Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

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In families that include companions of the canine and feline kind, owners often ponder over the fact that their dog frequently gravitates toward the cat’s food dish.

Whether the food in question is dry kibble or canned pate, most dogs seem to love cat food. If your dog occasionally grazes from the cat’s buffet, it will not pose any health threats for him.

However, there are reasons why cat food is not a wise choice for your dog’s regular dining routine.

​They Are Different, and So Are Their Foods

Cats and dogs are two unique species with very different nutritional requirements. There are several nutritional ingredients that are found only in cat food, which include taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A and higher levels of protein.

Dogs do not require supplementation of these items in their diets, which means that when a dog eats cat food, he is getting considerably higher amounts than his daily nutritional needs require.

A dog’s body is able to synthesize its own taurine, an amino acid that is essential for heart health. Since cats are unable to do this, taurine is added to all cat foods.

Your cat’s food is also fortified with arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in maintaining her skin, coat and renal function. Like taurine, a dog’s body can create its own arachidonic acid, but cats cannot.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is incorporated into cat food because, unlike dogs, cats are not able to convert beta carotene into vitamin A the way that dogs do.

Being obligate carnivores, cats must consume meat as their primary diet’s source of protein in order to thrive. Therefore, cat foods contain higher levels of protein.

Since dogs are omnivorous, their food requires a balance that includes protein and fiber.

​A Dog’s Junk Food Craving

​The reason that dogs are so eager to devour cat food lies with the high protein content. With this protein comes a higher fat content and higher caloric density.

Just as many people crave a high-calorie, greasy fast food cheeseburger over a grilled, lean chicken breast, the same goes for dogs. However, people understand that the burger is acceptable as an occasional treat and that they should not dine this way at every meal.

Likewise, while a dog will crave the tastier option and may handle the occasional snack just fine over a long period of time, an exclusive diet of cat food can present dogs with some health consequences.

Long-term Consequences of Cat Food Consumption

The most likely effect that cat food will have on a dog is weight gain. This is due to the high caloric density.

While a chubby canine may seem cute, obesity poses significant health risks for a dog, including diabetes, degenerative joint disease, heart disease and anesthetic complications.

The higher levels of protein in cat foods can put excess strain on an older dog’s kidneys, resulting in chronic renal failure.

The higher fat content of cat food can lead to gastrointestinal problems for some dogs, such as pancreatitis, diarrhea and vomiting.

Cats Are Not Small Dogs

It is not uncommon for pet owners of toy breeds to indulge their dog’s dry cat food preference because the kibbles are smaller.

The growing popularity of toy breed dogs has prompted dog food manufacturers to create their commercial lines of dry dog foods that are appropriately sized for tiny mouths while maintaining the proper nutritional balance that a dog needs.

While an occasional clandestine snack in the cat’s food bowl will not likely be harmful for your dog, keep these opportunities to a minimum. Feeding him the dog food that his body needs will ensure optimal health and energy for years to come.

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