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Vegan Diets May Not Be Best For Pets

Kathryn Kattalia
DAILY NEWS WRITER

Friday, March 11th 2011, 4:00 AM

Forget the bacon treats–today’s dog owners are dishing out the tofu.

As more people make the switch to vegan diets themselves, their canine friends are doing the same. Trading in the kibbles and bits for soy products, beans and vegetables, some pet owners swear that eliminating meat and dairy from doggy diets leads to healthier, happier pups–especially ones that suffer from food allergies.

But while going vegan may supply a host of health benefits for humans looking to lose weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, veterinarians say that going meatless may not be the best thing for pooches.

“People feel it’s good for their pet because it’s good for them,” said Dr. Benjamin Davidson, a vet at NYC Veterinary Specialists. “Dogs and cats, they’re carnivores and they do eat meat as part of their natural diet.”

Phil Klein, a co-owner of Whiskers Holistic Pet Store on East Ninth Street in Manhattan, said he stocks a variety of vegetarian friendly products for people looking to go the meatless route with their pets. From plant-based canned foods to vitamin supplements to grain products, Klein said there are a variety of options out there for dogs that are allergic to proteins found in certain meats.

Still, Klein said, there can be disadvantages.

“There are a number of health benefits, but there are health detriments as well,” Klein said. “It depends on the individual animal and the reason the dog is being put on a vegan diet. If it’s well thought out, it could be ok. We do an awful lot of work with allergenic animals and sometimes will recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet because the majority of allergies are due to particular proteins.”

For most dogs, Davis said, there is little advantage to going vegan. Even animals who do suffer from food allergies risk missing out on essential proteins, vitamins and minerals that come from meat products.

“In general, with most of the dietary recommendations we make for pets with allergies, we usually find an animal protein that the dog will not be allergic to. There will be no requirement to move to a vegan diet.”

Other veterinarians agree. Dr. Michael Rubinstein, clinic director for the Humane Society of New York, said that vegan diets are often expensive to maintain as pet owners have to find alternatives to cheaper, manufactured dog food. In the end, he said, it’s not always worth it.

“Dogs need meat in their diet,” he said. “In an ideal world we try to mimic what animals eat in the wild.”

Davis said that pet owners who do decide to go vegan should talk first with their veterinarian and nutritionist to decide what ingredients should go into the diet, such as tofu, veggies, soy and certain legumes.

Rubenstein recommended all caretakers consider vitamin supplements for their pets.

“All dogs should have a very well-balanced diet,” he said.

“People feel it’s good for their pet because it’s good for them,” said Dr. Benjamin Davis, a vet at NYC Veterinary Specialists. “Dogs and cats, they’re carnivores and they do eat meat as part of their natural diet.”

For most dogs, Davis said, there is little advantage to going vegan. Even animals who do suffer from food allergies risk missing out on essential proteins, vitamins and minerals that come from meat products.

“In general, with most of the dietary recommendations we make for pets with allergies, we usually find an animal protein that the dog will not be allergic to. There will be no requirement to move to a vegan diet.”

Other veterinarians agree. Dr. Michael Rubinstein, clinic director for the Humane Society of New York, said that vegan diets are often expensive to maintain as pet owners have to find alternatives to cheaper, manufactured dog food. In the end, he said, it’s not always worth it.

“They need meat in their diet. In an ideal world we try to mimic what animals eat in the wild,” Rubinstein said.

Davis said that pet owners who do decide to go vegan should talk first with their veterinarian and nutritionist to decide what ingredients should go into the diet, such as tofu, veggies, soy and certain legumes.

Dr. Rubenstein recommended all caretakers consider vitamin supplements for their pets.

“All dogs should have a very well-balanced diet,” he said.

Originally published in The Daily News on March 11, 2011 at 4am.