is cat food harmful for dogs?
August 28, 2017 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Searching the Web, I see that eating cat food can give some dogs diarrhea. But is it actually harmful to a dog for some reason? One vet said yes, but all others I've asked say no. I have given up trying to keep them from kitty leftovers.
posted by mmiddle to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
Because cats (unlike dogs) are obligate carnivores, cat food is much more protein-dense than most dog foods. That richness is why dogs often get diarrhea when they eat cat food. Feeding cat food to a dog over the long term could be stressful on their liver and kidneys, which aren't used to processing so much protein.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:52 PM on August 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Anecdotally, my mom fed our dog cat food for several years (we also had cats) and he lived to about sixteen or seventeen. Not that I'd recommend a cat food-only diet, but I think it's fine if the dogs occasionally steal a few bites.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2017

Obligate carnivores yes. But cats also require stuff found in the guts, bones, brains and other parts of the animals they eat. Cats cannot eat lean muscle meat only and live. So cat food has additives to simulate a whole animal (birds, rodents, lizards, bugs) diet that cats require. Cats also have extremely efficient kidneys, needing far less liquid in their diets than dogs. (hence the stinkiness of cat pee).
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:42 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cat food is harmful for dogs due to higher protein; dog food is harmful for cats because it lacks all their nutrients. Best to feed in limited time intervals - put food down, pick it up in 20 minutes.
posted by Nyx at 4:48 PM on August 28, 2017

Thanks, each of you - really helpful. I guess I will just keep doing the best I can to limit it, and get their liver and kidneys blood-tested regularly.
posted by mmiddle at 5:01 PM on August 28, 2017

In terms of keeping the dog out of the cat food you can buy bowls that have a lid that opens when it senses specific microchips close by.
posted by poxandplague at 5:32 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Kitty leftovers" are really "kitty laters," in my experience. My cat never finishes her meal in one go; she'll eat about half of it, and then come back and have a bit more over the course of the day until it's pretty much gone. If the dog eats her food she immediately begins to starve to death, as evidenced by her pacing forlornly about the house, crying about how hungry she is.

We keep our cat dishes in the basement, and have a loop of lamp cord tied to the railing which goes over the basement doorknob. It's stiff enough to hold the door open such that a cat can squeeze through, but doesn't let the door open wide enough for the dog to get through. This will not work if you have a cat-sized dog, of course.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:52 PM on August 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

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