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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Updated: Apr 2

can dogs eat cat food

Can dogs eat cat food?


It's common in many homes: the family dog eyes the cat's food with curiosity and desire.

As members of our furry family, dogs often display an uncanny interest in the meals of their feline counterparts.

This intrigue is particularly heightened when the cat's dish is filled with wet or dry food, each offering a unique texture and aroma that can be irresistible to our canine companions. 

But can dogs safely indulge in this curiosity, or is cat food off-limits?

This blog aims to explore this in-depth, providing thorough insights and answers for pet owners.

So, let's delve into pet nutrition and discover whether your dog can partake in the cat's meal or if they should stick to their own food bowl.

Why Dogs Are Attracted to Cat Food 


Dogs are opportunistic eaters with a keen sense of smell.

This often leads them to perceive cat food as an irresistible treat.

One of the main reasons for this attraction is the high protein content in cat food, especially brands like Whiskas, which can be more appealing to dogs than their own food.

Cat food is typically richer and more aromatic than dog food, making it highly enticing to our canine companions.

The unique flavours and textures, whether wet or dry, can be a novel experience for dogs, making cat food seem like a gourmet treat.

Moreover, the forbidden aspect of cat food can also make it more attractive to dogs.

Just as humans are drawn to forbidden fruit, dogs are enticed by food not typically meant for them.

This allure, combined with the rich flavours of cat food, can make it almost irresistible to some dogs.

However, while dogs may find cat food appealing, it's important to remember that it's not formulated for their dietary needs.

As we'll explore in the following sections, feeding your dog cat food can lead to health issues.

Nutritional Differences Between Dog and Cat Food  


It's helpful to understand that cats and dogs have various food needs for feeding.

This is evident in the nutritional value of the meals that each eats, whether they are fresh, dry, or canned.

Cats are naturally carnivorous; thus, a large portion of meat must be included in their diet.

As a result, cat food contains a higher percentage of fat and protein.

Conversely, dogs can digest a broader range of meals since they are omnivores. Dog food usually includes more carbs than fat or protein.

Let's take a closer look at the nutritional differences:

  1. Protein: Both canned and dried cat food usually contain more protein than dog food. This is because cats require certain amino acids found in meat, such as taurine, which dogs can produce independently.

  2. Fat: Cat food often has a higher fat content, which is necessary for a cat's energy needs. Dogs, however, can get their energy from both fats and carbohydrates.

  3. Carbohydrates: Dog food generally contains more carbohydrates. While cats can digest some carbohydrates, their primary energy source should be protein and fat.

  4. Vitamins and Minerals: Dog and cat food contains different vitamins and minerals. For instance, cat food contains more Vitamin A and arachidonic acid, which cats cannot produce independently.

  5. Raw Food: Dogs and cats are increasingly following raw food diets. However, these diets must be carefully balanced to meet all nutritional needs. Raw cat food diets tend to be higher in protein and fat, while raw dog food diets are more varied.

So, while cat food might seem like a tasty treat to your dog, it's not nutritionally balanced for them.

Over time, feeding your dog cat food may cause nutritional imbalances and other health problems. 

Potential Health Risks  


Feeding dogs with cat food regularly can lead to several health risks.

While an occasional nibble of cat food may not be a big issue, constant consumption can have serious consequences.

Firstly, cat food is typically higher in protein and fat than dog food.

Although this meets the nutritional requirements of cats, it can upset the stomach of dogs, particularly those with sensitive stomachs.

Digestion and vomiting are possible symptoms. You may need emergency vet treatment if your dog displays these symptoms following cat food consumption.

Second, the high protein level of cat food may be incredibly taxing on dogs' kidneys and liver. Over time, these organs may be harmed. 

Therefore, it is crucial to feed your dog safely and ensure they consume a diet specifically formulated for their nutritional needs.

Case Study: Small Breed Dogs  


This section will explore a case study involving a small breed dog named Bella, a three-year-old Shih Tzu who developed a taste for cat food.

Bella lived in a multi-pet household and was always curious about her feline siblings' food.

One day, she managed to sneak into the cat's feeding area and helped herself to a generous portion of Whiskas, a popular brand of cat food.

