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Why shouldn’t dogs eat cat food - An in-depth examination
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Why shouldn’t dogs eat cat food - An in-depth examination

Dogs
Health & Safety

Up until around thirty years ago, cat food and dog food offerings were very different to the things that we feed to our pets today! Not only was the amount of variety available much smaller, with just a few brands holding the entire market share for both species, but the quality and make-up of what went into such food offerings was also rather different.

Today, both dog food and cat food tends to be of a much better quality, and must contain human food-grade ingredients, which is a reflection of our growing knowledge about the true nutritional needs of our pets. What used to be considered as the top brands or the best quality offerings for both cats and dogs are now mid-priced supermarket staples, and a whole range of additional, high-end products and specialist diets have all joined this very competitive marketplace as well.

Historically, cat food and dog food were not hugely different from each other either, and whilst the formulations for each were slightly different, most notably due to the higher fat levels of cat food and the addition of taurine, the general ingredient content of both cat and dog food would be very similar, with sometimes the only difference being the larger size of the chunks of dog food compared to cat food!

This meant that often, if someone owned both a dog and a cat and ran out of the right food for one or the other, they would often get to share the same food now and then, and generally suffered few obvious ill effects.

However, today, it is virtually universally known that cats should not eat dog food and vice versa, although not every pet owner really knows why this is! Many people assume that the main problem comes about from feeding cats dog food rather than the other way around, but feeding your dog cat food can in fact be just as much of a problem, if not more so.

In this article, we will explain exactly why dogs should not eat cat food, and some of the problems that it can cause if they do. Read on to learn more.

If you’re already aware of all of the potential problems that can occur due to your dog eating cat food but are not sure how to stop them from doing so, check out this article for some advice and guidance on how to proceed!

What is present in cat food that causes a problem for dogs?

If your dog eats can food as their main or regular diet, whether this is deliberate or simply because your dog is an opportunistic scavenger who is adept at getting hold of your cat’s meals, first of all, your cat isn’t going to be very happy about this, which can lead to problems all of its own!

However, feeding your dog cat food will also have a range of deleterious and tangible effects on your dog’s health and wellbeing too, both in the short term and in the long term as well. This is particularly likely to manifest in some smaller dogs, whose digestive systems tend to be more sensitive to upset, such as the Yorkshire terrier and the Scottish terrier.

If your dog suddenly eats cat food when they are not used to it, or eats a large amount of cat food in one go, you can expect to find out all about this as soon as your dog starts throwing up or develops a case of the runs, as will often happen with a sudden change to a higher fat diet such as that provided by cat food as opposed to dog food.

Your dog will also tend to put on weight quickly, assuming that the volume of cat food that they eat is like for like equivalent to the amount of dog food that they should have, and they will also begin to lose condition in terms of their energy levels, the quality of their coat, and their general fitness and appearance, because cat food does not contain the right balance of nutrients to fully meet the needs of the dog.

While your dog may begin to become more tolerant of cat food where the vomiting and diarrhoea is concerned, this still does not mean that cat food is ok for them, and they will still suffer from loss of optimum condition! Added to this, the higher protein and fat content of cat food is a poor match for dogs, who need more bulk in their diets, and over time, can lead to problems with the digestive system, which can struggle to properly process such rich food.

These problems are all due to things that are present in cat food that are missing from dog food, such as a higher level of fat, additional taurine (which is not required by or well tolerated by the dog other than in small amounts) and a range of other factors, such as the different range of ingredients commonly found in cat food, including many different types of fish and fish by-products.

What is missing from cat food that dogs need?

As well as the above problems that come about due to cat food having a different makeup and higher levels of certain ingredients, there are also a range of problems that can occur due to the elements that cat food is missing, but that dog food contains.

First of all, cats tend to eat little and often and free-feed throughout the day, which means that cat food is designed to support this by means of quick-release energy that works well with the faster metabolism of the cat, and takes into account the fact that when the cat is hungry, they will have the chance to eat again.

Dogs, on the other hand, tend to have set mealtimes twice a day on average, and these two meals need to provide enough slow-release energy to support the dog’s activity levels during the longer gaps between meals. This means that dog food is designed to be metabolised more slowly, leaving your dog feeling fuller longer, and being less rich in fat and other elements that are more copious in cat food.

Cat food is too rich for dogs, and will not leave them feeling full. Also, while dogs are omnivores, which means that they can (and do) eat both meat and plant matter and can survive without any meat in their diet at all, cats are carnivores, which means that they must eat meat protein in order to survive.

Whilst most cat foods (other than the premium brands) contain a certain amount of grain or vegetable matter for bulk and additional vitamins, the ratio of meat protein and meat or fish by-products in higher in cat food, and will not provide your dog with everything that they need in terms of their essential nutrients and vitamins from a range of different sources.

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