Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?
Every pet parent knows that dogs love to eat almost anything. And this includes cat food. While it would seem fine to let Fido finish up the food from Tom’s bowl, this is a behavior that no pet parent should overlook. Can dogs eat cat food? Let us find out.
Dog vs. Cat Nutrition
The question “is it okay for dogs to eat cat food” requires an understanding of the differences between feline and canine nutrition.
In the wild, it would seem that both of these animals eat the same things. They hunt small prey animals for sustenance. However, Mother Nature designed the cat to be an obligate carnivore. Felines must get the majority of their nutrition from meat-based foods. Ancient dogs were also carnivores, although it is now known that they also ate plants from time to time.
The domestication of the dog also played a role in the evolution of its digestive system. Through thousands of years, canines have learned to depend on their human companions for food. The pets consumed whatever the family had. This led to changes in the dog’s digestive system. It is now more efficient in the digestion of certain plant-based compounds than their ancestors.
If ancient dogs were carnivores, modern canines are now omnivores.
The differences between feline and canine nutrition cannot be clearer than the recommendations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The organization recommends dog food to have a minimum protein content of 18 percent. Cat food should have at least 26 percent protein. There are animal nutritionists who say that these recommendations are too low. Given that cats are obligate carnivores, they should consume food that has a protein content of between 30 to 45 percent.
They also differ in terms of fat, albeit not that much. Dogs need about 8.5% fat while cats need at least 9 percent.
There is also the issue of minerals, vitamins, and other substances. Many dog foods contain beta-carotene that the pet converts into Vitamin A. Cats cannot process beta-carotene and convert it to Vitamin A. As such, cat food will only contain Vitamin A supplements.
Cat food also contains taurine, since cats cannot process this amino acid themselves. Dogs can make their own taurine. They are also able to produce arachidonic acid while cats have to get this fatty acid from their food.
Why You Should Not Feed Your Dog Cat Food
Can you feed a dog cat food? Given the unique anatomies of both dogs and cats, it is not a good idea to feed dogs cat food. You can; however, it does not mean you should. Here are three of the most important reasons why you should never give cat food to your pet dog.
Weight Gain and Obesity
A dog eating cat food on a regular basis has the tendency to gain weight and become obese. This is because cat food contains more calories than dog food. Eating a high-calorie diet may be good for very active dogs. However, most of the canine pets we have today serve as companion animals that spend most of their day lying at the feet or on the lap of their owners.
Obesity in dogs is a growing concern not only among pet owners. Veterinarians are also having problems addressing many of the metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of canine obesity. In other words, feeding high-calorie cat food to your canine friend can mean more serious health problems in the future.
Is cat food bad for dogs? Yes, it is. One of the reasons why it is bad is that it can predispose Fido to pancreatitis. The high fat content of cat food can put a burden on the dog’s pancreas. The pancreas is an important organ of the pet’s digestive and endocrine systems. It produces both hormones and digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes are crucial in the breakdown of nutrients in the small intestines.
If a dog eats a high-fat diet, there is a chance that its pancreas may not be able to process the large volume of fat. The cells will have to work harder. This can lead to microscopic injuries, causing localized inflammation.
There is an increased risk of sepsis if acute pancreatitis is severe enough that it already leads to tissue death. Sepsis increases the dog’s risk of having multi-organ failure. It is for this reason that pancreatitis is always considered a life-threatening condition.
Both dogs and cats may have a need for the same micronutrients, like minerals and vitamins. However, they differ in the amounts that they need to have.
For example, the National Research Council recommends 0.72 grams of calcium and 10 grams of vitamin E for cats. The NRC also recommends 1.0 grams of calcium and 7.5 grams of vitamin E for dogs. This information tells us that dogs need more calcium than cats do. At the same time, canines require less vitamin E than their feline counterparts.
Too much vitamin E can lead to fatigue, weakness, stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. The dog can also experience a blurring of its vision as well as an increased tendency for bleeding and rashes.
Too little calcium can produce muscle spasms and stiffness. The hound can also increase its risk of developing bone problems.
Addressing the Problem
One should always discourage a dog from eating cat food. It is best to supervise your pets during feeding time. As soon as all of your pets are done with their meals, you should secure their food bowls instead of leaving them on the floor.
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It would also help if you feed your cat on an elevated platform. This will keep its bowl out of your hound’s reach. There are also automated feeders that dispense food only when they sense the signal coming from a small device on the collar of your feline pet.
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Dogs should never eat food other than what is intended for them. While cat food looks and tastes more appetizing, your pet dog may not get the right nutrients necessary for its health and development.