Vegan companion animal diets

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The health hazards inherent to commercial meat-based companion animal diets are extensive and difficult to avoid, and can include slaughterhouse waste, supermarket rejects, restaurant grease, fish contaminants, endotoxins, mycotoxins, and toxic chemicals. Unsurprisingly, studies have identified kidney, liver, heart, neurologic, visual, neuromuscular and skin diseases, bleeding disorders, birth defects, immunocompromisation and infectious diseases associated with meat-based diets. There is no scientific reason why a diet comprised only of plant, mineral and synthetically-based ingredients cannot be formulated to meet all of the nutritional requirements of cats and dogs, and several commercially-available vegan diets claim to do so. Health benefits commonly observed include decreased skin parasites and improved coat condition, allergy control, weight and arthritis control, and improved vitality. Correct use of a complete and balanced nutritional supplement is essential, however, to avoid potentially severe health problems, particularly in cats, and monitoring of urinary acidity is strongly advisable. These topics will be explored in greater detail, and are described at www.vegepets.info.

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  • In March 2007, the FDA learnt that certain wet pet foods were sickening and killing cats and dogs. FDA found melamine in vegetable proteins (wheat flour) imported into the United States from China and used as ingredients in pet food. Melamine is an industrial chemical used as a flame retardant, plastic ingredient and fertilizer. It causes kidney failure. It may have been added to artificially increase the protein content.
    A portion of the tainted pet food was used to produce farm animal feed and fish feed. FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered that some animals that ate the tainted feed had been processed into human food. Government scientists have determined that there is very low risk to human health from consuming food from animals that ate tainted feed. All tainted pet food, animal and fish feed, and vegetable proteins continue to be recalled and destroyed. By mid 2007 over 200 items have been recalled, mostly dog and cat foods, including many common meat-based and even a few vegetarian brands. This is probably the largest pet food recall in history. Over 10,000 complaints have been received by the FDA. While the numbers of dogs and cats killed are unknown, thousands may have died.
  • Diseases described in the scientific literature following long-term maintenance of cats and dogs on meat-based diets include…
  • Studies (PETA, 1994) and numerous case reports (Gillen 2003, Peden 1999) have shown that nutritionally sound vegetarian companion animal diets appear to be associated with the following health benefits …
  • Blood taurine concentrations were within reference range for most of the cats tested. However, 3 cats had blood taurine concentrations between the reference range and the critical concentration, suggesting that their dietary intake was marginal, but that they were not clinically deficient.
    Possible explanations: variation in cats’ individual diets, such as the addition of table scraps and treats (all 3 received either or both); and potential quality assurance issues affecting manufacture of the diets.
    Cobalamin: the concentration for all cats was within reference range.
    Lack of an appropriate assay was the reason other nutrients of concern in vegetarian cats, such as arachidonic acid or retinol (vitamin A), were not evaluated.
