Avant Pet’s Vegepet Functional Dog Food and reflections about a vegetarian diet for pets

As you all know, Avant Pet and its sister company, Ecopet, have been supporting our work for many years now and we are very thankful to them.

Avant Pet sells Vegepet Functional Dog Food. Read all about it here: http://www.vegepet.com.tw/english/about.html

Now, yes, I know, feeding dogs vegetarian food is a point of contention for a long time now. One can argue that dogs are omnivores and their ancestors are wolves and of course, we all know that wolves are definitely not vegetarians. At the same time, the modern human has done its research as well and the vegetarian dog food proponent has their own stance on this. Ultimately, some say that food breaks down into its final microscopic components and that’s what is absorbed by the body. But then again, is the amino acids from meat the same as the amino acids from plant protein, you may ask. Is their bioavailability the same? Will it work exactly the same way to sustain and support the body? We don’t know, we are not nutritionists! There are two many factors to consider and we would have to ask the experts.

But, I do know of several of my friends who have been feeding their dogs (not cats) vegetarian food for years and their dogs do well.

We are, by no means, recommending that you feed your dogs vegetarian food. We are just sharing what we know. We do encourage humans to go meatless once a week (as that’s very safe), but for animals, we do not dare to advise.

Now, why do some people feed their dogs vegetarian food? Well, they do it for their own personal reasons.

According to Avant Pet, they have been selling this brand for eight years now. It is a niche market but there has been a consistent demand for it. It is mostly to cater to parents who want their dogs to be on a plant-based diet either due to the parent’s religious beliefs or the dogs are responding well to the plant-based diet after failing with all sorts of other diets. Since last year, plant-based diets have been trending in the European and USA pet food industry.

Avant Pet only brought in the dog food because dogs are omnivorous and many have been known to thrive in vegetarian diets. They currently have no plans to bring in the cat food because cats are obligate carnivores.

Now, PETA says:

“A growing body of evidence appears to indicate that dogs and cats can survive, and indeed thrive, on nutritionally-sound vegetarian and vegan diets,” according to Andrew Knight and Madelaine Leitsberger, the authors of a review in the journal Animals of four studies that examined the nutritional adequacy of vegetarian diets for cats and dogs. One study comparing the health of vegetarian cats to that of cats on conventional diets found no significant differences in perceived health status between the two groups.

Source: https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/is-it-safe-to-feed-my-dog-or-cat-a-vegetarian-diet/

But of course this is expected as it is from PETA which advocates vegetarianism for everyone!

Here’s another source:

After quitting meat for ethical, health or environmental reasons, some pet owners want their pets to join them in a plant-only diet. But is it safe to make our carnivorous felines and omnivorous pups give up meat or animal protein altogether? 

The short answer is, it’s a gray area: It’s a possibility for some pets, but not all of them. And it’s never recommended to switch your pet to a plant-based diet on your own. Plant-based diets are newer to market and the science is still developing. To make sure your pet gets enough of all the essential nutrients you’ll likely need a little help. 

Many people who visit Dr. Lindsey Bullen, a North Carolina-based veterinarian and board-certified animal nutritionist, one of about only 100 in the U.S., make this mistake, even though they’re often acting with the best intentions. “I think some clients just feel they can do it better,” Bullen told Live Science. “But they don’t actually know what goes into formulating a diet for their pet.” 

And it goes on:

Revamping an animal’s diet without expert help is often detrimental to the pet’s health. Animal proteins that cats and dogs typically eat have a lot of amino acids in a form that’s easy for your pet’s body to use — more than what’s usually in plant protein. Pets that don’t get enough protein can experience weight loss, muscle loss, weakness, poor digestion and even fluid buildup in their chest or abdomen, according to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University in Massachusetts. 

Cats, in particular, need taurine, an amino acid found in meat protein. In fact, they can’t live without it; if taurine is not supplemented properly in a plant-based diet, cats can experience poor neural function, reproductive problems and heart disease, Bullen said. Even the wrong mineral balances in a DIY plant-based pet diet can be a problem. The wrong calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, for instance, can increase the risk of fractures in dogs and cats and also stunt puppy or kitten growth, Bullen said. 

But plant-based pet diets can be done. “Vegetarian [diets] can be done safely in both [cats and dogs],” Bullen said. “Vegan can be done safely in dogs but is very difficult in cats.” Felines are obligate carnivores, so a lot of their nutritional needs are tied to meat-specific ingredients. As a result, cats need a lot more additives to make a vegan diet complete and balanced. 

Bullen even prescribes plant-based diets in certain cases, including for pets that have skin or gastrointestinal food allergies to meat products. (Her own dog has both types of allergies and is on a hydrolyzed soy-based diet.)

Source: https://www.livescience.com/pets-plant-based-diet

The above is a much fairer argument, in our opinion.

If you google for information, you will find that in general, many experts agree that dogs can do well on a vegetarian diet but maybe not cats as cats are obligate carnivores.

I am not acquainted with any pet nutritionist, but I do know a human nutritionist whom I trust very much and he has helped me a lot in my own nutritional and health matters, so I asked him and I learnt the following:

All proteins, be it animal or plant based, are broken/down or digested into amino acids before they can be absorbed. The main difference is that animal base protein has a complete amino acid profile vs plant based protein. Humans need 20 amino acids for the body to function properly and the body manufactures hundreds of amino acids but it cannot make 9 amino acids and these are called the essential amino acids. The human body can only make 11 of these, the other 9 must be sourced from food.

The key importance is that animal protein contains the 9 essential (which the body don’t make) amino acids whereas only for plants, only pea and soya protein have these 9 amino acids. 

What about the bioavailability of animal protein and plant protein – are they are the same?

Animal-based protein generally has better bioavailability than plant-based protein. 

Ah…so that’s one down for plant proteins.

Updates on 13th Jan 2024: The above information for human protein requirement may be incorrect, so please listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMwf_9wqWY0

Or just google these keywords: Christopher Gardner; Stanford; Protein and you can find a wealth of youtubes on nutrition. Basically, he says that all proteins, whether from animal sources or plant sources, break down to the same amino acids.

Now, I searched the internet and found this:

Dogs and cats need 22 amino acids to be healthy. Dogs can synthesize 12 of these amino acids and cats can synthesize 11 of them. The remaining amino acids must come from the food they eat. This is why they are called essential amino acids.

I think the above gives us a fairly good explanation for the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, right?

You can actually search the internet for more articles about this and make your own decisions about what is best for your pets.

But meanwhile, if you would like to try vegetarian food for your dog, Avant Pet has this range to offer and we sell it for fundraising, amongst their many other products: https://myanimalcare.org/gifts/

For more information: http://www.vegepet.com.tw/english/about.html

The above price list is effective February 2024. For now, the price is slightly lower than the above (to be confirmed).

If you’d like to order, please contact me at chankahyein@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: None of the above is expert or professional advice about nutrition for pets. Kindly consult a pet nutritionist for expert advice.

On a personal note, I dearly wish that one day in the future, there will be ample longitudinal studies and reliable research that says dog and cats can thrive healthily on a vegetarian diet. Then, more animals can be spared from slaughter at the slaughterhouses. I wish…

For humans, we already have lab-grown meat that is cruelty-free. We have honey that does not harm any bees, plant-based “salmon” that isn’t from fish, etc. There is hope…

The world’s cleanest lab-made honey: https://bee-io.com/about/

The world’s cleanest milk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM2Vk8JAr1k

Plant-based salmon: https://www.timesofisrael.com/faux-fish-israeli-startup-unveils-3d-printed-plant-based-salmon-fillet/


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