Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue

THE VEGETARIAN DIET - Excerpts from Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats

I'm often asked about vegetarian diets for our pets, and I'd like to include some information on this.

The cat is considered a true carnivore and clearly requires nutrients adequately supplied only by meat and animal products. A lower-protein diet may be needed if the cat's kidneys or liver are compromised, but stick to the foods that the feline digests best. The dog prefers meat and is "designed" to digest meat easily, but it's physiology and behaviors indicate that it is better classed as an opportunistic omnivore - an animal that can meet its needs from a wide variety of sources. Wild canines such as Coyotes, Wolves and other wild dogs also consume vegetable matter, including grasses, berries, and other fresh material - plus predigested food from the digestive tracts of their vegetarian prey... but their main source of protein is meat. A three-generation test found that dogs fed meat as a sole source of protein had difficulties producing adequate milk for their young, as compared with dogs fed a diet that included vegetables and a little raw milk. If we could ensure that the meat we fed our pets was of a clean nature, we could safely assume that a diet of fresh raw meat, eggs and bones - supplemented with vegetables and fruits - would be the most natural diet for dogs. [Note: eggs and organ meats should not be given more than three times a week.]

Meat is now, however, the most polluted food source in the market. Even the highest-quality cuts approved for human consumption contain residues of antibiotics, synthetic hormones and toxic materials such as lead, arsenic, mercury, DDT and dioxin. There are also more pesticide residues in meat than in grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. The long-term effect of all this toxic material may be increased cancer rates, allergies, infections, kidney and liver problems, irritability and hyperactivity.

Feeding organic, free-range meat is a big step in the right direction. Supplementing with clean, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables helps limit the risks of contamination. Most canines do best with a meat-based diet, supplemented with vegetables and cooked grains, legumes and root vegetables. Occasionally a canine is put on a vegetarian diet for a short period of time due to  health reasons. In this case, it is very important to make sure that the diet is well balanced in all forms of nutrition. Return your dog to a meat-based diet as soon as possible or there may be some adverse effects eliminating meat. Senior dogs actually need more protein in their diet, not less as some claim, but it is important to make sure it is a quality protein source that is easy to digest.  Avoid any foods made with sugar or enriched white-flour [like treats], and remember, even dog biscuits made of wheat flower and other grains will turn to sugar in their digestive system. Diabetes is unheard of in the wild. Wonder why?

You can find some minimal-meat recipes in Dr. Pitcairn's book, as well as in Healthy Vegetarian Dogs and Cats by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. See both links below!