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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Your Question Answered

Anant Shastri
By Anant Shastri
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Cat Food?

can dogs eat cat food

To an extent, yes, dogs can eat cat food. Dogs, being omnivores, have the ability to survive off cat food for a while. However, it is not suitable on a long-term basis.

This is because the food will cause a nutrient imbalance in your dog’s body. This will lead to abdominal discomfort, pain, obesity, and pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a condition that requires immediate veterinary care as it can become fatal eventually. The most common signs of this disorder include abdominal pain, a hunched back, lethargy, weakness, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

Even if you give your dog wet cat food, it is not really healthy. It could lead to high levels of protein in their body and put stress on their liver and kidney.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food Long-Term?

No, it is not recommended that dogs be given cat food for the long term. Cats are obligate carnivores, and therefore their diet is primarily protein. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores and therefore need other sources of nutrition (like vegetables) in addition to meat.

Since cat food is rich in protein and flavor, dogs might find it appealing. However, do not be tempted to give them cat food as it could only lead to harm in the long run.

How is Dog Food Different Than Cat Food?

Dog food contains more diverse ingredients as compared to cat food. While cat food mainly consists of meat, dog food can be manufactured using meat, vegetables, and even grain.

Cat food contains high levels of taurine, which is an essential requirement for cats. While dog food does contain this nutrient, the levels are low. Additionally, dog food also does not contain enough arachidonic acid, niacin, and vitamin A that a cat might need; the nutritional needs of cats and dogs are different.

It has been estimated that cats need a minimum of 26% protein in their diet. This is primarily because cats are able to break down the complex amino acids a lot more efficiently. Furthermore, a dog’s diet will also include a significant amount of carbohydrates also in addition to protein for the dog’s health.

Does Cat Food Have Nutritional Value for Dogs?

Cats need high protein content, moderate amounts of fat, and a limited quantity of carbohydrates on a regular basis to sustain themselves. This is the basic difference between cat and dog nutrition.

When it comes to dogs (more specifically adult dogs), most pet parents stick to feeding their dogs twice a day. However, dogs can also sustain themselves with just a single filling meal.

Two meals per day just make it easier for them to digest their food easily and distribute their nutritional requirements throughout the day.

For an adult canine, 10% of their daily calories should be from protein, while 5.5% should be from fats. Your dog’s food should also contain 50% carbohydrates, including 2.5% to 4.5% percent fiber. This is what a balanced diet for a dog looks like.

Feeding cat food to dogs can therefore lead to severe nutritional deficiencies in your dog. Higher protein content and fat content can impact your pet’s health and put a strain on their pancreas. Therefore, pet owners are advised to keep their dogs away from their cat’s food bowl.

What Happens if a Dog Eats Cat Food?

can dogs eat cat food

If your dog eats your cat food by accident once, you do not have to worry about it. Your dog will be able to digest it and pass it out easily. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, there might be some digestive discomfort. But otherwise, it is nothing to worry about.

However, if your dog has been eating cat kibble for a while, you need to stop that from happening immediately. This is because your dog could develop serious health issues and show weight gain. Even the best dog breeds are prone to gastrointestinal upset if they eat pet food that is not meant for them.

It is best to take them to your vet and confide in them about the cat food. Additionally, make sure to keep the cat food out of your dog’s reach.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Cat Food?

As mentioned above, if your dog eats cat food once, it is not an issue as the food is not toxic to dogs. It might, however, cause diarrhea and vomiting along with other symptoms of an upset stomach. These symptoms should subside within a day or two.

However, if the symptoms continue, it is best to see a vet immediately. Vets might ask the dog owners about how much food the dog ate, what the food was, and how often the dog has been eating it. It is then best to follow the course of treatment and shift your dog back to dedicated dog food immediately.