Would you ever consider switching your pet to a vegetarian or vegan diet?
New research reveals that a growing number of dog and cat owners are interested in feeding their pets a plant-based diet - but animal welfare charities have urged caution, warning that it can be harmful to their health.
An online survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners conducted by the University of Guelph, in Canada, found that 35% of owners are interested in switching their animals to a vegan diet.
Just under 6% follow a vegan diet themselves, and more than a quarter (27%) of them already feed their pets vegetarian or plant-based foods.
More than half (55%) of the survey respondents said that certain measures would need to be in place before they made the switch, such as ensuring their pet's nutritional needs are met and gaining approval from their vet.
Previous studies have shown that pet owners tend to offer the same kind of diets to their dogs and cats that they adopt for themselves.
This means that interest in the diets is likely to grow, explained lead author Sarah Dodd.
She added that there is a need for further research into the health benefits and risks of vegan diets for dogs and cats.
A plant-based diet is more suitable for dogs than cats, an RSPCA spokesperson told The Independent.
"Dogs are omnivores and can eat a wide variety of food types so they can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as the diet is well-balanced," they said.
It's a different story for cats, who are "strict carnivores" and depend on specific nutrients found primarily in meat, such as taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid.
"We are aware of vegan/vegetarian pet food which includes these nutrients but these are relatively new to market and we have not seen any long-term studies about the effects of feeding cats a diet like this," the spokesperson added.
If you're thinking about switching your pet to a vegan diet, talk to your vet first.
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