Initially, Bella seemed fine.

However, over the next few days, her owners noticed that she was less energetic than usual and had lost her appetite for her food.

Concerned, they took her to the vet, seeking answers to Bella's sudden change in behaviour.

The vet conducted a thorough examination and ran some tests.

The results showed that Bella's liver enzymes were slightly elevated, a sign that her liver was working harder than usual to process the high protein content in the cat food.

Additionally, Bella had gained a little weight due to the higher fat content in the cat food.

The vet explained that while an occasional nibble of cat food wouldn't harm a dog, regular consumption could lead to health issues, especially in small breeds like Bella.

These could range from minor problems like weight gain and upset stomach to more severe issues like pancreatitis and kidney disease.

Bella's owners were advised to prevent her from eating cat food and closely monitor her diet.

They were also given tips on discouraging Bella from eating cat food, such as feeding the pets in separate areas and keeping the cat food out of Bella's reach.

This case study reminds us that dogs may be attracted to cat food, but it's unsuitable for their regular diet.

It's always best to feed dogs food specifically formulated for their nutritional needs to ensure they stay healthy and happy.

UK Regulations on Pet Food  


In the UK, the manufacturing of pet food is highly regulated. These regulations ensure that pet food is safe, hygienic, and high-quality.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for animal feed legislation, which covers the manufacturing of pet feed. 

This includes both commercially produced pet food and homemade diets.

The rules cover many topics, such as allowable ingredients, food nutritional value, and how pet food items are labelled and advertised.

In addition to the FSA, the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) also provides guidelines for its members on producing high-quality and nutritious pet food.

These regulations and guidelines are in place to protect the health of pets in the UK, ensuring they receive nutritionally balanced and safe food.

As pet owners, it's essential to be aware of these regulations when choosing food for your furry family members.

This ensures that you're making an informed decision whether you're feeding your dog their food or considering giving them cat food.

Alternatives to Cat Food for Dogs  


It may seem easy to feed your dog cat food, particularly in homes with many pets.

However, remember that canines have different dietary requirements.

So, what can you do if you're in a pinch and need to feed your dog without resorting to cat food?

  1. Dog Food: The best alternative to cat food for dogs is dog food. It's specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs. If you're running low, consider getting a new supply as soon as possible.

  2. Homemade Meals: You can prepare a simple homemade meal for your dog in an emergency. Ingredients like chicken, rice, and certain vegetables can make a suitable temporary meal. Remember, some foods are toxic to dogs, so always check before feeding your dog something new.

  3. Dog-Safe Human Food: Some human foods are safe for dogs to eat. These include plain cooked chicken, rice, and certain fruits and vegetables.

  4. Pet Stores: Most pet stores offer a variety of dog food options. Many provide online shopping and delivery services if you can't get to a store.

Remember, these alternatives are temporary solutions.

Reverting your dog to conventional pet food as quickly as possible ensures they receive the well-rounded nourishment they need.

Ways to Stop Dogs from Consuming Cat Food  


Preventing dogs from eating cat food involves training and practical measures.

Here are some tips:

  1. Separate Feeding Areas: Feed your pets in separate areas. This can help ensure your dog doesn't have access to the cat's food.

  2. Timed Feeding: Instead of leaving food out all day, consider timed feeding. You only put out food at mealtimes, then remove any leftovers.

  3. Use Pet Gates: You can keep your dog out of your cat's separate food area.

  4. Elevated Feeding: Cats are more agile climbers than dogs. Placing cat food on a high surface, your dog can't reach can prevent them from eating it.

  5. Training: Train your dog to understand that the cat's food is off-limits. You can do this using commands such as "leave it."

  6. Switch Cat Food: If your dog is particularly attracted to a specific brand of cat food, like Sheba pouches, consider switching to a different brand.

Always remember that consistency is essential when using these tactics. It may take time, but you can successfully keep your dog away from cat food with patience.

What to Do in an Emergency  


If your dog has consumed a large amount of cat food, monitoring them closely for any signs of distress is vital. 

In case of an emergency, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Don't Panic: Stay calm, think clearly and act quickly.

  2. Monitor Your Dog: Look for signs of discomfort such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, or changes in behaviour.

