If your furry family members are dogs as well as cats, wouldn’t it be easier to feed them all the same food? Or perhaps your fussy feline friend is particularly partial to a certain flavor of dog food but turns their nose up at most cat food. Surely then it’s okay to feed dog food to your cat? The truth is, although it might be easier, it’s not as simple as that. Let’s find out whether cats can eat dog food and if there are any situations when it’s okay.
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Can cats eat dog food safely?
Although cats and dogs can both be human’s four-legged friends, this is where the similarities end! The dietary needs of cats and dogs are not as similar as you might think, which is why dog food is not a suitable long-term diet for cats. Dogs are omnivores, so although they eat animal protein, they can also get a range of nutrition from vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, etc; and grains. On the other hand, cats are obligate carnivores, so their diet’s primary nutrition source should be animal protein.
Another difference between cat and dog nutrition, perhaps the most important, is that cats need Taurine in their diet. Taurine is an amino acid, and while dogs can make Taurine from other amino acids in their diet, cats can’t. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, meaning they need it in their diet to survive. All nutritionally complete cat food contains Taurine, which is why it’s purrfect for your furry friend. If you feed dog food to your cat long-term, they’ll become deficient in Taurine and will become unwell.
The dietary needs of cats and dogs are not as similar as you might think, which is why dog food is not a suitable long-term diet for cats.
What happens if a cat eats dog food?
Cats need Taurine for many body functions, including their immune system, digestion, vision, and heart health. If a cat doesn’t get enough Taurine in their diet, they will develop signs of Taurine deficiency. Cats with Taurine deficiency are at risk of going blind and developing a heart condition called Dilated Cardiomyopathy. In Dilated Cardiomyopathy, the heart chambers enlarge, and the walls become thinner and weaker. The heart muscles don’t pump effectively enough, and over time heart failure develops. Luckily, if Taurine deficiency is found and diagnosed early, the heart condition can be reversible. However, once the heart changes have advanced to a certain point, the heart shape and function will never return to normal. Sadly, heart failure will progress, eventually leading to death.
If a cat doesn’t get enough Taurine in their diet, they will develop signs of Taurine deficiency.
Can a cat eat dog food in an emergency?
Of course, Taurine deficiency only occurs if cats are fed dog food long-term. If you’ve run out of cat food and your cat has to eat dog food once, for one meal, or just one day, it won’t cause Taurine deficiency. Equally, in an emergency, your cat could eat dog food for a couple of days or even a little longer without becoming unwell. However, feeding your cat dog food for extended periods will cause a Taurine deficiency, so it’s important not to become complacent. Complete cat food provides the absolute best nutrition for your feline friend, so it’s best to stick to that. Also, it’s important to remember that the symptoms of Taurine deficiency come on very slowly, so don’t continue feeding your cat dog food because they seem to be okay. You could be causing your cat’s body severe and irreversible damage.
Of course, Taurine deficiency only occurs if cats are fed dog food long-term. If you’ve run out of cat food and your cat has to eat dog food once, for one meal, or just one day, it won’t cause Taurine deficiency.
Can dogs eat cat food?
So, we know cats shouldn’t eat dog food long-term, but what about vice versa? Can dogs eat cat food? Well, the short answer is no, they shouldn’t. As mentioned previously, the nutritional needs of cats and dogs are very different, and dog and cat food are tailored to provide everything your pet needs. Aside from the risk of dietary deficiencies, cat food isn’t a great choice for your dog, even in the short term. Cat food could upset your dog’s stomach and could even cause pancreatitis. So, unless you want to be cleaning up some unpleasant accidents, it’s best to avoid it! If your dog has vomiting and diarrhea, speak to your veterinarian or find out how to help them here.
Being a pet parent is hard sometimes, and it’s easy to slip up and forget to pick up cat food from the supermarket. If you’re in a sticky situation, you can offer your cat a small amount of dog food. However, you should get hold of some cat food as soon as possible, so that your cat doesn’t become unwell.
A one-off meal of dog food shouldn’t hurt your cat, although it’s not ideal. Over time, though, if you continue to feed your cat dog food, they will develop a deficiency in one of the amino acids – Taurine. A taurine deficiency can cause cats to develop heart failure and affect their vision. Sadly, it’s often life-threatening.
A single mouthful of dog food won’t harm your cat unless they’re particularly sensitive or on a specialist diet. However, in the long run, dog food could make them very unwell since it doesn’t contain all the nutrients they need.
If you don’t have any cat food left and can’t get to the supermarket, you can offer your cat some dog food. However, remember that any new food could upset your cat’s stomach, so it should be a last resort. You can find out more about stomach upsets in cats here. Dog food should never be given as a long-term diet for cats because it will lead to Taurine deficiency.