  • Vegan companion animal diets

    1. 1. Vegan Companion Animal Diets      Vegetarian cat and dog photos: www.VegePet.com, www.VeganCats.com ANDREW KNIGHTANDREW KNIGHT DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DACAW,DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DACAW, PhD, MANZCVS, MRCVS, SFHEAPhD, MANZCVS, MRCVS, SFHEA
    2. 2. Some definitions Vegetarian = ovo-lacto-vegetarianVegetarian = ovo-lacto-vegetarian VeganVegan
    3. 3. Why veg*n?  Animal ethicsAnimal ethics  Food justiceFood justice  EnvironmentEnvironment  HealthHealth
    4. 4. ‘Little Tyke’ the vegetarian lioness
    5. 5. Overview  Meat-based diets: health hazardsMeat-based diets: health hazards  Meat-based diets: associated diseasesMeat-based diets: associated diseases  Animal diets: biological requirementsAnimal diets: biological requirements  Vegetarian diets: unnatural behaviour?Vegetarian diets: unnatural behaviour?  Health benefits?Health benefits?  Dietary transitionsDietary transitions
    6. 6. Meat-based diets: health hazards US 2007 pet food recall due to melamine US 2007 pet food recall due to melamine  contaminationcontamination Affected brands: Affected brands:   http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/petfoodrecall/ Signs of kidney failure: increased thirst and urination, Signs of kidney failure: increased thirst and urination,  dehydration, inappetence, lethargy, vomiting, deathdehydration, inappetence, lethargy, vomiting, death
    7. 7.  Meat meal and byproducts: slaughterhouse Meat meal and byproducts: slaughterhouse  waste, 4-D meat, supermarket rejects and waste, 4-D meat, supermarket rejects and  rendered dogs and catsrendered dogs and cats  Premium brandsPremium brands  DigestDigest  Restaurant greaseRestaurant grease  Fish contaminantsFish contaminants  Infectious diseasesInfectious diseases
    8. 8.  EndotoxinsEndotoxins  MycotoxinsMycotoxins  Hormones and antibioticsHormones and antibiotics  PreservativesPreservatives  ProcessingProcessing
    9. 9.  Kidney diseaseKidney disease  Liver diseaseLiver disease  Heart diseaseHeart disease  Neurologic diseaseNeurologic disease  Visual diseaseVisual disease  Musculoskeletal diseaseMusculoskeletal disease What are the effects?
    10. 10.  Skin diseasesSkin diseases  Bleeding disordersBleeding disorders  Birth defectsBirth defects  ImmunocompromisationImmunocompromisation  Infectious diseasesInfectious diseases
    11. 11. 1.1. Bingham AK, Huebner HJ, Phillips TD, Bauer JE.Bingham AK, Huebner HJ, Phillips TD, Bauer JE. Identification and reduction of urinary aflatoxin metabolitesIdentification and reduction of urinary aflatoxin metabolites in dogs.in dogs. Food Chem Toxicol.Food Chem Toxicol. 2004 Nov;42(11):1851-8.2004 Nov;42(11):1851-8. 2.2. Boyer CI Jr, Andrews EJ, deLahunta A, Bache CA, GutenmanBoyer CI Jr, Andrews EJ, deLahunta A, Bache CA, Gutenman WH, Lisk DJ. Accumulation of mercury and selenium inWH, Lisk DJ. Accumulation of mercury and selenium in tissues of kittens fed commercial cat food.tissues of kittens fed commercial cat food. Cornell Vet.Cornell Vet. 19781978 Jul;68(3):365-74.Jul;68(3):365-74. 3.3. Coleman WE, Tardiff RG. Contaminant levels in animal feedsColeman WE, Tardiff RG. Contaminant levels in animal feeds used for toxicity studies.used for toxicity studies. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol.Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1979;8(6):693-702.1979;8(6):693-702. 4.4. DiBartola SP, Buffington CA, Chew DJ, McLoughlin MA,DiBartola SP, Buffington CA, Chew DJ, McLoughlin MA, Sparks RA. Development of chronic renal disease in cats fedSparks RA. Development of chronic renal disease in cats fed a commercial diet.a commercial diet. J Am Vet Med Assoc.J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1993 Mar1993 Mar 1;202(5):744-51.1;202(5):744-51. 5.5. Dobson RLMDobson RLM et al.et al. Identification and characterization ofIdentification and characterization of toxicity of contaminants in pet food leading to an outbreak oftoxicity of contaminants in pet food leading to an outbreak of renal toxicity in cats and dogs.renal toxicity in cats and dogs. Toxicological SciencesToxicological Sciences 2008;2008; 106(1): 251-262.106(1): 251-262.
