Keeping their food separate can be challenging when you have a cat and a dog at home. They would always want a nibble of their furry sibling’s food. But if your dog eats some of your cat’s food, you may wonder, can dogs eat cat food?

A bit of it might not be very harmful to your dog. However, there are reasons why dog food is specifically suitable for dogs, and cat food is specifically made for cats. But what can go wrong?

This 5-minute read will discuss why you should or should not avoid food mix-ups between your cat and your dog.

How Are Cat Nutritional Requirements Different From Dogs?

The evolution of cats and dogs from wild animals raises certain myths about both of these species along the way. You might think that both cats and dogs require a pure meat-based diet. But that is actually not the case.  

1. Cats are entirely carnivorous

Cats require a high amount of protein and fat, meaning the feline species is entirely carnivorous. They need to consume meat. While they need less amount of carbohydrates than dogs and require more amino acids such as taurine and arginine (article).

2. Dogs are omnivorous

But dogs, on the other hand, are interestingly omnivorous (article). They can consume various different forms of diets, be it plant-based or animal-based foods. Dogs can independently synthesize fatty acids from their regular dietary fat, whereas cats cannot.

This further implies that cats have a higher animal-based protein and fat requirement. In fact, cats require eleven essential amino acids to be present in their diet, whereas dogs require ten amino acids.

Is Cat Food Safe For Dogs?

A tiny bit of cat food can actually be good for your pup. This might be shocking to read, as cats and dogs are completely different species. But if dogs can consume a little bit of human food, then a little cat food might actually not be that bad (article). 

1. Higher nutritional content

Cat food contains more protein and fat content than dog food. That is why veterinarians might often recommend temporarily feeding cat food to underweight puppies. Or when some dogs have significantly high energy requirements, cat food can serve as an excellent short-term solution. 

2. Allergies and sensitivities

Some dogs can be allergic to some of the common ingredients in dog food. If your dog faces the same, your vet might advise you to switch to a limited-ingredient or hypoallergenic cat food formula. 

But, if that was the case, cat food and dog food could have been interchanged easily. Let us find out why.

Health Risks of Feeding Cat Food to Dogs

Cat food and dog food are specifically formulated for their respective breeds. Here are a few health concerns of feeding cat food to your pooch. 

1. Taurine

Cats require an additional amino acid called taurine. Dogs can naturally produce some of it in their own body, but excessive intake can lead to heart issues in dogs.

2. Excess intake of fatty food

Since dogs are omnivorous, their meals should not contain any component more than the other (unless prescribed). Cat food is highly rich in animal-based protein and fats. This can lead to weight gain, cholesterol rise, and nutritional imbalances.

3. Taste and texture

Cat food being more protein-based might make cat food more palatable and appealing. This can lead to your pup overeating and ignoring their well-balanced regular meals. 

Believe it or not, this can also lead to behavioral issues. The strong scent and flavor of cat food can lead to dogs becoming picky eaters, just like other addictive protein foods such as bacon, chicken, salmon, lamb, turkey, etc.

4. Troubles with their kidney

The high protein levels in cat food are too much for most dogs. So, if your dog keeps eating his feline sibling’s food for a prolonged period of time, they might develop kidney issues in the long run. 

Special Note: Some foods veterinarians explicitly prescribe for your pet might contain formulas meant to cure a particular issue. So, it is highly recommended that you do not allow food mixup in such cases, as the ingredients can be toxic to other species.

a dog and cat lying next to each other with a bowl of food between them

What Should You Do if Your Dog Has Consumed Cat Food?

If you have cats and dogs at home, keeping them from eating each other’s food will be a fairly difficult task. Eating cat food once or twice may lead to a bit of vomiting and diarrhea, but this can vary for each dog. All dogs are unique. There can be several different factors for them to react differently to certain foods.

1. Consult your vet

Consult your veterinarian if your dog shows symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort after eating cat food. Try to prevent your pup from eating cat food unsupervised by keeping it out of his reach. Monitor your dog’s reaction for any anomalies when feeding them something new, and talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you may have. Also, ask your veterinarian about possible food sensitivities. 

2. Obedience training

Obedience training from a young age is a great method to avoid such situations in general. But if they do consume some, always consult with your veterinarian. Other than nutritional imbalances, if your pooch and kitty were eating food with medicinal elements formulated explicitly for them, food mix-ups like this can be very dangerous. Keep the food that is not for them in spaces that they will not be able to reach.

Why Do Dogs Find Cat Food More Palatable?

This is the constant query for most cat and dog paw-rents. You might find your canine buddy staring at you with sparkly eyes when you open a can of cat food for your feline friend. But they might not pay attention to their prescribed food once they have had the taste of cat food. But why is that?

Cat food is solely meat-based. And meat-based food is often much more appealing to our fur buddies. They might love the taste, texture, and flavor of it more than their own food.

Secondly, the aroma of cat food is quite enticing to finicky feline eaters. But it can also be very tempting to dogs, as dog food has a relatively milder flavor and scent.

Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food?

Whether the food is dry or wet, cat food mostly has the same elements. If your pupper has eaten some of his feline sibling’s food, they will most likely suffer the same consequences as them eating wet food. 

Watch your pup for any digestive issues that may arise after consuming cat food. Consult your vet immediately if you notice symptoms such as lethargy, lack of coordination, allergic reactions, or digestive issues. 

Final Thoughts

As a feline and canine paw-rent, you do not have to worry much about their meals mixing up once or twice. This will not be very dangerous for them.

Yet, we always recommend that you try to discourage your fur babies from stealing from each other’s bowls. The dietary requirements of cats and dogs are not similar and might lead to a nutritional imbalance and health issues if consumed for a long time.

If you have fed your feline and canine friends the same kind of food forever, you might want to get them checked up for any developing health-related issues. If prescribed, gradually start changing and separating their food. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can puppies drink kitten milk?

Kittens and puppies have different nutritional requirements. Kitten milk contains much more protein than what your new pup might need. Although in emergency cases, you can feed your puppy some kitten milk, but this will likely give them diarrhea.

Can cats eat dog food?

Since dogs are omnivores, their food contains different nutrients than cats, but dog food is still safe for cats in minimal quantities. Cats require more protein-based foods, so dog food is not a forever option.

Can dogs eat canned tuna?

Dogs can eat canned tuna. You can add it to their well-balanced meals. But it should never exceed more than 10 percent of their daily meals.

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