Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

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Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Have you ever wondered if it’s OK for your dog to eat cat food? It sure would be convenient to only have to buy one type of pet food! But is cat food nutritionally balanced or even safe for your dog? Read on to learn more.

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Canine Digestive System

Dogs have a very different digestive system than cats. They’re considered “omnivores,” which means their diet and nutritional needs are much more flexible. Like humans, they can consume both meat and vegetable sources.

Cats are called “obligate carnivores,” meaning they survive on a diet consisting almost exclusively of meat. They do not have the physiology or ability to properly digest vegetable matter. Cat food, therefore, is primarily meat-based.

Differences in Dog and Cat Food

One of the main differences between dog and cat food is the amount of protein. Cat food has much more protein than dog food. This is one of the reasons, when given a choice, dogs will likely prefer to eat cat food over their own. It’s yummy!

The high levels of protein in cat food can lead to mild issues such as gastrointestinal upset - nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea - or more serious issues such as kidney disease or liver disease in dogs. Cat food also has more fat than dog food, so if a dog eats too much of it, not only may GI issues occur, but also a much more serious condition called pancreatitis may result. Pancreatitis is an “inflammation” of the pancreas and is extremely painful, can be difficult to treat, and can even be fatal.


So, it’s best to feed your dog a nutritionally balanced dog food formulated for dogs. If they eat some cat food, it will likely not be a big deal. However, the more they eat, the greater the risk for serious disease.

Most dogs seem to really like the taste of cat food so to help prevent any possible issues, it’s best to either feed dogs and cats separately or at least prevent your dog from being able to get to any cat food in the house. This can be accomplished in many ways if the cat is fed “free choice” (if the dry food is left out for the cat to eat whenever they want). You can place the cat food bowl up high where the dog won’t be able to reach it or have something installed such as a small “cat door” or a Door Buddy Latch which will separate the dog from the delicious cat food temptation.

If you have found that your dog has been eating a lot of cat food lately and would like to discuss that or dog nutrition in general with a vet, you can book a video call with us at FirstVet, get an initial assessment of your pet, and help determine what to do should symptoms arise.

Read more:

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog

What foods are toxic to dogs?

What You Need to Know About Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet

Have more questions about foods that are safe for dogs?

Schedule a video consult to speak with one of our vets.

Published: 5/6/2021

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