Many people who have both dogs and cats wonder if they can just buy the same food for both pets. This brings us to the question: what is the difference between dog food and cat food? And are those two interchangeable?
Differences in the composition of cat and dog food
Dogs and cats are different species, so it goes without saying that they require different nutrients to survive properly. The main difference between dogs and cats in terms of food is that cats are much more dependent on meat than dogs. Dogs are basically carnivores, just like cats, but are more adaptable to the circumstances and can get on with relatively little or no meat if needed. As a result, dog food also contains less meat on average than cat food, although the exact percentages vary a lot between brands.
Cats, therefore, need less vegetables. In principle, they can survive even without vegetables, although a small amount is good for their digestion. In addition, there are a number of nutrients that cats, unlike dogs, absolutely cannot do without. Cats, for example, need taurine and arachidonic acid in their diet. They cannot produce vitamin A themselves, unlike, for example, people and dogs. So the main difference between cat food and dog food is that the composition of cat food requires more specific ingredients than that of dog food.
What happens if I feed dog food to a cat?
Well, in many cases dog food lacks a lot of ingredients that cats really need. What if a cat was to eat dog food instead of cat food? Would it really be such a disaster? In short: yes. Cats that are deficient in arachidonic acid can develop serious health problems such as weak immunity and neurological problems. Taurine deficiency is also dangerous, as it can cause the cat to experience heart failure or even become blind. This is enough reason to feed your cat with actual cat food and not just give it dog food.
But wait, you may think, aren't those nutrients present in dog food? Isn't dog food also just made of meat? Yes, that's right but taurine and arachidonic acid are substances that are specially added to pet food. The annoying thing is that they are not always mentioned on the packaging. As a result, it is certainly not possible to say with certainty whether these substances are contained in dog food and, if so, whether there is enough to fulfill the cat’s need. So unless you are sure that these compounds are present in the dog food, it is wise to buy regular cat food.
And vice versa?
Then the next question is, of course: what happens if I feed cat food to my dog? As mentioned above, dogs are less picky about what they eat and they can handle more different foods than cats. So it is okay if your dog accidentally eats cat food. Dogs can get everything they need from cat food. In fact, since cat food often has a higher percentage of meat and animal ingredients, your dog may even prefer to eat cat food over dog food, when given the choice.
However, it is not a good idea to give your dog cat food on purpose. Dog food is made in a way that it meets the specific needs of your dog so that when eating cat food it will still get too much or too little of certain ingredients. The problem with dog food containing less meat can be solved by simply buying better quality dog food or giving your dog snacks that consist largely of meat from time to time. This is healthier than giving your dog standard cat food.