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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Vet-Verified Info & Safety Tips

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on June 25, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog looking at the cat that is eating its food

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Vet-Verified Info & Safety Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When you live in a multi-pet household with dogs and cats, you’re probably used to having to keep your pets from eating each other’s food. Dogs and cats can eat many of the same foods, and a lot of the same foods that are toxic to cats are toxic to dogs, too.

However, just because dogs and cats can eat similar foods, it doesn’t mean that they can adopt each other’s everyday diets. Dogs and cats have different diets, with cats being obligate carnivores and dogs being omnivores. So, while it won’t harm your dog if they sneak a bite of cat food, it’s not recommended to feed it to them continuously.

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Why Can’t Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Food that is safe for cats to eat is generally safe for dogs. So, it’s unlikely your dog will get sick from eating cat food unless they have a sensitive stomach, food allergies, or digestive issues. In fact, many dogs may be more enticed by cat food because it’s usually richer in protein and fat. Cat food contains more meat, so even the most well behaved dogs won’t be able to resist sneaking a mouthful or two.

However, it’s generally not recommended for dogs to be fed cat food as their normal diet. Cats have a carnivorous diet and get their nutritional needs met through a high-protein diet that mainly consists of animal-based protein. Cats actually have 11 essential amino acids that they must consume consistently, while dogs require 10 essential amino acids. The additional amino acid that is required to be present in cat food is taurine, because unlike dogs, cats cannot synthesize this amino acid themselves. They must acquire it from their diet.

Unlike cats, dogs can eat a more varied diet that consists of both meat and plant-based foods. Their diets don’t need to be as protein heavy as a cat’s diet. Cat food therefore contains more protein and fat than a dog’s food would contain, so consuming it regularly can end up causing weight gain and other health issues for dogs later down the road.

cat food in bowl and wooden surface
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Benefits of Feeding Cat Food to Dogs

There are some special cases where dogs may benefit from eating cat food. Dogs that are underweight and reluctant to eat may be more willing to eat cat food. Since cat food is rich in protein and fat, it can help dogs gain weight, which in some cases, for example dogs suffering with cancer or heart disease, can be beneficial.

If you want to feed your dog some cat food, consider choosing pet treats designed for both cats and dogs. Several different brands produce treats that are safe for cats and dogs and usually contain ingredients that both animals will enjoy.

Dangers of Feeding Cat Food to Dogs

For most dogs, there is no major danger in them eating the odd mouthful of cat food, and some dogs can manage fairly well on a cat food diet. However, it is not balanced correctly for dogs, so long term it isn’t recommended.

Some dogs have particular problems that make feeding them cat food troublesome.

Not all dogs benefit from eating high-protein diets. High-protein diets often contain higher amounts of calories and can lead to weight gain, especially for dogs that are predisposed to obesity. It’s also dangerous for dogs with kidney or liver disease to consume an excess of protein, as this will exacerbate their condition.

Some dog breeds, such as Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels, are also predisposed to pancreatitis, which is a disease caused by the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is sometimes linked to dogs fed high fat diets, which cat food is. Dogs that have previously suffered with pancreatitis require ultra-low-fat diets for the rest of their lives to help reduce the chance of pancreatitis recurring. Cat food would be particularly bad for dogs that are prone to pancreatitis.

obese dog sitting on grass and looking up
Image Credit: iLight photo, Shutterstock

How to Prevent Dogs from Eating Cat Food

Many cats can fend for themselves and keep dogs away from eating their food. However, if your dog is persistently trying to get to your cat’s food, it’s best to establish some boundaries to give your cat some peace of mind.

Most cats are much more nimble than dogs and can get up high without any problem. If you have the room to give your cat and dog separate eating, this is a good idea, but if you don’t have enough space, you can consider placing your cat’s food up high where your dog can’t get to it. Feeding cats and dogs at different times is another option.

You can also place your cat’s food in their carrier or a small box with a hole in it. This will allow only your cat to access their food and keep your dog out.

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Conclusion

While it can seem cute and endearing for pet cats and dogs to share meals, it’s not ideal for dogs to eat cat food consistently, and it’s dangerous for cats to only consume dog food. Cat food often contains too much protein and fat, and dogs commonly experience gastrointestinal and other health issues if they continue to eat cat food regularly. So, make sure to keep their food separate. It’s better to be safe than sorry and stick to giving your dog food and treats that are specifically formulated for them.


Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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