Dog Eating Cat Food, Side Effects and Risks

Updated on February 13, 2016
Dog cat food side effects
Dog cat food side effects | Source

Why do Dogs Love Cat Food so Much?

There's no shadow of doubt about the fact that dogs love cat food. Some dogs love cat food so much I have seen the owners use cat food as a form of high-value treat to reward them for those exceptional performances. Dogs love cat food so much that many cat owners are forced to feed their cats in separated areas that are out of Rover's reach. Cat food is so appealing to dogs that they'll even enjoy eating it even after it has been digested and transformed into a totally different form that is deposited in kitty's litter box. As much as the yuck factor kicks in, there's no denial that many dogs perceive kitty's "Tootsie rolls" as a pure delicacy.

So what makes cat food so appealing that dogs make a beeline for it? Is it just the fact that it's different? Does Rover get an adrenaline rush when he steals it? Is it more appealing because it's left out longer versus dog food which is served at specific times? Or does it actually taste better? At a first glimpse, dog and cat food appear strikingly similar. They are both dry kibble that come in similar shapes and looks. They come in bags and they may even have a similar smell. Yet, they are both quite different when it comes to ingredients.

Cats are obligate carnivores, and as such, their diets are very rich in protein. Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, DACVB and professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, suggests that it's this high protein content that has a major impact on flavor.

The fact Rover loves Fluffy's food is a no-brainer, but the real question is: will it harm my dog in the long term? In the next paragraphs we will take a look at the health implications and side effects derived from eating cat food as a habit.

Tips for keeping Rover away from Kitty's food

  • Feed kitty on a higher surface that your dog can't reach.
  • Separate kitty's feeding area with a gate that the dog can't jump over or crawl under.
  • Invest in a crate that the dog cannot fit into.
  • Install a cat door that's too small for your dog to use

Dog Eating Cat Food Side Effects

As mentioned, cat food and dog food may look strikingly similar, but at a closer inspection the content is quite different. As obligate carnivores, felines have different nutritional needs compared to dogs who are omnivores. Let's take a look at the difference between the two, shall we?

Obligate carnivore means "meat eater by necessity." In other words, it' a biological necessity for kitty to eat meat. Without meat, cats will fail to thrive because meat contains the essentials for their survival. For instance, cats have a biological need for taurine, an aminoacid that is mainly found in animal flesh and it's also critical that cats ingest arginine which is also abundant in meat sources, as well as arachidonic acid. As obligate carnivores, cats also have a high need for protein. In order to live and thrive, cats therefore need meat.

On the other hand, despite their classification as Carnivora, dogs are considered omnivorous. This means that even though dogs are attracted to meat, they can also eat plant material and survive with such a diet. Indeed, dogs have shown the ability to digest carbohydrate-based foods. As such, dogs unlike cats don't have a need for for taurine and they can create their own arachidonic acid from vegetable oils. Unlike cats, they aren't dependent on meat-specific protein and don't necessarily require to consume a very high level of protein in order to fulfill their basic dietary requirements. Additionally, recent studies have found that dogs, unlike wolves, have adapted to digest a starch-rich diet as a part of domestication.

So what are the side effects if a dog was allowed to eat cat food, especially on a regular basis? For starters, the protein-dense diet of cats can cause an upset stomach in dogs with sensitive tummies. Even if say your dog would have an iron gut, the long term ingestion of cat food would create problems because its' not properly balanced for canines when it comes fiber and protein content and certain nutrients. Additionally, Dr. Crowell-Davis adds that the great amount of protein can be hard on the dog's liver and their kidneys.

Not to mention the effects cat food can have on a dog's waistline. Cause for blame is the cat food's heavy doses of fat. This may cause cat food-eating dog to develop a tendency to be obese and even risk developing a case of pancreatitis, explains Dr. Patty Khuly. Kitten food in particular seems to be even more harmful due to its higher levels of protein and fat.
So in order to keep Rover safe and healthy, make sure that he is specifically fed a diet purposely tailored for his or her own species.

