Cat food is not an ideal substitute for dog food. Learn why meeting nutritional needs through proper food choice is important for your dog’s health.
It's late at night, you shake your bag of dog food, and... only the sound of a few rustling crumbs. Your whiskered wonder lets out a belly-aching whine - she's hungry.
You wouldn't be the first pet parent to forget about your monthly trek to the pet store, and you wouldn't be the first to give your canine food made specifically for cats - but can dogs eat cat food? In short, your dog’s nutrition requirements mean cat food is not an ideal substitute. Continue reading to learn more about why proper food choice is important for optimal pet health.
Nutrient Requirements For Dogs
While you may love your kitty-cat just as much as your long-tongued doggo, their GI tracts were not created equally. Dogs are omnivores, requiring a diet rich in meat-based protein and mineral-rich produce. Certain human foods are toxic and even deadly for dogs, but many are rich in nutrients vital to your dog's health. Learn more about different foods dogs can have below.
Within animal classification, dogs are under the order Carnivora, which is a misnomer, as their nutritional needs differ significantly from their feline counterparts. Beyond foraging for vegetables and prompting some to wonder, Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
, canines have shown the ability to convert beta-carotene, a nutrient found in carrots, into Vitamin A.
All commercial dry kibble dog foods are going to be different. Still, in general, you will find some combination of a meat-based protein such as lamb, bison, or salmon, ideally a healthy grain such as barley or brown rice, a starch such as sweet potato, and other complementary ingredients, such as carrots, lentils, peas, and egg product.
Dog nutrition experts say that about 1/2 to 2/3 of your dog's food should be meat-based protein, with vegetables making up around 1/3 and grains rounding out this balanced diet.
Seeking out all-natural dog food for your fur friend is an ideal way to go. The raw
food for Fido trend has gained a great deal of steam with dog owners in recent years and has been welcomed with furry arms by companion animals far and wide. This level of intention and control is a great way to ensure that your dog eats high-quality food and a healthy ratio of meat, vegetables, and grains.
On the other hand, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they should be eating a cat kibble diet composed entirely of meat with high protein and fat content.
Probiotics For Dogs
When feeding your dog, it is essential to remember that there are highly beneficial supplements to aid with digestion and more. You can be feeding your little Lassie the best food out there, but if his gut is out of whack, he'll miss out on some of that high-quality nutrition.
Including probiotics in your dog's diet on a regular basis does more than support healthy digestion, of course. This good bacteria supports healthy immune function, promotes healthy skin and coat, and supports healthy nutrient absorption. Quality is a significant factor when considering which probiotic to supplement Fido's diet with. Give your dog human-grade probiotic powder
complete with digestive enzymes, prebiotics
, a high level of strain diversity, and a high CFU count.
So, Is Cat Food Bad For Dogs?
Depending on the brand, that cat food you reluctantly feed your canine will pack a protein punch. This may sound like a good thing, but your pets have different nutritional requirements and this dose of high-protein kibble is different from what your dog needs. Dogs actually have quite sensitive stomachs. Many recommend you stay on the same food and take 5-7 days of mixing old and new dog food recipes before fully switching to the new brand to avoid an upset stomach. Weaning your wiener dog off the old food will prevent his refusal to eat and reduce gastrointestinal upset. Feeding cat food to your pup will likely upset his stomach, and the high protein content may cause gastrointestinal issues.
Another ingredient in cat food that may not sit well with your pup is an amino acid called taurine. Taurine plays a vital role in a cat's diet, supporting heart and eye health. Dogs, however, can synthesize this amino acid and do not require the same dose in their food. Too much taurine can cause heart, kidney, and reproductive system problems.
So, what should a dog owner do if your dog eats cat food? If you find your dog chewing on morsels from your kitty cat's food bowl - do not be overly alarmed. Your dog will most likely experience a slight tummy ache, errant farts, and loose stools, but it's unlikely they'll experience any long-lasting health issues from one binge on cat kibble.
A dog eating cat food can be thought of as a human eating a big bowl of ice cream - it's not going to send you to the hospital, but it may leave you feeling worse for wear shortly after.
Similar to the thought of you subsisting on ice cream, your dog would love the idea of munching on an entirely meat-based diet. While it may sound nice, a dog eating too much cat food is not advised and can be quite dangerous.
Cat food lacks the essential vitamins and minerals dogs need to be at their best. Over time, Fido can develop a nutrient deficiency and may experience serious GI problems, weight gain, and eventually obesity. A steady diet of cat food could also cause liver damage, kidney damage, inflammation of the pancreas, and other serious health problems.
The kidney and liver's primary roles are to process whatever your pup pops into his snout. An overabundance of meat can be especially hard on these organs, resulting in a high urine pH and causing organ damage.
Some suggest slowly lowering a dog's protein ration as he ages and his kidneys and liver slow down.
Similarly, the pancreas can become damaged from pet food unfit for a dog's dietary requirements. Prolonged damage can result in pancreatitis, a potentially deadly condition.
Pancreatitis In Dogs
The pancreas is one of the least talked about organs, yet it plays a significant role in a doggy's life.
The pancreas is located in the mid-section between the stomach and the first part of the small intestine and is known for its V-like shape. One role of the pancreas is the production of enzymes, which aid digestion. The digestive juices flow from the pancreas to the small intestine where they get to work and aid in nutrient absorption by breaking food particles into building blocks the body can actually use.
Its other function is assisting in metabolizing sugar by producing insulin. Beta cells within the pancreas work to secrete insulin. Insulin is vital to any dog's well-being, primarily by regulating a healthy glucose level.
Whether through cancer, digestive issues, or old age, the pancreas can take a beating and lose some of its functions. This is referred to as pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is no joke and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include a distended abdomen, diarrhea, depression, dehydration, fever, loss of appetite, and low energy.
Left untreated, pancreatitis can lead to a fatal condition known as DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation). DIC leads to organ hemorrhaging and the slow digestion of organs surrounding the pancreas.
Some dog breeds may be more susceptible to pancreatitis, and age also influences your dog's risk of developing this dangerous condition.
Schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian if your dog begins to display symptoms of pancreatitis. The longer it is left unchecked, the harder it may be to get him back on the road to recovery.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Food
The easiest way to prevent your dog from indulging in your cat's food is to keep cat food out of your dog's reach. You can achieve this by separating your pets during meal time with a barrier like a baby gate or feeding your cat on an elevated surface like a cat tree or kitchen counter. You might also consider dog training sessions specifically targeting the "leave it"
command in regard to your cat's food bowl.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
As mentioned prior, cats are obligate carnivores. Their food needs are vastly different from the omnivorous canine. In the same vein as dogs eating cat food, cats can eat dog food, but it does not mean they should. Cats may longingly paw for your pup's dinner, but it may not be in his best interest. Dogs typically require a more varied diet than their feline counterparts, with food containing carbohydrates that are not digestible by cats. Frequent ingestion of carbohydrates may cause damage to the pancreas and lead to diabetes.
Since we did a deep dive on whether or not dogs can eat cat food, it only seems fair that we dedicate another article to the reverse scenario. Curious what will happen if your cat eats dog food? We’ll expand on the discussion over here