  3. Contact Your Vet: Notify your vet immediately if your dog shows any illness. Please provide them with as much information as possible about what your dog has eaten and any symptoms they are showing.

  4. Follow Vet's Advice: Your vet will provide guidance on what to do next. This may involve bringing your dog in for a check-up or monitoring them at home.

Prevention is the best cure.

It's best to ensure your dog cannot access cat food to avoid such emergencies.

If you have any further questions or need more answers, don't hesitate to consult with a pet nutrition expert or your vet.

Expert Opinions  


Many pet nutrition and veterinary medicine experts have commented on dogs eating cat food.

The consensus is clear: while it's not harmful for a dog to consume a small amount of cat food occasionally, regular consumption can lead to health problems.

A small animal veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Wooten, states, "Cat food is designed for cats, and dog food is designed for dogs. Each species has different nutritional requirements, and feeding a diet not designed for that species can lead to health problems."

Similarly, well-known author and veterinarian Dr Jessica Vogelsang counsels pet owners to offer food specially made for their species. While feeding your dog cat food might seem convenient in an emergency, doing so regularly is not safe," the speaker states.

These professional viewpoints offer unambiguous responses to our query: dogs shouldn't regularly consume cat food.

To keep your dog healthy, providing them with a diet specially designed for their dietary requirements is ideal.

faqs can dogs eat cat food?


Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

While dogs can physically eat cat food, it's not nutritionally balanced, and regular consumption can lead to health issues.

Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food?

Dogs can eat dry cat food, but it's not recommended as a regular diet. The greater protein and fat content of cat food might cause health issues if dogs eat it frequently.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food UK?

The location doesn't change the answer. Whether in the UK or elsewhere, cat food is not suitable for dogs to eat regularly due to the different nutritional needs of the two species.

Can Dogs Eat Wet Cat Food?

While dogs might find wet cat food appealing due to its texture and smell, it's unsuitable for their regular diet. Dogs shouldn't eat wet cat food because it has a lot of fat and protein.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food Wet?

Yes, dogs can eat wet cat food, but it's not recommended. Wet cat food is richer and often more appealing to dogs but is not nutritionally balanced.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Yes, dogs can eat cat food, but it's not recommended for their regular diet. Cat food is formulated for cats' nutritional needs, not dogs'.

Can Small Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Small dogs can eat cat food, but it's not recommended. Small dogs may find it challenging to consume cat food due to its high fat and protein content.

Can Dogs Eat Dry Cat Food in an Emergency?

In an emergency, a dog can eat dry cat food. However, this should be a temporary solution, and the dog should be transitioned back to dog food as soon as possible.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food Pouches?

Dogs can eat cat food from pouches, but it's not recommended. The cat food in pouches is usually wet food, which is high in protein and fat and unsuitable for dogs' regular diets.

Final Thoughts


We've explored the topic of dogs eating cat food in depth.

We've learned that while dogs can physically eat cat food, it's not the best choice for their health due to the different nutritional needs of dogs and cats.

We've also looked at the potential health risks for dogs, especially small breeds if they eat cat food regularly.

We've discussed the regulations on pet food in the UK and provided some alternatives to cat food for dogs. 

We've also shared some tips on preventing dogs from eating cat food and what to do in an emergency.

Finally, we've answered some frequently asked questions on the topic.

To keep your dog healthy and happy, it is always preferable to provide them with food specially designed for their nutritional needs.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for veterinary advice. For specific veterinary dog health advice, contact a veterinary pet healthcare provider.

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can dogs eat cat food

mary puppins can dogs eat cat food

Kate Phillips, Chief Editor

BSc (Hons), MSc

Kate is the UK's very own Mary Puppins, a professional Dog Nanny, an expert in small breed dogs and a pet parent to her own beloved small dogs.

With over 30 years' experience and successfully helping high profile celebrity pet parents raise their furry families,

Kate shares her top tips with you.

Kate guides readers on small dog breeds, dog health, dog training, dog nutrition, dog food, dog walks, dog accessories, dog enrichment, rescue dogs, dog behaviour, dog grooming and the best products for dog mums and dog dads to create the ultimate lifestyle for their small dogs.



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