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Dear Doctor – The hazards of feeding dog food to cats

Q My husband and I live in an elderly community, with plenty of pet lovers. Our neighbor recently lost her toy breed dog, and offered to give us a case of small cans of dog food to feed our two cats.

We are living on a fixed income as retirees, and wouldn’t object to a couple of weeks of “free food!” But we wanted to first make sure that the dog food — a premium brand — would be safe for our cats. Please advise.
Lillian Hildebrandt

A Dear Lillian: Great question! None of us likes to see food go to waste, but unfortunately dog food is not a safe option for your cats. Cats have higher requirements for protein than dogs (higher protein dog diets are low protein for cats), and also require some nutrients — such as taurine — that dogs can make and thus are rarely supplemented in dog food.

Cats fed dog food can develop serious health problems due to inadequate protein, taurine, or other nutrients. Additionally, there are ingredients in some dog foods and treats that are safe for dogs that can make cats sick.

Maybe you can give the food to a friend with a dog, or to a local shelter?

Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine at Tufts University

Caption for photo at top of page: It’s important for people to know that dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements, and that their health will suffer if they are fed the same food.

Photo at top of article courtesy of Dreamtime.com


This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Tufts Catnip