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Help! My Dog Ate Cat Food

Dog eating cat food with cat

Being a dog owner, you might be familiar with the fact that canines tend to eat anything. For example, they have been known to eat corn cobssockstampons, and weed. So, there is a great possibility that dogs might start eating cat food in multi-pet households.

Fortunately, it isn’t a medical emergency if your dog ate cat food. However, it’s NOT something that can be ignored carelessly. Although occasional consumption of cat food cannot harm dogs, this habit can create difficulties in the long run. Therefore, dog owners should try to put an end to this habit as soon as possible.

Cat Food vs. Dog Food

One of the major reasons why your dog tends to eat cat food is because he/she likes the taste. Some owners feed their canines cat food as a high-value treat for rewarding good behavior. These pups get used to the delicious taste of cat food and try to enjoy it again and again.

Deceptively, the sight and smell of dog and cat food can also be similar. However, there is a marked distinction between them when it comes to ingredients.

Fat and Protein Content

Ball that says fat, and one that says protein on a see saw

The quantity of protein and fat in dog foods is quite similar to what we have in our food. On the other hand, cat food contains excess amounts of proteins and fats.

Normally, 18% of protein content is prescribed for an adult dog, while adult cat foods must contain 26% protein content. Some authorities even suggest 40-45% protein content for cat food. Likewise, cat foods contain 9% fat content, while dog foods only require 8.5% fat content.

Other Nutrients

Veggies, meats, oils and nutes on a wooden table

Cat food lacks the assortment of fruits and vegetables that are normally found in dog foods. This means that cats can only get the necessary proteins from nutritional supplements present in their food. In contrast to that, dogs’ digestive systems can naturally extract these nutrients from their food.

For example, carrots are an integral part of several dog foods because they contain beta-carotene. The body of a canine can exploit this chemical to produce retinol (Vitamin A). Cats don’t have this luxury, and this deficiency has to be compensated by adding retinol supplements in food. Some other nutrients that dogs can make instinctively, include Taurine and Arachidonic acid.

Why is Cat Food Bad for Dogs?

dog watching cat eat

The following are some of the major reasons why cat food can be harmful to dogs in the long run.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Dogs who regularly eat cat food are more prone to nutritional deficiency. This is because canines require a properly balanced diet with the right mix of calories, vitamins, and minerals. Cat food can NEVER fulfill the nutritional demands of your pup due to its entirely different ingredients. This can have a bad impact on the overall health of dogs and can even reduce their life expectancy. 


overweight chihuahua sitting

In addition to excess protein and fats, cat foods also have higher levels of calories. Consequently, frequent ingestion of cat food can also cause obesity among dogs. Overweight canines can develop several health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. All these diseases affect the overall wellbeing of a pup and his/her life expectancy is also reduced. 


High levels of fat in cat food can make dogs suffer from pancreatitis. This is, by far, the most dangerous aftermath of excessive consumption of cat food in dogs. In extreme cases, this condition can also prove fatal for the canine. Therefore, you should restrain your dog from eating cat food to keep him/her safe and healthy.   

How to Keep Your Dog Away from Cat Food?

automatic cat feeder

Some of the techniques that can help a multi-pet owner to keep his/her dog away from cat food are listed below.

  • Give your cat an elevated feeding perch where the dog can’t reach.
  • You may buy an automated feeder for appropriate scheduling of the feeding time of your dog and cat. For example, you can set it to feed your cat while you’re busy taking the dog to the park.
  • Reserve sperate feeding rooms for your canine and feline.
  • Try to use different cat food flavors that are less pleasing to your dog.
  • You can also make a separate feeding chamber for your cat in which only a feline can fit.

My Dog Ate Dry Cat Food

Red bowl that says cat with dry cat food spilling over

If your dog ate cat food for the first time, no major harm should arise. You may expect some minor digestive irritation due to the change in diet. Having said that, cat food can be troublesome for your canine if continues to eat it. In addition to diarrhea, it can also cause dangerous medical conditions, like obesity and pancreatitis.

My Dog Ate Wet Cat Food

If your dog ate one small can of cat food, it probably won’t do much harm. Having said that, regular consumption of cat food can cause problems for your pup. If he/she continues to desire about wet canned food, you can give him/her canned food for dogs. These recipes are healthy for canines because they are specially designed for a dog’s nutritional needs.

My Dog Ate Cat Food and Threw Up

sick dog laying under blanket

High-fat cat foods can cause attacks of nausea in dogs. In these circumstances, you should try to give him/her small amounts of regular dog food and see if he/she gets better. If your pup continues to vomit, you must visit your vet for professional treatment. Alternatively, you can also resort to an effective home remedy.

Dogs are known to eat things they shouldn’t, but what should you do if they eat something like a bee? Check out our post Help! My Dog Ate A Bee to learn more.

My Dog Ate Cat Food and Now has Diarrhea

In this case, don’t feed him/her for a day and let his/her stomach settle before giving the next meal. Keep giving him/her an ample amount of water to prevent dehydration.

If the vomiting stops, but the diarrhea is still persisting after 24 hours, you can feed a bland diet. Plain white rice with unseasoned boiled chicken is often the recommended recipe. If he/she doesn’t recover in two days, it’s time to visit the vet.

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