If you live with both a dog and a cat, it might be tempting to get the same food for them to eat. Is this something you can do? Even if you can, is it something you should do?

While cat food won’t hurt a dog who sneaks a few bites every so often, it should not be a daily occurrence. Dogs and cats have completely different dietary requirements and their food is formulated to serve those requirements.

Dietary differences

Cats are considered obligate carnivores because some of the nutrients they require are exclusively found in animal-based ingredients. A cat’s diet also needs to provide an extra amino acid, taurine, and has greater protein and fat requirements than dogs.

Dogs, meanwhile, are omnivores and get their nutrients from a wider variety of ingredients from both meat and plant-based sources. This means that cat food and dog food are made for very different needs and one will not be able to properly provide what the other does.

Why dogs like eating cat food

Cat food’s higher levels of protein and fat can lead to a strong scent and flavor which could be why dogs are so drawn to it.

However, there’s another, more likely component at play here – many dogs are opportunistic, indiscriminate eaters and will generally consume most foods they come across, anywhere, anytime. Simply put, dogs eat cat food because it’s there.

Dogs also have amazing senses of smell and taste, and many are interested in eating new things, food or otherwise. You may have seen your dog scarf down random things they find on the floor and ground, so if they come across cat food, they won’t hesitate to lap it up.

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Why dogs shouldn’t eat cat food

Cat food might be ok for pups who are battling cancer, dealing with weight loss, muscle wasting, and other situations where the extra calories and proteins will be helpful, but there are better options. Other than that and unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise, healthy dogs should stay away from cat food so it doesn’t disturb their diet and health.

If your pup turns up their snout at their normal food but drools even more than usual for cat food, you might think it’s an acceptable alternative. However, don’t let your dog’s enthusiasm for cat food fool you. Because of the high protein, calorie, and fat levels, this can lead to a number of gastrointestinal problems as well as significant weight gain and other unhealthy outcomes.

Potential consequences

Obesity is the most likely outcome if your dog regularly eats cat food due to the calorie count. Kitten food, which typically has more calories and fat in it than adult cat food, is even worse for a dog’s diet and should be completely avoided.

Pancreatitis, meanwhile, is much more severe – with symptoms including abdominal pain, appetite loss, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, a hunched back, and vomiting. Pancreatitis can also lead to diabetes, so call your vet to schedule a visit right away if your dog exhibits any of these.

Even if there aren’t obvious and immediate side effects, the high protein and fat contents can seriously impact your pup’s liver and kidney. While it’s not the end of the world if your dog manages to eat a little cat food, you should definitely try to keep them from doing so, especially with higher-calorie types like those for kittens.

How to stop your dog from eating cat food

Keeping dogs away from cat food can be difficult, considering their excellent sense of smell. Here are a few ways to stop your pup from munching on your cat’s dinner:

- Keep your cat’s food box or bag somewhere where your dog can’t reach, like on top of the refrigerator or in a cabinet above the counter or stove.

- If you store your cat’s food in a floor cabinet, put a child safety lock on it so your pup can’t nose or paw open the door.

- Feed your cat in a separate room with the door closed so your dog can’t eat out of their bowl, or on a higher surface so your pup can’t reach it.

One thing to keep in mind is that a craving for cat food could mean your dog isn’t enjoying their own food. A personalized nutrition plan like the ones offered by Puppo to make sure your pooch is getting exactly the right amount of nutrients they require, in a food they will enjoy.

Can Cats Eat Dog Food?

While eating cat food may upset your dog’s digestive system, your cat eating dog food can cause serious nutritional issues as well. As we discussed, cats have very different nutritional requirements than dogs, and these requirements are not met by the majority of dog foods. The higher levels of protein, fatty acid arachidonic acid, preformed vitamin A, and taurine are all lacking or not present in dog food and will not be able to keep your cat healthy.

Let’s Recap

From a nutrition standpoint, a small amount of cat food or a cat treat every so often won’t hurt your dog, but it may upset their digestive system or contribute to weight gain. Because of this, it’s best to keep your pup from eating it whenever possible and not risk the consequences. If you’re concerned that your dog has been eating cat food repeatedly, talk to your vet about options to make sure they’re still healthy and not adversely affected.

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