Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Is It Safe Or Is It Bad For Them?

What will happen if a dog eats cat food? Is cat food bad or safe for dogs to eat?

Well, there are two answers. Helpful, I know, right?

Yes and no.

Here’s the short answer – cat food is not bad for dogs on a one-time basis. However, it can be really bad for them in the long run.

How and Why is Cat Food Bad For Dogs?

Well, before we delve into the nasty details, let’s get something straight – cats and dogs have VERY different nutritional needs and different ways of absorbing the food they are eating.

While cats are natural carnivores and need lots of raw meat products, healthy acids, and thiamine, dogs aren’t like that.

Dogs are omnivorous creatures and they can’t live on just straight up meat, unlike cats.

Cats need plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, and proteins from real meat, because they cannot produce these types of nutritious supplements on their own.

On the other hand, a dog’s body is perfectly capable of producing enough levels of vitamin C and vitamin A on its own. Thus, dog food lacks the same kind of nutrition cat food offers.

So…Is It Really Bad For Dogs? What Are The Consequences and Side Effects?

In terms of long-term consumption, it can lead to pretty severe consequences. According to PetMD, dogs that get into kitty food regularly are at a greater risk of developing pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

Due to the fact that dogs need a special balance between fat, fiber, and protein, cat food does not meet the nutritional needs of dog food.

The raw meat products, the thiamine excess, the fat, as well as the excess proteins in cat food, will affect a canine’s stomach in negative and problematic ways which will eventually lead to various diseases affecting the dog’s metabolism, teeth, kidneys, liver, and stomach.

But Why Do Dogs Like Dry And Canned Cat Food?

Cat food contains more fats, more moisture, and more flavor than dog food because of the special fibers, meat-by products, and additional vitamins and healthy acids. Canines will never miss their chance to snack on some kitty treats instead of on their own.

Thus, if you’re planning on getting a dog and a cat you should always keep in mind that cat food should be kept out of your canine pal’s reach.

Your kitten won’t be tempted to try out dog food due to the fact that it does not smell and taste as appealing as cat food does. However, if your dog gets a taste of cat food, it will start craving more and more of it.  On the other hand, the cat also won’t like the fact that the doggy is eating out of its bowl!

There are various signs showing that dogs can’t handle cat food.

Diarrhea and puking are the most common side effects that cat food has on dogs. Over time the symptoms will get worse and the cat food will start affecting the dog’s metabolism in other unpleasant and life-threatening ways.

So, to sum it up – cat food is bad for dogs in the long run, but it can lead to behavioral problems even with the first few binge snacks, so it’s better to keep the dog away from cat food.

If you want to take care of a canine pal and a feline furball in the same household, make sure to have separate feeding posts and to always keep an eye on the things your dog is munching on.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

4 thoughts on “Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Is It Safe Or Is It Bad For Them?”

  1. I want to say here that I agree with your article that dogs shouldn’t eat cat food. It’s good advice not to (long-term, that is). Buuuut… I feel like we have some differing reasons for this.

    According to your article (and others; I’m not singling this one out or anything), the main reasons I see for why cat food is bad for dogs are these:

    A – cat food has different nutrients added
    B – cat food is too high protein
    C – cat food is too high fat
    D – cat food has too much meat

    Okay, so I agree with A — cat food DOES have a different nutrient profile… albeit VERY slightly! If you are going by AAFCO’s nutrient requirements, the vast majority of nutrients in cat vs. dog food are actually the same, you know. But what I think *is* harmful for dogs (and probably what you’re referring to) is the lower levels of calcium and phosphorus in cat food… Which is why I don’t think it’s *the* BEST to feed it to dogs long-term if it’s the ONLY food your feeding them.

    But as for B, C, and D… Well, regardless of whether it’s actually good for them or not, dog and cat food are not actually THAT much different at all. (No, really.)

    According to the AAFCO nutrient profiles (adult maintenance) for CATS, cat food must contain a minimum of 26% protein and 9% fat (DMB, assuming 4000kcals/kg). According to AAFCO’s nutrient profiles (adult maintenance) for DOGS, dog food must contain a minimum of 18% protein and 5.5% fat (DMB, assuming 4000kcals/kg).

    That’s 26% versus 18% protein and 9% versus 5.5% fat.

    That’s not really that much of a difference… Not to mention that more and more people are actually clamoring for MORE protein in dog food. The definition of high-end brands are dog foods with — what do you know — MORE protein! Taste of the Wild, Nutro, ACANA, ORIJEN… what are they offering? Dog foods with 30% protein!

    (There’s a reason higher-protein is higher-end, too. Higher-protein diets are seen to be very beneficial for dog’s health by MANY owners — and are also recommended by vets as effective weight-loss diets and to support dogs with cancer, illness, or injury.)

