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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

cat and dog food

No, dogs should not eat cat food. If your household includes cats and dogs, you may have caught your pup grabbing a bite from your cat’s food bowl. Or perhaps you’ve run out of dog food and wondered, “Can you feed a dog cat food?”  

In a nutshell, the answer is no, though your dog will probably be okay if they snuck a few bites of cat food without your permission. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Unsurprisingly, cat food is formulated to support the health needs of cats—not dogs. 

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

Can dogs eat wet cat food? Or dry cat food? No, but if you read the labels on cat and dog food, you’ll find a lot of the same ingredients in each product. However, there are important differences in cat and dog food, and it has to do with the differences between cats and dogs.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat a high amount of protein to survive and thrive. Though many people assume dogs are also carnivores, the truth is they are actually omnivores. Dogs require a greater nutritional variety in their food compared to cats. Along with protein, your pup needs fiber and carbohydrates. That’s why most dog food includes a mixture of meat, vegetables and grains. 

Cat food—on the other hand—typically includes a higher ratio of protein and fats than dog food. Cats also need more vitamins and minerals in their food compared to dogs. Food for felines may include vitamins that aren’t optimized for dogs. 

Is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

Generally speaking, a few bites of cat food probably won’t hurt your dog. Though, depending on your dog, they may end up with an upset stomach. You may notice dog gas or stomach grumbles. Your pup may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.  

That said, cat food can make your dog sick if they eat it regularly or in large quantities. First, the high amount of fat and protein in cat food can upset your dog’s stomach. That amount of protein will force your dog’s liver and kidneys to work extra hard, which can take a toll on your dog’s health. Cat food is also higher in calories per portion than dog food, so your best friend can quickly gain unwanted weight if they eat cat food too often.

Perhaps the biggest risk to your dog is that high-fat cat food can trigger inflammation of the pancreas—a condition known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a painful and serious illness that can be fatal if not addressed immediately. Symptoms of pancreatitis include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, hunching, diarrhea and a distended stomach. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, take them to the vet immediately.

If your dog shows signs of an upset stomach, make sure your pet doesn’t have access to your cat’s food. You may also want to consult your vet and consider investing in digestive health dog food.  

How to Prevent Your Dog from Eating Cat Food 

Even though you now know that it’s not a good idea for your dog to eat cat food, your canine doesn’t know any better. In fact, because cat food contains a high level of protein, many dogs enjoy the taste of cat food. It’s not uncommon for a dog to gobble up leftovers from the cat’s bowl or to even rip through the bag of cat food in the pantry.

There are several easy ways you can help prevent your dog from dining on your cat’s food. First, if your dog has a habit of getting into the pantry or cabinets, put your cat’s kibble in a bin with a lid. Make sure the bin is strong enough to withstand canine teeth. Next, consider placing your cat’s food on a high surface where your dog can’t reach it, like a cat window seat or on a platform of their cat tree. Finally, if you enjoy technological solutions, consider investing in an automatic feeder that stays closed until dinner time. Some of the more advanced feeders can even connect to an individual pet’s ID chip and will only open for that pet. 

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

You already know the answer to the question of “can dogs have cat food,” so you can probably guess that your cat shouldn’t be eating your canine’s food either. Fortunately, most cats don’t seem to enjoy the taste and smell of dog food, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep your kitty away from your dog’s food bowl.

Dog food does not contain the amount of protein, amino acids and fatty acids cats require. If you were to feed dog food to your cat over an extended period of time, they would likely begin to suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, certain ingredients that are safe for dogs are not safe for cats. One example is propylene glycol which can be found in some semi-moist dog foods. High levels of this ingredient can be harmful to cats.

Keep Your Pet Food Separate

At the end of the day, the main point is simple. Can dogs eat cat food? Nope. Make sure to feed your canine food formulated for dogs. The same goes for your cat. Cats should only eat food made for felines. Look for nutritionally balanced food formulated for the life stage of each pet. If you’ve ever considered making your own pet food at home, work with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to design appropriate recipes for your cats and dogs. 

If your dog is showing signs of an upset stomach and you suspect they’ve eaten a large amount of cat food, contact your vet. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. Learn more about gut health for dogs and cats

FAQs About Dogs Eating Cat Food

Generally speaking, a few bites of cat food probably won’t hurt your dog. However, they may end up with an upset stomach. You may notice your dog has intestinal upsets and gas. Your pup may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

No. Cat food can make your dog sick if they eat it regularly or in large quantities. First, the high amount of fat and protein in cat food can upset your dog’s stomach. That amount of protein will force your dog’s liver and kidneys to work extra hard, which can take a toll on your dog’s health. Cat food is also higher in calories per portion than dog food, so your best friend can quickly gain unwanted weight if they eat cat food too often.

Perhaps the biggest risk to your dog is that high-fat cat food can trigger inflammation of the pancreas—a condition known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a painful and serious illness that can be fatal if not addressed immediately. Symptoms of pancreatitis include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, hunching, diarrhea and a distended stomach. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, take them to the vet immediately.

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.