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If your furry family includes canines and felines, you’ve likely caught your dog sneaking bites of the cat’s dinner. The question is less can dogs eat cat food, but should they? While cat food probably won’t cause your pooch any immediate problems, they’re better off sticking to their own meals. It all comes down to the difference between dog and cat nutrition.

Is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

Cat food, while far from toxic, isn’t necessarily good for dogs either. Their dietary needs differ quite a bit. If your dog eats too much cat food, wet or dry, they could become deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals.3

Dogs actually aren’t carnivores. They’re omnivores, like us, which means they get many essential nutrients from plants as well as meat. Cats, on the other hand, evolved to only eat meat, making them obligate carnivores. Because of this, their foods are formulated differently. Cat food has mainly meat protein, which is probably why dogs find it so irresistible. However, too much meat protein can cause serious problems for dogs in the long run, including obesity and pancreatitis.4 Too much cat food could also cause an obstruction, which will likely require an expensive ultrasound to diagnose. The best way to avoid these situations is to keep your dog on a balanced, vet-approved diet.5          

Can cats eat dog food?

If your dog is stealing your cat’s food, then it’s entirely possible that your cat is snacking back. Because cats are obligate carnivores, they’re much more sensitive to nutritional imbalances. Specifically, dog food won’t have enough taurine or vitamin A, two nutrients that are key to a happy, healthy kitty. The best thing you can do for your fur babies is to keep their meals separate.

What Should I Do if My Dog Eats Cat Food?

A pilfering pooch who only samples cat food once in a while isn’t likely to suffer grave consequences. It’s the long-term effects that pose the greatest risk.

A change in diet can always lead to gastrointestinal upset, however. If you know or suspect your dog of stealing cat food, keep an eye on them. Watch for signs of digestive issues or allergic reactions, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian if you have serious concerns. If your pooch ends up needing treatment, a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance could help cover the cost.1,2

In a mixed-pet environment, the best way to keep them safe is to keep their food separate. Feed your cat in a different location and at a different time. If you have an adventurous feline, you might even want to elevate their food to a place the dog can’t reach. Making sure your pets have a balanced diet is one of the best ways to avoid expensive vet visits and keep them healthy and happy!   

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3”Can Dogs Eat Cat Food?,” American Kennel Club

4”Pancreatitis in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention,” American Kennel Club

5”Nutrition – General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs,” VCA Hospitals