Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? Why Is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

It’s feeding time. You set out your cat’s food only to have your beloved pup come bounding around the corner to wolf it down. Your cat looks up at you, a horrified look in its eyes, almost as if it’s asking you, “Wasn’t that for me?”

Cat food isn’t particularly awful for dogs in the way chocolate would be. However, you need to monitor your dog and ensure it doesn’t eat too much cat food, as that could cause health complications down the road due to the higher concentration of fat and protein in cat food.

It’s a scene pet owners are all too familiar with. For some reason, dogs seem almost magnetically attracted to cat food. It’s like they can’t get enough. Read on to find more about this strange dog behavior.

Why is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

Why is Cat Food Bad for Dogs

Dogs and cats have different dietary needs, and their foods are tailored to match those needs.

Dogs are omnivores, despite what some dog owners insist. They actually need to eat plant-based foods, and fiber plays a significant role in helping keep a dog healthy.

On the other hand, cats are true carnivores, so they get all of their nutrition from eating animal products. They need higher amounts of protein and fat than dogs do, as well as an amino acid called taurine, which dogs don’t need.

Because of this higher concentration of fat and protein, eating cat food in excess can pose health risks for dogs. In smaller amounts, dogs can eat cat food safely, but it shouldn’t become a daily meal.

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Eats Cat Food?

If you let your dog eat too much cat food, some serious health problems could arise for your furry friend.

It Can Upset Their Stomachs

The biggest issue with cat food stems from its richness. Cat food is packed with protein and fat, and some dogs’ stomachs just can’t handle that. This leads to the dog having stomach issues and causes vomiting and diarrhea. There isn’t a single pet owner alive that would enjoy being woken up to that scene.

Dogs With Renal Issues are Sensitive to It

Renal refers to the kidneys, and breeds like German Shepherds and cocker spaniels are especially prone to complications relating to the kidneys.

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Dogs dealing with renal disease need to have their food intake monitored so they don’t consume too much protein. The protein contributes to a buildup of waste in their kidneys. So, cat food’s high protein content could lead to kidney failure. Tragically, that’s a diagnosis that could be fatal.

Cat Food Has Too Much Fat

Dogs don’t have near the fat requirement that cats do. In fact, an adult dog that weighs around 33 pounds only needs around 25 grams of fat a day.

While cats are typically much smaller, the proportion of fat they require in their diet is much higher. Their food is designed to provide that.

Therefore, a dog that eats its fill of cat food will end up consuming way too much fat. Over time this can lead to obesity, which has a wide range of health risks.

Dogs that are prone to pancreatitis also need to limit their fat intake. Excess fat can cause inflammation of the pancreas, resulting in a painful and life-threatening condition. You definitely don’t want to put your pup through that.

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?

Now that you understand the potential health risks associated with giving your dog cat food, you may be incredibly worried when you see Fido making a move towards Whisker’s food bowl.

Fortunately, a little bit of cat food here and there won’t pose a health risk to an otherwise healthy dog.

In fact, many dogs love eating cat food and can enjoy it as a treat on rare occasions. Dogs can smell the fat and animal protein present in cat food. That’s actually why they seem to crave it so much.

Some dog owners even use cat food to replace other treats during things like training exercises. Cat food is a more complete meal than most treats, so it’s actually a healthier alternative if you’re diligent in monitoring the amount.

In some rare cases, feeding cat food to underweight or sickly dogs can actually be beneficial. It can help preserve muscle mass and help the dog reach a healthier weight.

What Does It Mean When Your Dog Eats Cat Food

How To Keep Dog From Eating Cat Food

If your dog is at risk of developing adverse side effects or simply can’t keep its snout in its own bowl, you need to find a way to separate them.

Feed Your Pets in Different Rooms

This is the common-sense first step. When the time comes to feed your pets, try to get in the habit of feeding them in separate areas of your home. Feed your dog in the kitchen and your cat in the living room so they can’t get into each other’s food.

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Many dogs will simply be too caught up in their own food to seek out cat food.

Put the Cat Food in a High Place

Cats, being agile climbers, have little issue scaling taller structures like bookshelves around the house. Surely, it’s a phenomenon you’re familiar with as a cat owner.

Put your cat’s food in a high place that your dog can’t reach so you don’t have to worry about your dog eating the cat’s food.

Install a Gate to Keep Them Separate

Carlson Extra Wide Walk Through Pet Gate with Small Pet Door, Includes 4-Inch Extension Kit, Pressure Mount Kit and Wall Mount Kit

If your dog is determined to get its paws on some cat food, you may need to take extra measures to keep them separate. In this case, feed your cat in an area of the home that’s guarded by a gate your dog can’t get past.

[Related Article: 10 Things You Can Do Today To Keep Dogs Out Of The Litter Box]


All in all, eating cat food likely won’t jeopardize your dog’s health. Cat food just doesn’t provide the right kind of nutrients dogs need. It’s too high in fat and protein to be a sustainable source of food for a dog.

However, if you make a habit out of letting your dog eat cat food, it can lead to health problems. It can make a dog sick to its stomach, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea, and its high-fat content can cause unnecessary weight gain.

Pancreatitis is the biggest concern when it comes to allowing a dog to eat cat food. Also, dogs with renal issues should never eat cat food.

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you meet your animal’s dietary requirements. That might mean separating your cat and dog when it’s time to eat.

Both of your animals will live happier and healthier lives when they eat the appropriate food.

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