Can Dogs Live on Cat Food?

To keep your dog from eating cat food, try to feed your pets in separate locations.

To keep your dog from eating cat food, try to feed your pets in separate locations.

You've probably noticed your dog trying to steal your cat's food. Cat food appeals to dogs because it's higher in fat and protein than their own food. While it isn't usually harmful for Fido to sneak a bit of cat food on occasion, don't make it a regular habit.

Digestive Problems

Dog food is formulated from both meats and vegetables, providing a healthy balance for a dog's omnivorous diet. Cat food, which contains a higher meat content and far less plant-derived products, will not meet the nutritional needs of a dog. This lack of essential nutrients, combined with the high fat and protein levels of cat food, can give a dog digestive problems resulting in both vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can, in turn, lead to dehydration.


A dog living on cat food can become obese. Obesity often leads to health problems by placing stress on the dog's organs and joints, causing decreased mobility and even exacerbating conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and hip dysplasia. Obese dogs are also prone to diabetes and high blood pressure. Obesity can shorten a dog's lifespan as well as reducing his overall quality of life.


An all cat food diet will raise the fat levels in a dog's bloodstream, thereby increasing his risk of developing pancreatitis. This condition, which is an inflammation of the pancreas, causes a major disruption in the dog's digestive system. It forces enzymes out of the pancreas where they may damage other organs such as the liver and kidneys. Pancreatitis is a painful and potentially life-threatening condition.

Tips for a Stubborn Dog

If your dog refuses to eat dog food, you might want to look into purchasing a different brand. Consult with your veterinarian about which brand would be best for your dog, and be sure to find out if he should be eating dry food, canned food, or a mixture of both. Avoid any brands that include wheat, soy or corn. If your dog is still uninterested in his meals, try mixing in two or three spoonfuls of warm, unsalted chicken broth.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by Cuteness
Brought to you by Cuteness

About the Author

Katie Johnson is a native of Los Angeles and has been writing professionally since 2009. Her published work on and includes several articles relating to health, science and travel. She is a graduate of UCLA's Writers' Program, which provided her with extensive studies in novel, short story and essay writing.

Photo Credits

  • Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images