    As for dog food having LESS meat than cat food… Well, looking at these numbers (% of protein and fat), cat food really doesn’t have all that much more.

    There are only three energy-providing macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Meat primarily provides protein and fat, and plants provide carbohydrate and limited protein. If dog and cat food have similar % of fat and protein, than… Well, there really CAN’T be more meat!

    And you talk about “fiber” as a nutrient, but while it does have a role in the body, it’s not actually a “nutrient”, per se. Fiber (by definition) is actually the natural part of plants or animals that CANNOT be digested by us; that is, do not provide nourishment to the body directly. And dogs versus cats do not, to the best of my knowledge, need differing amounts of fiber. (Though correct me if I’m wrong.)

    So… basically, and I’m sorry for the long comment… But I don’t think cat food is nearly as bad for dogs as this article warns. (Again, it’s not bad advice! But not the way it says it is, or to the same degree.) The protein, fat, carbohydrate AND fiber levels are pretty similar; just slightly more of certain protein/fat for cats (i.e. addition of more protein, taurine, certain fatty acids, etc). But none of that is HARMFUL to dogs at all… in fact, it seems to be what everyone wants!

    And MOST of the added vitamins & minerals are the same, too. Just mainly not calcium/phosphorus — though it’s not SUPER extreme. If a puppy ate a lot of it, it would be a problem for bone growth, but for an adult, I don’t think it’s much of a concern. Most dog foods contain TOO MUCH added calcium/phosphorus anyhow, and the extra protein and fat will do a dog good.

      • Hello again! cx Sorry for going off on a tangent, by the way. Looking back, I really did just dump a bunch of stuff out there! cx (Trying to defend feeding my adult Dobie tons of cat food, here. lol) I really like your site, even though (as you can see when I give my puppy his feline sister’s food) I’m more of a dog person myself. c:

        In short, all I wanted to say is that I think cat food is not really “bad” for dogs, nor will it have… well, lethal consequences — especially seeing that a lot of cat food is not that different from dog food at all… Macronutrient-wise OR micronutrient-wise.

        I’m not sure why a lot of the main pet-info websites (vetstreet; pethelpful, etc) seem so… well, kind of confused, to be honest. Especially vetstreet! (Which I’m guessing is where you might have gotten your information?)

        The part about how dogs whose GI-systems can’t handle “cat food” show these “symptoms” — that is, diarrhea — and should never have it again… it’s almost comical to me. To be honest, the diarrhea from suddenly eating cat food seems more like a lack of time to transition than anything else.

        I mean, think about it. Your dog gets into the cat food, eats lots, and then has diarrhea. Therefore — according to a lot of owners — cat food must be (in some way) bad for dogs.

        But, say, you’re about to transition your dog to another dog food. You haven’t yet, but you have the bag at home. So it would go like this: Your dog gets into a bag of dog food he hasn’t eaten before, eats lots, and then has diarrhea. Therefore — according to a lot of owners — the dog hasn’t had enough “time to transition” to the new food.

        How does that make sense?

        Um, and I know I’ve badgered you enough… But I’ve done a lot of research on this, and the other things I’ve heard mentioned — thiamine, taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A — that are more prevalent in cat food?

        I’m not actually sure if thiamine IS much more concentrated in cat food than dog, but regardless… To the best of my knowledge, it is VERY unlikely that it’s to a concentration that will hurt a dog in any way, shape, or form. Thiamine is vitamin B1, a water-soluble vitamin like vitamin C. And toxicity with water-soluble vitamins is quite rare, since they’re — well — soluble in water, and are easily excreted in urine. (As opposed to fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which are stored in the body, but aaaanyway…)

        Taurine is an amino acid (that, this being a cat site, I KNOW you know about. cx lol, ignore my lecture-voice); cat’s can’t produce it, though dogs can. But I don’t see how this means it is harmful for dogs — after all, dogs still NEED taurine… As they do arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).

        As for vitamin A… It’s kind of misleading to say that dogs can produce vitamin A on their own. I mean, they CAN technically synthesize it, but all that means is that they can turn beta-carotene — vitamin A’s plant precursor (Found in carrots/other vegetables) — into vitamin A. But seeing as how vitamin A directly from animal sources is much more easily absorbed by dogs than having to churn vitamin A from beta-carotene… Well, I’d say that’s a plus, too.

        Ugh! cx Again, this is too long. I’m sorry. Thank you for having my comment here! (Even though I disagree to some extent with your article, that is… You’d be surprised just how MANY blogs block your comments just because you disagree with them.) So thank you, and I hope this is helpful in some way… even if it’s just me ranting in defense of my Dobie’s incessant raiding of the cat food bowl.

        – Kimberly

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