Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

This is one of the most frequent asked questions by dog owners: ‘can dogs eat cat food?’ or ‘is cat food OK for dogs?’

Commercial foods for dogs and cats seem similar on the exterior, but there are some significant nutritional content differences.

They use similar meat ingredients, but there are some basic differences between dog and cat foods that you may not see from just reading the package.

Felines and canines are different and they need different nutrients.

Felines are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat meat as their main protein source while canines are omnivores and need a diet with a large amount of fiber than strictly carnivorous.

However, most dogs love cat food because it’s the higher protein and fat contents and the influence it has on the taste.

A sporadic gulp or two of cat food won’t injury your dog’s health.

Though, dogs that overeat cat food are expected to suffer digestive upsets (diarrhea and vomit) from the higher fat levels contained in cat food.

In addition, they can also develop kidney problems due to the extra protein provided by the cat food.
can dogs eat cat food

Dog’s Nutritional Needs versus Cat’s Nutritional Needs

  • Beta-carotene: dogs use it as a source of vitamin A, cats don’t.
  • Arachidonic acid: cats cannot produce this element and need a supplement on their diet.
  • Protein and Fat: dogs require lower levels of protein and fat in their diet than cats.
  • Taurine: cats require this amino acid in their diet, dogs can produce this amino acid by their own.
  • Calories: cat food is higher in calories.
  • Vegetables: dog foods should contain vegetables and a higher content of fiber, cat food doesn’t contain vegetables.
  • Zinc & Vitamin E: cat food contains less zinc and vitamin E than dog foods.

What can happen if my dog eats cat food?

Will cat food hurt my dog?

Diarrhea, vomiting, and even pancreatitis are potential results for feeding cat food to dogs.

The caloric density, high protein content, and substantial doses of fat aren’t appropriate to canine gastrointestinal tracts or to their waistlines.

Cat dog food

How to Keep Your Dog Away From Cat Food

Keeping your dog out of your cat’s food requires some planning.

Here are some tips:

  • Put the dog and cat food bowls in different parts of your home
  • Set an obstacle such as a gate for dog
  • Place the cat dish higher that your dog can reach
  • Add a cat door to laundry room door that only cat can access
  • Feed you cat when you dog goes for a walk

In conclusion, cat food is formulated for a cat’s metabolism and dog food is made for dogs.

A dog that eats cat food will surely gain too much weight and will miss out on some essential nutrients.

So the answer to ‘can dogs eat cat food?’ is simple: they should not.

Recommended articles:

  1. 10 Foods Dogs Should Never Eat
  2. What Human Foods Can Dogs Eat
  3. Can dogs eat popcorn?

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.


  1. Karin November 28, 2015 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    I have neighbors who are feeding their dogs cat food only although I believe they are supplementing with cooked chicken once a week. One of their dogs is purebred and has multiple issues since the introduction of cat food. His ears are always an issue, more than usual skin problems, and has in fact been to the vet 6 times not the usual once or twice a year. The dog is miserable. The other dog seems to be okay at least on the outside. Questions: Is there any nice way to tell them they are harming their pest? Could the cat food be having skin, eye and ear implications? I am certain that they have NOT told their vet of the new dog food changes/choices. Many thanks!

    BTW I have four dogs and 2 cats and am not a newbie to the world of animal care.

    • Dora Mancha December 4, 2015 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Karin,
      Maybe the dog is having an allergic reaction to some of the cat food ingredients. Skin, eye and ear problems in dogs sometimes are caused by nutrition alone. You can read our article about this issue -at Top 5 FAQ’s About Dog Food Allergies. You can talk to them about this diagnostic hypothesis.

  2. Melanie Lombardi February 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    I have a new puppy, chihuahua maltese mix, he is 12 weeks old and weighs 2.3 pounds. He is absolutely obsessed with the cat food. I have done everything I can, and have even gotten him top shelf salmon and tuna flavored dog food, but he refuses, and wants the cat food. I have learned that I can trick him into eating dog food by mixing some cat food with his dog food (all dry kibble). Is this ok? I understand the nutritional differences that are present in the food and that are required for the different species, but I also know that something has to be better than nothing? Before I started mixing the foods he would refuse to eat and would maybe eat 1 tablespoon of dog food throughout the entire day. Since I have begun mixing the foods he eats nearly 1/4 cup of food throughout the day. The cat food is Purina One Salmon and Tuna, with 34% protein, 13% fat, 2% fiber, and the dog food is Fromm’s Surf & Turf, with 30% protein, 19% fat, and 3.5% fiber. Please help! I don’t know what to do anymore.

    • Dora Mancha February 28, 2016 at 11:20 am - Reply

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for your question. My advice is that you should reduce the amount of cat food your dog ingests on a daily basis. Unfortunately, you dog will not understand that just because something tastes good doesn’t mean he should eat it all the time. You have to help him to take care of his nutritional balance.

      Tips to remove or reduce the amount of cat food:
      – Buy a dog food with a higher percentage of protein, like Acana or Origen
      – Choose a dog food with tuna and/or salmon as protein sources
      – Try to mix wet dog food or raw dog food with the kibbles instead of using cat food

      A sporadic mouthful or two of cat food won’t harm your dog’s health, but over the time, a dog that eats lots of cat food will probably become overweight and develop some health problems.

      • Melanie Lombardi February 28, 2016 at 4:44 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much for your reply! Ok, so it is acceptable to use wet dog food? My vet talks about how bad wet dog food is for the teeth, so I had been staying away. Again thank you!!

        • Dora Mancha March 1, 2016 at 10:46 am - Reply

          Hi Melanie,
          You don’t need to use lots of wet food. You should keep the kibble as the “main dish” and use a little bit of a good quality wet food to make your dog’s meals more appealing to him. At the same time, you can initiate tartar prevention in your dog. I advice you to read our article about Small Breed Dog Food Basics.

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