Dogs are notorious for eating anything that fits in their mouth and tastes remotely delicious. You’ve heard the old jokes about goats eating everything under the sun, but it seems like dogs fit that bill more than goats do. If you’ve owned dogs at all, you probably have an idea of the culinary dangers lurking in your kitchen. You know that chocolate is deadly to dogs, but there may be something else in your home that you thought was innocent: cat food.
Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?
You might think that dog and cat food is the same, but it’s actually very different in the nutrients and vitamins it contains. Cat food is not good for dogs at all, but if you own a cat, you know that you practically have to lock your dog in a closet to keep them out of the cat food. What makes cat food bad for dogs? Primarily, it’s because cat food is specifically formulated to meet the needs of a cat. If your dog is indulging in regular snacks of cat food, they’re going to lose interest in their own food. If you had to eat the same food everyday and you were given a hamburger and milkshake one day, you’d want that juicy burger over your daily meal. When your dog starts refusing their regular diet, it can lead to malnutrition.
Cat food is also very dense in protein. Cats don’t do well on a diet with carbohydrates, so the majority of their food is comprised of protein. Even though dogs are mostly carnivorous, too much protein is very hard on their liver and kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for flushing out extra protein, but too much protein will quickly overload the kidneys. The body turns the protein into a waste product called urea, and this urea will accumulate in the body and overwork the excretory system. Protein can also lead to weight gain, which is why adult dog food formulas are lower in protein than puppy formulas.
Finally, dogs who eat cat food are more likely to experience digestive problems. The higher levels of fat in cat food are going to create an unhappy digestive system. The fat combined with the change in diet is going to cause diarrhea and vomiting. Along with the above mentioned protein, the fat is going to cause weight gain, too. When your dog is a chronic cat food snacker, the pounds will gradually pack on.
Should You Worry If Your Dog Eats Cat Food?
A few bites of cat food won’t harm your dog long term, but a steady diet will. When you feed your cat, you should keep their food separate from your dog’s. If you can’t keep the dog out of the room, you should feed your cat in an area that your dog can’t access.
If you’ve run out of dog food, you can give your dog cat food as an emergency meal, but feeding them something like boiled rice and chicken instead will prevent GI upset.
Cat food is called “cat food” for a reason: it’s made for cats. Their nutritional needs are completely different than those of a dog’s. This means there really isn’t anything in cat food that can sustain a dog long term. While the occasional snarf of cat food won’t kill your dog, it can lead to weight gain, diarrhea, and picky eating.