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Is Cat Food Bad for Dogs? [Safe to Eat?]

It’s rare to see a feline picking at dog food, but on the other hand, canines will dive headfirst into a cat’s feeding dish. Why is that? Well, cat food is high in fat and proteins, so it smells irresistible to most dogs. Although it may not seem like a big deal, owners should not be giving their dog any cat food. Why you ask, is cat food bad for dogs? A little bit here and there shouldn’t be harmful, but still isn’t recommended. Felines and canines require different ingredients for proper nutrition, mixing their meals can cause ailments in the long run that will cause your pet pain and cost you money. Let’s explore the consequences and some prevention methods together.


What’s The Difference Between Dog Food And Cat Food?

While cat food isn’t lethal to dogs, it can be harmful in the long run. If you have both types of pets, you should keep your cat’s food out of reach from your canine.


Cat food contains much more meat-based protein than dog food. That is because cats are strictly carnivores. Opposed to popular belief, dogs are omnivores, meaning they need both meat and plant-based foods to get their full nutrition.


Your dog may enjoy the meaty smell of your kitty’s food, which is why they love it. But, we can’t trust our dogs to know what is good for them. So, it’s up to us to make sure they get the proper nutrition by sticking to their intended diet.



dog eating cat's food while cat watches



Is It Safe For A Dog To Eat Cat Food?

Cat food is bad for dogs because it lacks the proper nutrients that canines need to thrive. Feline ingredients are high in protein, fat, and caloric density. It is okay if your dog got into the cat food once or twice, although there may be some mild side effects.


It really depends on the strength of your dog’s stomach, however, your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is not built to deal with processing high-fat diets. After a prolonged diet of cat food, your dog may develop a number of ailments including obesity and pancreatitis.  


“Some dogs will get an upset stomach, vomiting, or get diarrhea from eating cat food, while some other dogs with a tougher stomach can handle cat food,” says Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, DACVB, a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia. “If your dog breaks into the bag of cat food, is it going to kill the dog? Absolutely not. But if your dog does vomit or has diarrhea, make sure the dog can’t get [into] the cat food again, because it’s obviously one of those dogs whose GI system reacts badly to cat food.”


If you continuously feed your dog cat food, this is where issues come into play. High protein levels in feline ingredients are very difficult for your dog’s liver and kidney to process. Pancreatitis, which can be deadly for your dog, can occur from eating too much cat food. Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include:




Preventing Your Dog From Eating Cat Food

The majority of prevention methods here involve the owners being diligent. Make sure to supervise your animals during eating times if you believe your canine keeps getting into your kitty’s food. The best way to avoid this is by separating their eating dishes by room. Place your dog’s dish in one room, and place your cat’s dish in another. 


Another effective method is to place your kitty’s food on a surface your dog cannot get to. This can include tabletops, windowsills, and cabinet or dresser tops. If you have a crafty dog or one that likes to climb, make sure the food is somewhere out of reach. 


Owners can try to discourage or punish their dog with reprimanding tones when they find it eating a cat’s meal, but that rarely works for too long. If your dog loves cat food, there isn’t anything short of professional training that will discourage it from chowing down when no one is in the room. 


Feeding your pets at the same time can also come in handy. If your dog is too busy eating its own food, that will give your cat time to enjoy its meal unbothered. Promptly remove any leftovers or place them in a position that your dog cannot reach them afterward. 


Lastly, many owners have started to utilize baby gates to separate their pets during feeding time. They can also be used to close off an area of the home you want to keep sacred for just your cats. 



dogs and cats eating food at same time



A Balanced Diet For Your Dog

So, we’ve discussed what is bad for your dog but let’s talk about what is good for their diet. First, owners must know how to read labels on food. Product labels will always list the ingredients in order, from the largest quantity to the smallest. Processed foods are just as harmful to your dog as they are to humans. Heavily processed dog foods can cause health issues down the line. 


Owners should spring for a dog food that has protein as the first ingredient. Stay away from dog food that lists a grain as the first ingredient. Chicken, lamb, and salmon are the most common proteins labeled on dog food.


There are many rumors and rumblings in the animal community that dogs should avoid grains altogether. That is up to the owner. Grains do provide carbohydrates that provide much-needed energy, especially for large or more active dog breeds.


There are many pet owners who also say to stay away from kibble, or dry dog food. This is a blanket statement, and like most blanket statements, it isn’t completely honest. Kibble is typically packed with preservatives to keep it from spoiling. That is why you can leave kibble in your dog’s bowl for days if necessary.


Kibble also usually has less animal-based protein, something that is lost in processing. Admittedly, wet dog food will normally have more animal-based proteins and fewer preservatives, which is good for your pet. Still, there are many reputable dry food brands that make sure to provide your dog with a nutritious diet.


If kibble is your preference, try to stick to organic products that have proteins labeled first on the ingredients and have little grains. If you think your dog isn’t getting enough nutrition in its diet you can always try adding some highly beneficial treats with superfoods to boost the nutritional value.


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Conclusion – Ask Your Vet About Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

Your dog may be salivating at the mouth to get some of that cat food, but don’t let it. You do not want to endanger your dog’s health in the long run. However, if your dog happens to get into your cat’s kibble, everything should be alright, just don’t let that behavior become a habit. If your dog experiences diarrhea or stomach pain after eating cat food then you should defiantly make it your duty to refrain them from eating any more.


If this is a reoccurring issue though, try to make it harder for your dog to access your cat’s meals. Pancreatitis can develop in dogs who eat too much cat food because their digestive system isn’t built for that type of diet. Check out this page to learn more about Holistapet. Or you can look here for more guidelines regarding your pet’s daily nutrition!



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