Disclaimer: as with all of my other articles tackling dog heath or food, this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary or nutritional advice.

Alexadry© all rights reserved, do not copy.

Questions & Answers

  • My Chihuahua has been eating bacon every day for two years. Could she die? I didn't know dogs couldn't have bacon.

    Dying from eating bacon sounds like a long shot. Bacon is not the healthiest food out there for sure, but I wouldn't consider eating bacon a death sentence. It's high in fat which may cause pancreatitis and often contains nitrates, but if your Chi has been fine so far, it sounds like no major harm was done. I do suggest you stop feeding her bacon and start feeding her species-appropriate dog food.

  • I accidentally mixed the dry dog food and dry cat food together. Is it ok for my dog to eat this combination?

    If this is a one-time accident, no major harm should arise. You may expect some self-limited digestive upset from the change in diet. I would suggest monitoring his stools.

  • My dog got into the cat food feeder again for the 2nd time this week and has diarrhea. We just moved and he got thru moving boxes and two gates to get to it. Will this work its way out of him?

    If your dog has diarrhea, it should get out of his system in the next 48-72 hours. You may need to feed your dog a bland diet in the meanwhile considering that his tummy is upset. http://hubpages.com/dogs/Dog-upset-stomach-home-re...

    Please see your vet if your dog gets lethargic, weak, has pale gums or the diarrhea gets out of control causing dehydration.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Blanca 

      9 months ago

      Our dog has stopped eating dry and canned food straight up. If we sprinkle a spoon or two per bowl of dry or canned cat food & mix it in, he eats it and licks the bowl clean. We do not do this daily, but 2-3 times a week. He is a 13 year old blue heeler/retriever mix weighing 68 pounds. His vet just saw him & said he was very healthy. Can we continue to feed him that small amount of cat food to entice him to eat?

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      12 months ago from USA

      Sounds like a good plan, Mrs Mark Fines!

    • profile image

      Mrs Mike Fines 

      12 months ago

      Thank you for such a descriptive writing. My HIMS loves cat food and I will now put it in an area that he cannot get to

    • profile image

      Gerry 

      12 months ago

      My dog is a pup and and I need to know what happens if he eats cat food

    • profile image

      Sharon S. Burnette 

      14 months ago

      Our dog loves cat food ....he is three and i have tried over and over but he will not eat dog food of any kind! So i have bout 8 cats out side he loves to eat cat food with them! He will eat regular bacon& cheese & chicken doggie treats! Loves bones ! But his favor is cat food! He is very healthy& happy! So i just let him eat with his cats!

    • profile image

      Carole Lott 

      16 months ago

      Our cat is on a special food to ward off kidney stones ,our dog has ate half a bowl of his first food ,She is a chocolate lab the food did make her throw up and she is drinking lots of water.Thhe food I'd hills science Cd .Im concerned it might hurt her kidneys .please respond as I'm really concerned .Thank You

    • profile image

      adrian lopez 

      18 months ago

      thanks for letting me know i was worried cause my brother gave my dog cat food and i was nervous that it would give her an infection or something. now i know what happens if they do great hub.

    • profile image

      Patrician Pittman 

      21 months ago

      My small terrier likes to eat my new 3 month old kittens can cat food when I'm not looking! They have different eating rooms but she sneaks in sometimes can it hurt her she's 8 years old but in good health!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      4 years ago from Wales

      So interesting and very useful to many dog owners.

      Eddy.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      4 years ago from USA

      My cats used to eat their own cat food very fast which often meant they regurgitated it back up. My dogs were always running as soon as they heard them retching, in hopes of getting a warmed up meal, yuck! Luckily, the "leave it command" came on handy at those times!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I've always heard that cat food is bad for dogs. They sure do love it, though! It's nice to have more details as to why it's bad for them. Great hub!

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Thank you for posting. I didn't realize the affect cat food can have on them. Voted useful & interesting.

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