2 years ago

barefoot vegan sept_oct issue.pdf

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66 | BarefootVegan

Plant-Based Diets for Cats and Dogs? By Akshay Verma A heavily debated, and often heated, topic of discussion among vegans is whether or not it’s right and ethical to feed our companion animals (cats and dogs) a vegan diet. Here, vegan veterinary student Akshay Verma shines some light on the history of human and animal companionship, the evolution of their diets and current scientific understanding. P eople interested in dog and cat nutrition often point to what our companion animals would have eaten “in the wild” as an indicator of how they should eat today. While evolution does provide some dietary clues if we have a clear understanding of their domestication, it is important to realize the limited usefulness of this thinking in companion animal nutrition. Before I explain why our best friends’ survival-of-the-fittest history does not necessarily indicate their ideal diet, I will first discuss what that history is. The dog, or Canis familiaris, has had a historical presence in nearly every human society around the world. In fact, the species’ very existence is the result of domestication by humans from wolves as early as 33,000 years ago (1, 2). Although wolves consume some vegetable and fruit matter, they primarily consume other animals (3, 4). Since early dogs were dependent on human food scraps, however, adaptation to a more human-like diet was critical to their survival as a domestic companion. In fact, genomic sequencing supports their adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Compared to carnivorous wolves, omnivorous dogs have significantly increased gene expression for pancreatic amylase, maltose to glucose conversion, and intestinal glucose uptake (5). The cat, or Felis silvestris catus, was domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago (6). Genetic research suggests that the cat’s domestication did not depend on dietary adaptation as much as the dog’s domestication. As a result, the domestic cat’s nutrient requirements remain similar to those of its hypercarnivorous felid relatives, such as tigers and snow leopards, whose wild diets are comprised of at least 70% meat (7, 8). This is likely related to humans keeping cats to hunt animals deemed as pests as well as domestic cats being historically allowed to roam outdoors, preying on wildlife and mating with feral counterparts (9). 67 | BarefootVegan >