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Optimeal® Blog

Optimeal® Blog

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Cat Food?

By Bridget Reed /

23
Jan

No matter how much your dog loves dog food, the chances are high that they’ve scavenged for other meals around the house. Dogs are omnivores. They’re willing to try anything potentially tasty as long as they can reach it. 

If you’ve caught your pup stealing food from your cat’s food bowl, you might wonder if dogs can have an allergic reaction to cat food. While pet foods might not look too different to us humans, cats and dogs have very different nutritional needs.

The ingredients in cat food might be unhealthy or potentially trigger an allergic reaction in your dog. For this reason, keeping the offending food out of your dog’s reach is important, or your pup might face some unwanted consequences.

However, if your dog has already taken a dive into the cat food, we have the answers to any questions you might have. Whether or not your dog experiences an allergic reaction, here’s all the information you need to understand why dogs and cat food may not mix.

What Ingredients in Cat Food Can Cause Allergies in Dogs?

Cat food and dog food might appear virtually identical, especially when comparing dry foods. After all, kibble is kibble, right?

Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. The truth is that cats are carnivores, and dogs are omnivores. Most dog food will contain a wider variety of ingredients, including meats (which are still usually first on the list), vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Cats have a narrower range of foods they can tolerate. As a result, cat food is very high in protein and fat and lower in plant-based nutrients. These ingredients make cat food extremely tasty to dogs, but that food may be unhealthy in large quantities.

If your dog has ingested a small amount of cat food or licked up a few pieces of stray kibble, there’s usually no reason to worry. In small quantities, cat food should be completely harmless to your pup. However, large quantities of cat food can negatively affect your pooch.

Even if your dog doesn’t experience any food sensitivity problems like gastrointestinal distress after devouring your cat’s meal, you still shouldn’t let it happen again if you can help it. 

If your dog keeps going after cat food, they might eventually lose interest in their own food. Over a long period, they might develop vitamin deficiencies because cat food isn’t formulated to meet a dog’s nutritional needs.

The high quantities of protein in cat food can also cause kidney problems or issues with urination, so you can’t be too careful when keeping your cat’s food away from your dog.

Common pet allergens include animal proteins, the main ingredient in cat food. Therefore, dogs eating cat food are potentially at risk of a food allergy. The novel ingredients could cause an unexpected reaction.

For your dog’s health, you should always feed them complete and balanced dog food. Your pup will be much happier in the long run with a nutritious bowl of dog food than a stolen serving of cat food.

What Are Common Allergy Symptoms in Dogs?

If your dog gets into your cat’s food, you should check for any potential allergy symptoms, such as skin problems or hair loss. Even if your pup was previously allergy-free, a sudden increase in protein consumption is always something to monitor carefully. 

Food allergies are the body’s immune system overreacting to perceived threats. Usually-harmless molecules such as proteins, pollen, or dairy can trigger a severe response. 

The immune system will manufacture antibodies to attack the invader, causing the symptoms of an allergic reaction. 

Here are the most common signs of an allergy. If your dog experiences any of these problems after eating cat food, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Stomach issues are a frequent reaction to any food allergy. If your dog has trouble with their digestive system, whatever they ate most recently is usually the culprit. Common allergens are chicken and dairy products.

Dry, Itchy Skin

Your dog’s skin is one of the most sensitive parts of their body, and allergic reactions will often cause patches of skin to become itchy or inflamed. If your dog can’t stop scratching their belly after eating cat food, they may be experiencing a food allergy.

Your dog’s ears are unusually susceptible to allergic reactions, so ear infections and itchy ears are also something to keep an eye out for. 

Severe Reactions

Though it’s relatively uncommon, your dog might experience a severe allergic reaction to cat food. This includes swelling of the mouth or lips, hives, or difficulty breathing. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, you should immediately take them to the vet. 

What Are Dogs Usually Allergic To?

Every dog is different, but most pet allergies fall into three main categories. If your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction, you might consider the following factors:

Food

Food allergies can cause significant reactions and usually require a change in diet for your pet to feel better.

The most common type of food allergy is a protein allergy. For example, your dog might develop an immune system response to chicken, beef, or turkey, which requires them to switch to a new food containing a different source of protein.

Your vet could perform a food or diet trial to help determine what ingredients are upsetting your dog’s digestive system. Once the elimination test is complete, you may need to switch to a hypoallergenic or novel diet for your pet’s continued good health.

Fortunately, many great dog foods with a variety of protein options are available. If you’re looking for new dog food, our Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe Skin & Digestive Support is a wonderful choice with a non-standard protein that your dog will love, and is also free of common allergens like corn, soy, and eggs. It’s specifically designed for dogs with high energy needs and supports healthy digestion with lots of fiber.

Dust or Pollen

Just like humans, dogs can have seasonal allergies to pollen. Sneezing, itchy skin or dermatitis, and similar symptoms often denote an environmental allergy. 

While pollen and dust allergies are rarely severe, they can be very unpleasant for your dog to experience regularly. Skin infections and ear infections are also frequently caused by environmental allergies.

Fleas

Fleas or dust mites are common allergies for dogs, cats, and other mammals. The most common symptom of flea allergies involves a rash or patch of itchy skin centered around the flea bites.

While flea allergies typically don’t cause strong reactions, your dog certainly won’t enjoy being bitten by fleas regularly. Fleas can also transfer to humans, so we recommend consulting your vet if you suspect your dog has a flea allergy.

How Can I Find Out if My Dog Is Allergic to Cat Food?

Unfortunately, most types of pet allergies have very similar symptoms. However, if your dog had an allergic reaction right after getting into the cat food, you’ll have a good reason to suspect the two might be correlated.

If your dog is displaying allergy symptoms after eating your cat’s food, your first stop should be the vet. Modern veterinary medicine has the knowledge and diagnostic tools required to help you figure out what’s causing your dog’s symptoms.

Depending on your dog's symptoms, your vet might run blood tests, investigate your dog’s past medical history, and recommend ways to support your pup’s health.

How Can I Prevent Cat Food Allergies in My Dog?

The best way to prevent your dog from experiencing an allergic reaction is to keep them away from potentially triggering foods. This is the most effective method of keeping your dog safe and healthy, but it’s not always easy. 

For example, if your cat usually grazes on their food throughout the day, you might have to put their bowl on a counter or somewhere else the dog can’t reach it. If you usually feed the dog and cat simultaneously, you might want to stagger their meals so they can each can eat in privacy.

You might also try switching your dog’s food to something they enjoy more. Our Salmon & Brown Rice recipe is a delicious meal that will have your dog drooling for dinner time (with that yummy fishy scent they may be drawn toward in your cat’s bowl). Having their own helping of fishy goodness may help keep them from raiding the cat’s food for their seafood cravings.

Cat Food Allergies in Dogs

It’s never easy to discover a health problem in your pet. The process of diagnosing and treating allergies can be intimidating. Fortunately, dogs who eat cat food usually face no long-term damage, even if they experience a slight allergic reaction or a little digestive upset.

Pet parents must stay informed on supporting their pet’s health. Good nutrition is one of the best ways to keep your dog happy and healthy. Making sure your pup doesn’t eat cat food is a great way to watch out for them. Besides, your cat will certainly appreciate having their own food bowl again!

Sources:

​Types Of Allergic Reactions In Dogs | American Kennel Club

What every pet owner should know about food allergies | Petfoodology

Can Dogs Eat Cat Food? | American Kennel Club

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