Cat food for dogs? Dog food for cats? – Yes? No? Every now and then?

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In many pet-friendly households, dogs and cats live together under one roof. They cuddle and play together. It’s very possible that Max and Bella will then also want to eat what the other one has in their bowl. In this article we will look at why this is not a good idea in the long run.

The difference between dog food and cat food

Dogs and cats started out as wild animals. Both have been domesticated by humans over the course of many years. The crucial difference lies in the fact that, in the course of this domestication, dogs developed a different digestive system. Even though they still get protein from meat, dogs still need carbohydrates in their diet. This is not the case with cats. In a nutshell: Cats are pure carnivores, while dogs are so-called omnivores. 

Accordingly, the composition of dog and cat food is quite different. So the feed of one cannot meet the nutritional needs of the other. The ratios of vitamins, minerals and trace elements required by both are also different. This means that if an animal is fed the other species' food for a long period of time, undesirable health issues will occur, ranging from diarrhoea to deficiency symptoms. 

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Why cat food is not good for dogs in the long run

As cat food has a much higher protein and fat content than dog food, it can quickly cause dogs to become overweight. In addition, the excess protein puts a strain on their stomachs. Diarrhoea or vomiting can occur as a consequence, as well as itching or flatulence. In the long term, they may experience liver of kidney problems. On top of that, cat food is lacking in carbohydrates that are important for dogs and their digestion. Dogs – unlike cats – can convert carbohydrates into energy. 

Why dog food is not good for cats in the long run

Dog food is missing an ingredient that is essential for cats: Taurine. Cats need a very high supply of this amino sulfonic acid and quickly suffer from deficiency symptoms if their food contains insufficient amounts of taurine. Taurine deficiency affects the metabolism, the heart and the eyes, in particular. Dogs can produce this substance by themselves. Cats must get it from their food. 
High amounts of carbohydrates found in dog food additionally puts a strain on cats’ stomachs. They lack the crucial enzyme to be able to digest them. In fact, the vitamin requirements of cats are covered by meat and offal.

What to do if your dog and cat have eaten from the same bowl

As different as the animals and their requirements are, if Max eats from Bella's food bowl – or vice versa – there is no reason to panic. These foods are not poisonous or dangerous to each other. So if your pet sneaks a nibble of the wrong food, it's no big deal. The main thing is that this remains an exception and does not become the rule. 

The following tips will ensure that feeding time is peaceful and orderly:

  • separate bowls: each animal in the household should have their own bowl, which belongs to them alone.
  • separate feeding areas: separation between feeding areas makes it less tempting to snack on each other's food. Also, many cats prefer eating smaller portions throughout the day. Make sure the cat bowl is out of the dog's reach. 
  • safe storage: store open bags, cans and pouches of food thoroughly away and out of reach of dogs and cats.