When both cats and dogs form part of your household, you may ask yourself if it would be harmful for them to eat from the other animal's bowl. There is a clear answer to this: dogs and cats need their own specific food. However, it's no cause for great concern if your canine companion occasionally has a nibble at the contents of your cat's bowl or vice versa.
Be aware though that 90% of illnesses that cats and dogs suffer from can be traced back to inappropriate food.
Are dogs carnivores or omnivores?
There is often general uncertainty with dogs as to whether they are carnivores, herbivores or omnivores. This disagreement about dogs' natural nutritional habits comes to the fore even in dog forums.
In this context, a commonly quoted argument is that the type of food range reveals what group the dog belongs to, but this is only correct to a limited extent. The pet food industry does offer vegan and vegetarian dog food, but this definitely doesn't imply that these feeding methods are species-appropriate and meet the actual nutritional requirements of our canine companions. It's a similar situation with dog food with a disproportionately high amount of grain. Here too, some dog owners draw false conclusions from the selection on the market. In fact, a far too high amount of grain in dog food can lead to serious health problems for dogs.Wheat is often used to artificially eke out lower-quality dog foods, but it can lead to strong fermentation processes in the dog's digestive tract, which puts its entire organism under strain.
Just like our feline companions, dogs don't necessarily just eat what's beneficial to their health. For example, some dogs eat chocolate when they get the opportunity, which can be fatal for them after a certain amount. After all, theobromine contained in the cocoa beans can severely damage the nervous system of our beloved canine friends.
It's a similar story with cats. The zoologist and behavior analyst Paul Leyhausen wrote the following in 2005: “Whoever believes that they can leave a cat's diet to its instinct will face nasty surprises in some circumstances. Unlike rats that eat everything and have to learn quickly what they can and cannot tolerate faced with a wide selection of edible options, cats are so-called food specialists and often don't know what they're getting.” This observation appears to apply to dogs too.
But back to the original question of whether our beloved canine companions are carnivores or omnivores. If we take a look at the genetic origin of dogs, they are classed zoologically as predators.
So are dogs carnivores then? The clear answer is no.
Why are dogs omnivores?
Dogs are omnivores, since what applied to wolves, their ancestors, is no longer the case for dogs in the present day. Dogs have accompanied humans for thousands of years. Hence, their eating habits have always been based on what humans left behind for them or handed over. Of course, regional factors played a role too. If we are aware that meat was a luxury item for people at many times, we can easily comprehend that dogs were not fed meat all the time.
Over the course of the generations, dogs have thus developed from former carnivores to functional omnivores. Their present-day diet has to reflect this.
In contrast, cats are still carnivores. They have high requirements for animal protein and fats, as well as the amino acid taurine. As a result, their dietary needs differ significantly from those of dogs.
How does food affect a dog's behaviour and health?
Dogs are what they eat too, though they will never turn into cats if they occasionally show too much interest in the food bowl of their feline companions. However, if problems with dogs do emerge that aren't related to a lack of training or psychological-behavioural issues, it's recommended for the owner to take a closer look at the ingredients in their food. (Or to check to see whether the dog is possibly sampling cat food too often). In discussion with an expert, another food with a different composition should then be tried out.
It goes without saying that you should only give your beloved canine companion high-quality dog food. Commonly used filler ingredients like wheat, as previously mentioned, and soya and maize lead to a drop in the dog's serotonin level due to an overly high concentration of the amino acid tyrosine. Serotonin is very important too, because it ensures a balanced emotional state as it does with humans. If a dog is lacking serotonin in its food, this can be a factor in the onset of depression or its preliminary stages.
Sugar is often contained in dog food too, although dogs should only receive a certain maximum quantity of it, since too much sugar can at times lead to them being highly strung, having bad breath and poor dental health. In addition, sugar doesn't necessarily increase a dog's enjoyment of its food.
Why do dogs not tolerate cat food?
Dog food in wet and dry form is specially tailored to the dietary needs of canines. There are also special foods and dietary supplements for dogs that take into account certain genetic dispositions - for instance, foods for dogs suffering from allergies, diet food and such.
Only a food specially developed for dogs can guarantee that they will receive all the required nutrients and none of the substances that would damage their health. This would put unnecessary strain on their entire system, make them constantly stressed and jeopardise their physical and mental health.
If your canine companion shows too much interest in your cat's food bowl, it is at risk of severe health complications.
Don't try this at home
There are videos online of people who experiment by giving their dogs cat food, and from the lack of direct side effects they falsely come to the conclusion that cat food is harmless for dogs.
However, this doesn't reflect the facts and it isn't recommended to imitate such behavior. We can only advise against such animal experiments. Instead, we recommend consulting an expert or specialist literature.
We hope that your cat and dog always get on as well as possible and have plenty of fun together - but eating from different food bowls, because this is the only way for them both to remain healthy and happy in the long-term.