Can Cat Food Make Dogs Sick

Feeding dogs cat food occasionally might not immediately harm them, but it’s important for dog owners to understand that cat food is specifically formulated for the nutritional needs of cats, and feeding it to dogs regularly can lead to health issues over time. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the reasons why cat food might make dogs sick, the key differences in nutritional requirements between cats and dogs, potential health risks, and tips for ensuring your dog’s diet meets their specific needs.

1. Differences in Nutritional Requirements:

Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs due to their distinct physiological characteristics, lifestyles, and evolutionary histories.

Protein Content:

  • Cats: Obligate carnivores, meaning they require a higher protein intake, and their diet should consist primarily of animal-based protein.
  • Dogs: Opportunistic omnivores, meaning they can thrive on a more varied diet, including plant-based proteins.


  • Cats: Essential amino acid taurine must be supplied in their diet, as they cannot synthesize it adequately.
  • Dogs: Can produce taurine on their own and have a lower dietary requirement.

Vitamin A:

  • Cats: Require preformed vitamin A (retinol) found in animal tissues.
  • Dogs: Can convert beta-carotene from plant sources into vitamin A.


  • Cats: Require higher levels of arginine, an amino acid found in meat proteins.
  • Dogs: Can synthesize arginine to some extent.

2. Health Risks of Feeding Cat Food to Dogs:

Digestive Upset:

  • Symptoms: Feeding cat food to dogs may lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach due to the differences in fat content and protein composition.


  • Caloric Density: Cat food is often more calorie-dense than dog food, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity in dogs if consumed regularly.

Nutrient Imbalance:

  • Taurine Deficiency: While dogs can synthesize taurine, a prolonged diet solely based on cat food might lead to an imbalance over time.


  • Fat Content: Cat food is typically higher in fat, and excessive fat intake can contribute to pancreatitis in dogs, particularly those with a predisposition.

Kidney Issues:

  • Phosphorus Levels: Cat food may contain higher levels of phosphorus, potentially posing a risk to dogs with kidney issues.

3. Signs of Nutrient Imbalance or Toxicity:

Taurine Deficiency:

  • Symptoms: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), retinal degeneration, and reproductive issues.

Vitamin A Overdose:

  • Symptoms: Joint pain, stiffness, weight loss, and even skeletal abnormalities.

Arginine Deficiency:

  • Symptoms: Hyperammonemia, causing lethargy, vomiting, and potential neurological issues.


  • Symptoms: Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

4. Tips for Dog Owners:

Feed According to Dog’s Needs:

  • Choose High-Quality Dog Food: Select a dog food brand that meets the nutritional requirements established by organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Avoid Frequent Cat Food Intake:

  • Occasional Treats: If your dog manages to sneak some cat food, it’s unlikely to cause harm. However, consistent consumption can lead to health issues.

Supervise Multi-Pet Households:

  • Separate Feeding Areas: If you have both cats and dogs, feed them in separate areas to prevent accidental food swapping.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups:

  • Monitor Health: Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify any nutritional imbalances or health issues early on.

Read Labels:

  • Understand Ingredients: Familiarize yourself with the ingredients in both cat and dog foods, ensuring they meet the specific needs of each species.

5. Conclusion:

While feeding your dog cat food on occasion might not result in immediate harm, it’s crucial for dog owners to recognize the nutritional differences between cat and dog diets. Regular consumption of cat food by dogs can lead to various health issues, including digestive upset, obesity, nutrient imbalances, and even potential toxicity.

To ensure the optimal health of your dog, prioritize a high-quality, nutritionally balanced dog food that meets their specific requirements. If you have concerns about your dog’s diet or suspect they have consumed a significant amount of cat food, consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance tailored to your dog’s individual needs.