Can dogs or cats eat dog food?

October 9, 2023
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.

Can dogs eat dog food?

Can dogs have dog food? Before you answer "DUH," there's one thing to keep in mind: not all dog foods are created equal.

Most commercial dog foods undergo rigorous testing and quality control measures to ensure they are safe and free from harmful bacteria or contaminants, but not all are quite so careful.

So while quality is a top concern, there's a dizzying array of specialized foods. Many brands offer diets tailored to address specific health concerns, such as weight management or gastrointestinal issues.

But what about raw food diets? How about vegan diets? And how much food does your dog actually need?

Our best advice? Halt the online research and give your vet a call.

Can cats eat dog food?

Did your cat and dog switch food bowls? Don't let it happen too regularly.

Cats and dogs may both be carnivores, but they have distinct nutritional needs.

Cat food is specially designed to cater to the specific requirements of felines, boasting a higher protein content and more taurine, an amino acid vital for cats that they can't synthesize themselves. In contrast, dog food might not supply enough of these essential nutrients for your cat's well-being.

Now, if your cat nibbles on a bit of dog food every so often, it's generally not a cause for concern. In moderation, dog food can offer some nutritional perks to cats. For instance, certain dog food brands pack extra vitamin E, which can give your cat's immune system a little boost.

But a steady diet of dog food or large portions of it could lead to malnutrition in the long run because it lacks certain vitamins and minerals that cats need to thrive. Plus, while the occasional snack might be okay for healthy adult cats without underlying health issues (like kidney disease), it's not the best choice for kittens or elderly or unwell felines.

The bottom line? While it's technically safe-in-moderation for healthy adult kitties, let's not make a habit of offering them the canine cuisine too frequently.

Information Purposes Only

The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for pet-specific advice from your veterinarian. Never disregard your vet’s recommendations, or delay in acting on them, based on something you have read on this site. Regardless of how a food is rated here, any food that you give your pet can pose potential health risks, including allergic reactions, choking, or other health conditions such as bloat. Always monitor your pet while they’re eating, and never introduce a new food into your pet’s diet without first consulting your veterinarian. 

Pet Poison Emergency Protocol

If your pet is acting sick, call your regular veterinarian immediately. If your regular veterinarian is closed, call a nearby on-call veterinarian, animal urgent care, or veterinary emergency hospital. If your pet is not acting sick but you think they may have been exposed to a poison, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661).

Food Safety Statuses


Could be given almost daily without harm

Safe in moderation

Not toxic, but should not be given regularly


Toxic or simply too risky to give to your pet