    12. 12. 6.6. Dow SW, Fettman MJ, Curtis CR, LeCouteur RA. HypokalemiaDow SW, Fettman MJ, Curtis CR, LeCouteur RA. Hypokalemia in cats: 186 cases (1984-1987).in cats: 186 cases (1984-1987). J Am Vet Med Assoc.J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1989 Jun1989 Jun 1;194(11):1604-8.1;194(11):1604-8. 7.7. Freytag TL, Liu SM, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Teratogenic effectsFreytag TL, Liu SM, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Teratogenic effects of chronic ingestion of high levels of vitamin A in cats.of chronic ingestion of high levels of vitamin A in cats. J AnimJ Anim Physiol Anim NutrPhysiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2003 Feb;87(1-2):42-51.(Berl). 2003 Feb;87(1-2):42-51. 8.8. Houpt KA, Essick LA, Shaw EB, Alo DK, Gilmartin JE,Houpt KA, Essick LA, Shaw EB, Alo DK, Gilmartin JE, Gutenmann WH, Littman CB, Lisk DJ. A tuna fish dietGutenmann WH, Littman CB, Lisk DJ. A tuna fish diet influences cat behavior.influences cat behavior. J Toxicol Environ Health.J Toxicol Environ Health. 1988;24(2):161-72.1988;24(2):161-72. 9.9. Pion PD, Kittleson MD, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Science.Pion PD, Kittleson MD, Rogers QR, Morris JG. Science. Myocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine: aMyocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine: a reversible cardiomyopathy.reversible cardiomyopathy. ScienceScience 1987 Aug1987 Aug 14;237(4816):764-8.14;237(4816):764-8. 10.10. Sousa CA, Stannard AA, Ihrke PJ, Reinke SI, Schmeitzel LP.Sousa CA, Stannard AA, Ihrke PJ, Reinke SI, Schmeitzel LP. Dermatosis associated with feeding generic dog food: 13 casesDermatosis associated with feeding generic dog food: 13 cases (1981-1982).(1981-1982). J Am Vet Med Assoc.J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1988 Mar 1;192(5):676-80.1988 Mar 1;192(5):676-80. 11.11. Strieker MJ, Morris JG, Feldman BF, Rogers QR. Vitamin KStrieker MJ, Morris JG, Feldman BF, Rogers QR. Vitamin K deficiency in cats fed commercial fish-based diets.deficiency in cats fed commercial fish-based diets. J SmallJ Small Anim Pract.Anim Pract. 1996 Jul;37(7):322-6.1996 Jul;37(7):322-6.
    13. 13. Requirements of animal diets  Nutritional soundnessNutritional soundness  PalatabilityPalatability  BioavailabilityBioavailability
    14. 14.  Gray and colleagues (2004):Gray and colleagues (2004):  Vegecat KibbleMixVegecat KibbleMix  Evolution canned diet for adult catsEvolution canned diet for adult cats  both deficient in certain amino acids, traceboth deficient in certain amino acids, trace minerals, vitamins, and arachidonic acidminerals, vitamins, and arachidonic acid  Evolution diet was also deficient in overallEvolution diet was also deficient in overall protein contentprotein content Nutritional adequacy?
    15. 15. Eric Weisman, Evolution Diet CEO (2004):Eric Weisman, Evolution Diet CEO (2004): ““We have ten to twenty thousand healthy and longWe have ten to twenty thousand healthy and long living dogs, cats and ferrets living on the Evolutionliving dogs, cats and ferrets living on the Evolution Diet. … Major animal sanctuaries use our productsDiet. … Major animal sanctuaries use our products and stand behind them. These sanctuaries use ourand stand behind them. These sanctuaries use our products because they have lower rates of illness andproducts because they have lower rates of illness and mortality when their animals are placed on our foods.mortality when their animals are placed on our foods.””
    16. 16. 3 possibilities 1.1. The sample tested was nutritionally inadequate, but theThe sample tested was nutritionally inadequate, but the great majority of samples sold and used are adequate.great majority of samples sold and used are adequate. Due to: formulation error at the factory, or degradationDue to: formulation error at the factory, or degradation of an old sample. However, it is unlikely that an oldof an old sample. However, it is unlikely that an old sample would have been retained for testing.sample would have been retained for testing. 2.2. The laboratory results were significantly in error forThe laboratory results were significantly in error for several nutrients tested. However, a professional,several nutrients tested. However, a professional, accredited laboratory was used, and the samples wereaccredited laboratory was used, and the samples were tested blind to decrease bias.tested blind to decrease bias.
