Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food? 2 Animals (Different Needs) | Herepup
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Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food? 2 Animals (Different Needs)

There are a couple of reasons why dogs end up eating cat food -- maybe your dog likes the taste of it, or perhaps you run out of dog food (true story!). Whatever the reason, you're wondering, can dogs eat dry cat food? You shrug at the idea and let him have it. It's all the same - right?

Wrong. Although, the scent and texture of dog and cat food may appear similar they're not nutritiously the same.

Dogs And Cats Have Different Nutritional Needs

Cats and dogs are both considered carnivores, but cats are defined as "obligate carnivores". What this means is that they are true carnivores, and as such, cats survive better on eating a diet of mostly meat proteins, while dogs survive better by eating a balanced diets of meat proteins, grains and vegetables.

For this reason different standards have been provided for each group. According to AAFCO standards on dry foods, (adult) dogs require 18% protein for minimal maintenance. Cats on the other hand require a higher, 26% protein for minimal maintenance of good health.

That said, most manufactured dry cat foods actually contains 30% to 35% protein, which means that if your dog is frequently eating from the cat's bowl instead of his own, he can potentially be consuming up to twice the amount of protein he needs. A high protein diet is not necessarily bad for your dog. Dogs can consume higher amounts of protein so long as they're appropriate for them and of high quality. And what happens if your cat eats dog food? That's not a good thing either.

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Can You Feed A Dog Cat Food?

You can, it’s your prerogative, but you should have an understanding about what you are feeding your dog. Cat food does not equal dog food, it doesn’t even equal cat food. What I mean by this is that cat food isn’t the same across the board.

Unlike dry cat food, canned cat food could contain 40% to 50% protein. That’s close to triple the amount a dog needs for minimal maintenance.

This could definitely impact your dog's health. Before you start feeding your dog the cat’s food, you may want to consider the side effects that a high protein diet of cat food could have on him.

Ask a Vet Question

Can My Dog Eat Cat Food?

Sure he can eat cat food, he can also eat your shoes, but he shouldn't. What he should definitely be eating is food that is just right for him. The occasional or accidental bite of dry cat food may not be harmful to your dog, but is it ok for dogs to eat cat food, regularly? No.

Ideally, your dog shouldn’t be eating cat food on a regular basis. Some dog's stomachs are more tolerant or less sensitive than others, meaning they won’t be affected or show symptoms, but that's not an invitation to change your dog’s diet. Frequent or long term consumption of some of the ingredients in cat food can be toxic to your dog.

Is Cat Food Good For Dogs?

As I hinted at earlier, cat food is not designed for your dog. Labels and guidelines are available for all kinds of foods so that everyone is eating what is most appropriate for them.

Feeding your dog a cat’s diet can have some short term and long term side effects therefore try and be careful about what you are feeding him. Make sure that it is always good for him.

What Happens If Dogs Eats Cat Food?

Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food

Some dogs won’t show symptoms. They will be unfazed by the change in diet, especially those with stomachs that can handle it explains, Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, DACVB, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia says. Others however may exhibit gastrointestinal discomfort like vomiting, flatulence, or diarrhea. Even more serious is pancreatitis.

Obesity is another way in which cat food impacts your dog. Dogs who eat cat food tend to be obese. Dogs generally eat more than cats, so aside from the recurrent feedings of high proteins, think about how much more cat food you will be giving your dog in order to satisfy his appetite.

Besides an over dosage of proteins, there are also ingredients in cat foods that can be very harmful to your dog. Vitamin A, Taurine or Arachidonic acid are ingredients that are supplied in cat foods that are vital to a cat's overall health. Dogs however produce these naturally. An over abundance can have adverse effects.

Just to make it clearer here is a brief review of how the three ingredients can individually impact your dog health

Vitamin A

Dog food does contain small amounts of vitamin A that help to complement the required daily amount for adequate nutrition. Still most of it is derived from B-Carotene sources like eggs and dark orange fruit and vegetables. Yet, the overall amount of vitamin A supplied in dog food will be less than the amount that is required in cat foods. Too much vitamin A can result in toxicity. Symptoms of toxicity include: appetite loss, bone spurs, and constipation.


This is an amino acid required in cat food, but not a necessary ingredient in dog food. According to AAFCO profiles cats require .20% for minimal maintenance, but that amount can be doubled to account for what cats lose in digestion. Here again your dog is getting more than is necessary. The idea of feeding my dog double of something he doesn’t need doesn't sit well with me

In small measures taurine contributes to fecal odor, but in higher concentrations it can be toxic to dogs.

Arachidonic Acid

This is an omega-6 acid that must be in proper ratio to omega-3 in your dog's diet. In general fatty acid ratios should be 4:1 of omega-6 to Omega-3, but ask your vet about the right balance for your dog.

An imbalance of fatty acids - an excess of omega 6, or a deficiency of omega 3 could lead to renal problems, arthritis, or skin diseases just to name a few.

A Dog Is A Dog

There's a Spanish phrase I’ve heard, “perro es perro”, which in English translates to, a dog is a dog, referring to the idea that dogs eat pretty much anything. I thought about this when I came across the question: Can dogs eat dry cat food? I thought sure. Dog can technically eat anything.

What’s important though is that your dog is eating a proper nutritious diet. One that is just right for him instead of just anything- including the cats food.

It can be tempting to feed the dog the cat's food. It's tough caring for multi-pets and manipulating mealtimes. If you feel that keeping your dog away from the cat’s food is a bit difficult, or it will make things easier to just feed both from a single diet there are options.

You can talk to your vet to help you find foods that are appropriate for both your dog and your cat.

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Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for HerePup during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

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