It’s only logical: dogs eat dog food, and cats eat cat food. But if you have both dogs and cats in your household, you may wonder about the occasional switch. Perhaps Fido likes to sneak some of Snowflake’s food; maybe you’re wondering if you really need to venture out to the store when you’re running low on cat food, but not dog food.
Simply put, there’s a reason dog food and cat food are labeled differently. Dogs and cats have different dietary requirements, and eating the wrong food could result in nutrient deficiencies and even be potentially toxic. So, what exactly is the difference when it comes to dog diets and cat diets?
Biologically, cats are carnivores. In other words, they must eat a meat-filled diet in order to be healthy. As a result, cat food is much higher in meat-based protein than dog food; it’s also higher in calories.
Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores—they eat a diet of meat and vegetables, and need more variety in their ingredients in order to meet nutritional requirements. Even dogs who strictly eat raw diets need to eat a good balance of nutrients from sources such as eggs and vegetables along with meat.
Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?
Because of its high meat content, cat food can be incredibly appealing to dogs. Just because food is appetizing, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy (much to our dismay).
Dogs need more variety in their diets than cats do. They need a balance of protein, fiber, and nutrients. If Fido relies on his feline counterpart’s food, he could end up with nutritional imbalances down the road. These imbalances and deficiencies can lead to stomach issues, obesity, and other health issues.
Not only does cat food lack the recommended vegetable content, but it can also contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. For example, some cat food contains high levels of Vitamin D—an ingredient that can be toxic and potentially fatal to dogs.
If your pooch tends to steal your cat’s food, keep an eye out for side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. Even if there are no visibly obvious side effects, keep in mind that the high protein and vitamin levels in cat food can potentially lead to liver and kidney issues in dogs.
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Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
Your cat may not be as inclined to taste dog food, but it’s still worth noting that cat food is specifically designed to meet feline dietary requirements. No matter how playful your kitty is, she’s not a mini dog.
Cats rely heavily on their food as the main source of many essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, taurine, arginine, and fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, which they cannot produce on their own. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t need as much nutritional support to come directly from their diets.
Additionally, because dog food does not have as much meat as cat food, it lacks sufficient protein levels for felines. It can also contain propylene glycol, which is perfectly fine for dogs but can be harmful to cats in large dosages.
You don’t necessarily need to worry about a taste of dog food here and there (but keep an eye on any symptoms of digestive issues), but be aware that only feeding dog food to your cat will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.
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How to Keep Food Separate
Whether your dog and cat are the best of friends or prefer to keep their distance, you’ll want to make sure that it’s clear during meal times whose food is whose.
Cats tend to graze their food throughout the day at their own pace, while dogs typically benefit from designated meal times. If you deal with a curious cat stealing dog food, consider feeding your dog in a separate room and keeping your cat away during designated meal times. This is especially helpful for pups who deal with food aggression.
If you keep cat food out on a regular basis, consider making it easily accessible to your cat, but not so simple for your dog. For example, you could put your kitty’s food bowl somewhere out of reach from the dog where the cat can climb; you could put it in a room with a pet door just big enough for Snowflake, but too small for Fido. You could also use a cat feeder specifically designed so that the food is inaccessible to your dog but perfectly within reach for your cat.
Contact your vet if your furry friend is showing any signs of discomfort or distress after eating their household companion’s food. Additionally, be sure to talk to your vet about the proper diet for your pet’s species, size, and age—puppy and kitten food varies from adult dog and cat food, too.