Canned cat food and dog food might look and even smell the same, leading you to assume they contain identical or very similar ingredients. After all, why wouldn't it be fine to serve gourmet salmon, tasty lamb stew or succulent chicken pet foods to both of your little darlings?
Vitamins and Minerals
After a little light label reading while you stand in the pet food aisle, you will learn that the percentages listed on cans of cat food and dog food differ. This indicates that feline and canine foods are formulated to meet species-specific nutritional requirements. Cats and dogs need and metabolize different amounts of various vitamins and minerals. Dogs are able to synthesize certain essential acids and vitamins, such as vitamin A. Dogs convert vitamin A from the beta-kerotene in fruits and plants, whereas, cats must obtain these nutrients from animal tissues in their diet.
Both dogs and cats need dietary calcium and phosphorus, and while they require different amounts, their needs increase during growth, pregnancy and lactation, and their diet should reflect this.
Protein and Fat
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Most pet food labels list the percentages of protein and fat. Numerous differences become obvious as you use your precious free time to compare the contents listed on each label. Cat foods are higher in protein and fat than dog foods. Some scientists believe the primary difference between cats and dogs is that cats are true carnivores whose diet should consist of meat and meat products, while dogs are omnivores who can exist on a diet combining meat and plant products. However, although dogs can digest and metabolize both plant and animal foods, they are still meat-eaters and need meat to thrive.
Providing carbohydrates in your cat's diet is not essential as long as she receives enough protein and fats. While some people do not consider foods other than meat and bone to be necessary for dogs, carbohydrates from digestible or soluble fibers, such as beet pulp, can be useful for their digestion and to maintain good stool quality. On the other hand, too much crude fiber in cat food can be detrimental and can increase fecal output, alter microflora in the colon and disrupt fermentation, glucose absorption and insulin production, and depress diet digestibility.
Taurine, an amino acid found in body tissues, is important for healthy maintenance of your pet's heart, retina, bile and some aspects of reproduction. It is essential this amino acid is present and balanced in food fed to felines. Cats cannot manufacture their own taurine and need to eat meat to obtain it. Without taurine, they may experience heart and respiratory problems, as well as blindness. Dogs can synthesize taurine from sufficient amounts of amino acids within their bodies, so taurine deficiency is not a problem for most dogs. However, some dog breeds, such as Newfoundlands and cocker spaniels, cannot properly metabolize taurine and may develop an enlarged heart unless they receive taurine directly from supplements or food.
Different Foods for Dogs and Cats
Many cats will not eat dog food. Cats believe their food is not only different from dog food, but superior. Most dogs, on the other hand, think anything that comes out of a can is edible, probably delicious and definitely made for dogs. The fact is canned dog and cat food should be formulated in a way that tastes good to your companion and contains essential ingredients and nutrients your dog or cat needs to grow, stay healthy and thrive.
- Nutro: Pet Nutrition Desk Reference
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases
- PetMD: Cats Are Different: How a Cat's Nutritional Needs are Different
- University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Don't Feed Your Cat That Dog Food
- PetMD: Taurine Deficiency in Dogs
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.