Cats & dogs are different species with very different needs. Poor health can result from the wrong diet.

 

Question:

Our 8 month old Pomeranian – dachshund sure enjoys eating the cat food! (Although the cat doesn’t appreciate it much). Is this a bad thing? Also, the cat kinda digs the dog food once in a while. What do you think?

 

Dr. Nichol:

This reminds me of how much our pets resemble our children. Regardless of how well intentioned our efforts to give them what is right they want the opposite. And it’s tempting to just let it go. After all, pet food tends to look the same anyway, right?

 

Well, I’m glad you asked. There are significant nutritional differences between cat and dog food and for good reasons. For starters the physiology of cats requires that their bodies function at a more acid pH. This necessitates a diet much higher in protein. They also need more of the amino acid taurine. Insufficient levels of taurine result in a terminal heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. So for a cat who eats a diet heavy on dog food there will be serious deficiencies.

 

How about a dog eating cat food? Not only do dogs need less protein they pay a big price if they get too much. By far the most common organ failure disease in older dogs is kidney failure. One big cause for this is, you guessed it, excessive protein in their diets.

 

So the last question has to be: How do you fight this battle and win? First I’ll tell you what does not work. Do not sit them down and have a heart to heart. Explaining that these species specific diets are for their own good won’t work on your pets anymore than on your kids. (“Yeah right, Dad”. No respect.) Also forget the idea of supervising them while they eat. When it comes to food pets are masters of deceit and diversion. Your only hope is to feed all adult pets twice daily. Give each pet his or her own measured amount of food in their very own bowl-and here’s the most important part-in an isolated separate room with the door closed. When every one is finished eating you pick up the bowls and mealtime is over.

 

I know that I speak of our pets as though they are devious creatures who love us unconditionally. But they know I’m right don’t they? Naw. But they will thank me later.