Dear Doctor – Can I feed dog food to cats?

Letters to Tufts Veterinarians


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 — an expensive, 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 that are fed dog food can develop serious health problems due to inadequate protein, taurine or other nutrients (see related article on page 12). 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 donate it to a local shelter?
Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN
Assistant Professor of Nutrition Cummings School of
Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University


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