
Common concern #1 - “Can cats be vegan?”
“Although cats are biologically carnivores, they can be successfully maintained on a vegan diet as long as it meets all of the nutritional requirements specific to cats. Cats require the same nine essential amino acids that are needed in the diet of all mammals. However, in addition, cats also require arginine and taurine. Taurine is found naturally in meat but can be supplied in synthetic form.”
Common concern #2 - “Isn’t it unnatural?”
“Well...maybe it is. But so is having pets in the first place, bringing them into your home, and providing them with veterinary attention like surgeries, vaccines, and medication. Dogs and cats may hunt in the wild, but they aren't exactly taking down a cow or a tuna. The point is, we as a society reevaluate our way of living given the current circumstances, and ‘natural’ is a subjective term. We have to look at the whole picture. What are we doing to this planet? How much water does it take to produce meat? It's astronomical. We don't want to have to continue to support this practice that involves taking the lives of animals to feed our own animals."
Common concern #3 - "It's cruel."
"This is absurd. What's cruel is what is happening to factory farmed animals. Given that billions of animals are raised, confined, and slaughtered each year for our consumption, providing our pets with a balanced plant-based diet is a win-win.”
Dr. Sarah Dodd
Dr. Dodd is a vegan veterinarian and a PhD student at the University of Guelph in Canada, specializing in animal nutrition. She is presently conducting a research study on caregiver’s attitudes toward plant-based diets. This study has found that 35% of pet owners (vegan and non-vegan) have thought about switching their pet's diet to a more vegetable-based diet.
“Nutrients matter, not ingredients.”
“In accordance with the current understanding of pet nutrition, the importance of nutrients, not ingredients, is emphasized. A diet that can supply all required nutrients in accordance with current nutritional standards (AAFCO) – plant- or meat- based – should be sufficient for health maintenance of cats and dogs.”
“Both animal- and plant-based diets rely on supplementation of minerals to be nutritionally complete and balanced. As long as diets are supplemented with appropriate amounts of minerals, the provision of adequate quantities of minerals without the use of animal products is not a concern.”
Prof. Andrew Knight
"Our 2016 article in Animals comprehensively reviewed the evidence published to date from four studies that have examined the nutritional adequacy of vegetarian diets for cats and dogs. Both cats and dogs may thrive on vegetarian and vegan diets, but these must be nutritionally complete and reasonably balanced."
Professor Andrew Knight is a Veterinary Specialist and Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics. He publishes academic and popular articles, and YouTube videos, on animal welfare issues. Check out his Facebook page for latest updates!
Dr. Richard Pitcairn
"I started with the desire to help animals, to spare them unnecessary suffering, and this intention has remained all this time. I feel like it was this intention that prompted me to look “outside the box” and consider other ways of looking at this problem of increasing chronic health problems for our poor brothers and sisters. This path has led me to the idea of changing the diet of dogs to a more plant based one".
Veterinarian Richard H. Pitcairn and his wife Susan Hubble Pitcairn, noted specialists in chemical-free nutrition and natural healing for pets, show dog and cat owners how to provide the very best in companionship and lifelong care.
Visit Dr. Pitcairn's website and blog to learn more about his work.
Dr. Arielle Griffiths
"My journey as a vegan vet came from a passion to help owners with their overweight pets. As a vet, I believe in a kinder, healthier way to feed our pets that does no damage to our environment, harms no animals and uses fresh, healthy plant-based ingredients for a balanced and delicious diet ."
Check out Dr. Griffiths' website!
Dr. Debra Voulgaris
“As an ethical veterinarian, I have a responsibility to recommend foods for my patients that are balanced and healthy. As an ethical vegan, I have a responsibility to promote compassion to all animals, not just my patients.”
Dr. Voulgaris earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Ross University School of Veterinary medicine in 2005 completing her final clinical year at Louisiana State University. Learn more about her important work.
Dr. Gavin Myers
A supervising veterinarian at Yaletown Pet Hospital, Dr. Gavin Myers studied effects of plant-based diet on dogs. The study included 20 dogs placed on a “fresh, pure, whole, plant-based diet”. For all of the canines in the study, it was found that a vegan diet had absolutely no negative health consequences. On the contrary, it was found to be beneficial for certain medical ailments.
“As a whole the trial has been really successful in demonstrating how well dogs can do on a nutritionally balanced, plant-based diet. All dogs that completed the trial managed the transition to the new diet without any difficulty, and in many cases actually improved medically while on it.”
Dr. Kathy Kramer
“Everyday there is new information about the link between a plant-based diet and disease prevention,” says Kathy Kramer, Medical Director at Vancouver Animal Wellness. “Why would it not be the same for our beloved dogs who are prone to many of the same diseases?”
These are only a few veterinarians knowledgeable in plant-based diets for companion animals. Check the Vegan Veterinarian Network and other online communities to find a vegan vet in your area!