    17. 17. 3.3. The AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for theThe AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for the maintenance of adult cats are highly conservative, and,maintenance of adult cats are highly conservative, and, although Evolution Diet pet food does not meet thealthough Evolution Diet pet food does not meet the AAFCO requirements, it does meet the actual theAAFCO requirements, it does meet the actual the nutrient requirements for the maintenance of the greatnutrient requirements for the maintenance of the great majority of adult cats.majority of adult cats.  But if only 10% of cats required the nutrient levelsBut if only 10% of cats required the nutrient levels specified by AAFCO, given thatspecified by AAFCO, given that “ten to twenty thousand“ten to twenty thousand healthy and long living dogs, cats and ferrets [live] onhealthy and long living dogs, cats and ferrets [live] on the Evolution Diet”the Evolution Diet” (Weisman 2004), this would have(Weisman 2004), this would have resulted a large population of cats showing signs ofresulted a large population of cats showing signs of nutritional deficiency following chronic feeding on thenutritional deficiency following chronic feeding on the Evolution Diet, but this has not been detected.Evolution Diet, but this has not been detected.
    18. 18.  Most likely possibility: the sample tested was nutritionallyMost likely possibility: the sample tested was nutritionally inadequate, but the great majority of samples sold andinadequate, but the great majority of samples sold and used are adequate, and that a formulation error occurredused are adequate, and that a formulation error occurred at the factory.at the factory.  Harbingers of a New Age (2004):Harbingers of a New Age (2004): ““We were frankly shocked by the analysis of the kibbleWe were frankly shocked by the analysis of the kibble made from Vegecat KibbleMix. I talked with our mixingmade from Vegecat KibbleMix. I talked with our mixing personnel about the report and tried to understand howpersonnel about the report and tried to understand how such a situation could have occurred. Isuch a situation could have occurred. I’’m convinced thatm convinced that this particular batch of Vegecat KibbleMix was madethis particular batch of Vegecat KibbleMix was made improperly, and have stressed to our personnel theimproperly, and have stressed to our personnel the importance of paying attention to the mixing process andimportance of paying attention to the mixing process and if any errors are made to notify me immediately ratherif any errors are made to notify me immediately rather than pass on incorrectly mixed product.… We willthan pass on incorrectly mixed product.… We will reformulate our products in light of these unsettlingreformulate our products in light of these unsettling facts, and submit to a lab for analysisfacts, and submit to a lab for analysis””
    19. 19. However…  ““samples were collected at 1 time pointsamples were collected at 1 time point and from 1 batch of each productand from 1 batch of each product  ““substantial variations in resultssubstantial variations in results attributable to laboratory methods wereattributable to laboratory methods were possiblepossible  ““no assessment of the animals …no assessment of the animals … evaluation of blood AA concentrationsevaluation of blood AA concentrations would provide valuable information”would provide valuable information”
    20. 20. What should we do?  ““all 3 veterinary diets assessed in the study reportedall 3 veterinary diets assessed in the study reported here met current nutritional adequacy and labelinghere met current nutritional adequacy and labeling requirements, compared with only 5 of 21 over-the-requirements, compared with only 5 of 21 over-the- counter diets that met the nutritional adequacy andcounter diets that met the nutritional adequacy and labeling requirementslabeling requirements  ““For all animals and regardless of diet, general routineFor all animals and regardless of diet, general routine monitoring and assessment are necessary for adequatemonitoring and assessment are necessary for adequate nutritional evaluation and to enable clinicians to providenutritional evaluation and to enable clinicians to provide recommendations for individual animals”recommendations for individual animals”
    21. 21. Vegetarian diets & natural behaviour !?
