What Happens if My Dog Eats Cat Food? (The Truth)

What Happens if My Dog Eats Cat Food

You’ve just walked into the kitchen to find your dog wolfing down your cat’s dinner! How about the morning you woke up to find you’ve run out of your pooch’s food and the only option is the family cat’s food?

Either way, you could be wondering if it’s okay to give your dog cat food to eat and whether wet cat food will hurt your dog – here are the answers.

What happens if my dog eats cat food? Some dogs might experience sickness when eating cat food. While you can give your dog cat food in moderation it’s advised not to do it regularly. Because of its high content of protein, calories and fat, cat food will cause gastrointestinal problems for your dog.

 The bottom line is dogs with sensitive stomachs may become nauseous and vomit. Ongoing eating of cat food can lead to weigh problems, prolonged diarrhea, allergies and, in worst case scenarios, pancreatitis.

 If you’re worried about the risk of feeding your dog with cat food, read on to find out more about this important canine dietary topic.

Will cat food hurt my dog?

Growing up as a kid, I would hear my mother telling us to eat all foods in moderation. This was meant to stop us from eating too much and getting overweight. But, how about your dog eating cat food?

If you need to give your dog cat food on the one morning you’ve run out of dog food, it shouldn’t be a problem. Depending on your fur-baby’s stomach constitution he may be fine or he may end up having the runs.

what happens when dog eats cat food
I once caught our puppy eating our cat’s food, he was ok though with just a little bit.

However, vets strongly recommend you don’t make a habit of feeding cat food to your dog as it can lead to some serious health issues such as prolonged diarrhea, vomiting and even skin or food allergies.

This is what happens when dogs eat cat food regularly.

So, the takeaway here is if in moderation, cat food can’t hurt your dog. Too much of it though, may lead to some health issues further down the line.

What is the difference between cat and dog dietary requirements?

We may be tempted to believe cats and dogs both eat a similar diet. In reality though, these domestic creatures are different from each other. For starters, cats are feline and dogs are canine. And, they do have different dietary requirements.

A cat is called an obligate carnivore. This refers to them being “true” carnivores or animals needing to eat a primarily meat-based diet. They can manage small quantities of plant-matter but their digestive systems aren’t designed to digest it fully.

Cats need a diet rich in meats and this can include any animal-based product such as organ meats and muscles. A cat will not survive on plant-based diet.

Dogs fall between being a carnivore and an omnivore (something that eats both meat and plants). You’ll often hear dogs being referred to as scavenging carnivores. This means they’ll happily scavenge for food, eating a wide range of different types.

While dogs will cope on a meatless diet, they do need some proteins for optimum health.

What is the difference between cat food and dog food?

Cats need up to three times more protein than a dog does to survive optimally. Most mammals can live on a low-protein diet without it affecting their general health. A kitten, however needs nearly two times more protein than puppies to grow and have energy.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a regulatory board that recommends what should be in dog and cat food. Let’s check out what these recommendations are and what makes the two animals’ foods different from each other (Website: https://www.aafco.org/Industry.

Protein content

AAFCO recommend at least 18% protein content in dog food although most dog foods will contain anything between 25% and 30% for adult dogs. In comparison, adult cat food should contain at least 26% protein content. Experts do argue that the ideal protein content for cats should be up to 40%.

Fat content

Adult cat food should have a 9% fat content while dog food only need 8.5%. Most cat foods exceed this recommendation which is why your dog goes crazy for your cat’s tasty dish.

Fruit and vegetables

Cats don’t need fruit and vegetables to be included in their diet as their digestive systems can’t handle it. Dogs, on the other hand, can ingest certain fruits and vegetables. I know my friend’s Cocker Spaniel loves gem squash and butternut and will also gladly eat carrots without any side effects.

Dog food often contain carrots which dogs’ digestive systems are able to convert to Vitamin A, an important vitamin. Cats can’t convert carrots’ beta-carotene so it’s essential their foods contain supplements.


Besides needing Vitamin A supplements added to their diet, cats also need taurine (amino acid) and certain fatty acids included in their cat food. Dogs are able to make their own taurine and arachidonic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) internally.

Will wet cat food harm my dog?

All cat food is high in protein and fat content. The same applies to dry cat food. Cats don’t naturally drink water as much as dogs do. It’s then recommended to always mix dry cat food with wet cat food to ensure a cat gets enough moisture in their diet.

The main differences between wet and dry cat food are as follows:

  • Water content: Wet food has a moisture content of up to 60% while dry food has below 14%
  • Calorie content: Wet food has a lower energy density of 0.8 to 1.5 kcal/g while dry food has up to 4 kcal/g.

While wet cat food may be preferable to dry cat food for dogs (and if they could talk they would tell you they prefer it that way too!), all cat foods have higher protein, fat and vitamin contents. Your dog’s stomach will rebel eventually against too much wet cat food!

If you’re living with both a cat and a dog in your home, you’ll need to monitor their feeding habits. It’s normal to see the cat stealing some of the dog’s food and vice versa. But, to keep both of them healthy, you’ll want to minimize this behavior.

Why does my dog like to eat cat food?

Who can blame our doggies from diving into a bowl of rich, fatty, meaty cat food? In comparison, their food must seem so bland. Cat food simply smells so divine (if you’re a cat or dog, that is!) compared to dog food.

While aromatic cat food is enticing for any dog, there could be other reasons your dog is eating cat food on the sly.

Dogs are scavengers so if there’s a bowl of cat food lying around, they’re naturally going to dive into it. In fact, dogs will eat anything they can get their greedy mouths onto so it’s no different to cat food. Dogs also never seem to get full up, and will eat everything that they see.

Your dog food may not be balanced and your dog is craving certain ingredients or tastes. This could make him seek out your cat’s food to try and rectify the imbalance. Make sure your dog’s own food has all the necessary ingredients to keep him satisfied.

If your dog is a picky eater, adding a small spoonful of cat food to his food will encourage him to eat. But be careful your dog doesn’t end up preferring cat food!

How to stop your dog stealing the cat food

The easiest way to stop your dog stealing your tabby’s food is to keep it out of reach. You could place the cat food on a counter or high feeding perch where your dog can’t get to it. Another solution is to feed them in different rooms.

Place tabby’s food in an automatic feeder so it only opens when the cat is around. Take your dog for a walk or play a game outdoors with him so your cat can eat in peace. Most of all, don’t encourage your dog to eat cat food.


There might be times when your dog has stolen cat food. It could be that you had no other food for your dog, and cat food had to be used in an emergency.

If that is the case, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about what might happen if your dog eats cat food. In moderation, it probably won’t be problematic.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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