Is Cat Food Bad For Dogs?

If you ever gave your dog cat food or if he managed to steal it from your cat, he probably gobbled it all up. Fortunately, if they eat it occasionally, they most likely will be fine.

However, feeding your dog cat food consistently can seriously affect his health and lead to various health complications.

Why Is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

The main reason why cat food can be bad for dogs lies in the fact that cats and dogs have different dietary requirements.

Cats are obligated carnivores and they need to eat meat. For them, it is biological necessity and they will not thrive without meat. That doesn’t mean that cats can’t eat other types of food – they can eat various vegetables. However, they only need meat to survive and grow.

Meanwhile, dogs are omnivores, contrary to some popular beliefs and despite being classified as Carnivora. That means that they can eat both meat and plant material and they need a more varied diet than cats. Dogs need more than just meat to meet their nutritional requirements and they can digest carbohydrate-based foods – an evolutionary trait caused by domestication.

Cat food is usually much higher in protein, calories and fat, which is not a balanced diet that dogs require. Also, this is probably the reason why many dogs love cat food and find it so appealing since the smell and flavors are so strong.

Some dogs may benefit from eating cat food if they need a special, high-protein diet but this should only be done if your vet recommends it.

cat eating fish filet

Taurine – The Point of Difference

The main difference between cats and dogs when it comes to their dietary needs is taurine. Cats have a strict, biological need for this amino acid, which is found mainly in fish and animal flesh. Additionally, cats also need arginine, another component that is abundant in meat, as well as arachidonic acid. Of course, they also need a lot of protein.

On the other hand, dogs don’t really need taurine and can do just fine without it. Also, dogs have the ability to create their arachidonic acid from vegetable oils. Dogs also aren’t depended on protein from meat sources and don’t need as much of it as cats to meet their dietary requirements.

What Can Happen If Dogs Eat Cat Food?

As we already mentioned, nothing will happen if your dog occasionally eats cat food. However, he may suffer from diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems if he has a sensitive stomach.

On the other hand, if you feed your dog cat food on a regular basis, he may eventually suffer from more serious health problems. For example, dogs that eat cat food regularly have a greater risk of obesity, as well as pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition. Additionally, too much protein can be hard on the dog's liver and kidneys.

dog in pen

How to Keep Your Dog Away from Cat Food

If you have multiple pets, including both cats and dogs, you may need to take some precautions to prevent your pooch from stealing cat food.

  • Separate feeding areas. You can use a gate that is high enough so your dog can’t jump over it or crawl under.
  • Feed your cat on a higher surface if your dog can’t reach it
  • Use a crate
  • Install a cat door


Dogs love the smell and taste of cat food but that doesn’t mean that you should allow your dog to eat it.

Cat food can be bad for dogs if eaten on a regular basis and it can cause stomach upset and some long-term issues like obesity and pancreatitis.

Is Cat Food Bad For Dogs

Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.