    22. 22. Health benefits?  Decreased ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, liceDecreased ectoparasites (fleas, ticks, lice and mites)and mites)  Improved coat conditionImproved coat condition  Allergy controlAllergy control  Improved weight controlImproved weight control  Arthritis regressionArthritis regression  Diabetes regressionDiabetes regression  Cataract resolutionCataract resolution
    23. 23.  Increased overall health and vitalityIncreased overall health and vitality  Decreased incidence of cancerDecreased incidence of cancer  Decreased incidence of infectionsDecreased incidence of infections  Decreased hypothyroidismDecreased hypothyroidism
    24. 24. 1st large-scale study of the long-term health of vegetarian cats WakefieldWakefield et al.et al. J. Amer. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2006; 229: 70-73J. Amer. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2006; 229: 70-73
    25. 25.  34 cats maintained on vegetarian diets for 1+ yrs34 cats maintained on vegetarian diets for 1+ yrs  52 cats maintained on meat-based diets for 1+ yrs52 cats maintained on meat-based diets for 1+ yrs Variable Vegetarians Carnivores P value Age (mean +/- SD) 7.0 +/- 4.7 7.8 +/- 4.8 0.48 No. of years diet fed (mean +/- SD) 4.6 +/- 4.1 6.5 +/- 4.7 0.06 Sex distribution (spayed female; castrated male [%]) 38;62 56;44 0.13 Kept strictly indoors (%) 65 69 0.80 Reported to be in ideal body condition (%) 82 65 0.17 Reported to be healthy or generally healthy (%) 97 96 0.38 •No significant differences in age, sex, body condition, housing, orNo significant differences in age, sex, body condition, housing, or perceived health status.perceived health status. •Most cats described as healthy or generally healthy.Most cats described as healthy or generally healthy.
    26. 26. Sprint-racing sled dogs BrownBrown et al.et al. Brit J Nutr.Brit J Nutr. 2009; 102: 1318-232009; 102: 1318-23
    27. 27.  12 sprint-racing Siberian huskies were fed either a12 sprint-racing Siberian huskies were fed either a commercial diet recommended for active dogs (n 6), or acommercial diet recommended for active dogs (n 6), or a meat-free diet formulated to the same nutrient specificationsmeat-free diet formulated to the same nutrient specifications (n 6)(n 6)  Sole nutrient intake for 16 weeks, including 10 weeks ofSole nutrient intake for 16 weeks, including 10 weeks of competitive racingcompetitive racing  Blood samples were collected at weeks 0, 3, 8 and 16, andBlood samples were collected at weeks 0, 3, 8 and 16, and veterinary health checks were conducted at weeks 0, 8 and 16veterinary health checks were conducted at weeks 0, 8 and 16  Haematology results for all dogs, irrespective of diet, wereHaematology results for all dogs, irrespective of diet, were within normal range throughout the studywithin normal range throughout the study  The consulting veterinarian assessed all dogs to be inThe consulting veterinarian assessed all dogs to be in excellent physical conditionexcellent physical condition
    28. 28. Dietary change  Easing the transitionEasing the transition  Safeguarding healthSafeguarding health 1.1. Use a complete and balanced nutritionalUse a complete and balanced nutritional supplement or complete dietsupplement or complete diet 2.2. Prevent urinary alkalinization and urolithiasisPrevent urinary alkalinization and urolithiasis (the formation of urinary crystals and stones)(the formation of urinary crystals and stones)
    29. 29. Conclusions We choose vegan diets for ourselves forWe choose vegan diets for ourselves for ethical, environmental and health reasons. The samereasons. The same benefits apply to vegan companion animal diets,benefits apply to vegan companion animal diets, which provide the best choice for both ourwhich provide the best choice for both our companion and so-calledcompanion and so-called ‘food’ animals.‘food’ animals.
    30. 30. Veterinary opinions

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