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Can dogs eat cat treats? A vet’s guide to safe treats for dogs

Can dogs eat cat treats?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have multiple pets in your household, then it's likely you'll find yourself asking the question 'can dogs eat cat treats?' at some point. Afterall, a dog's keen sense of smell can lead them to the most unexpected of places. If they're not managing to break into their own bag of grub, then the next best thing is likely your cat's treat store.

So, what do you do if find that your dog has eaten a few of the cat's treats? Can dogs eat cat treats safely or is it best to make sure the two have separate snacks? With so different types of good quality cat treats available for your feline, are there any types of cat treats that your canine companion can enjoy too?

Let’s look at whether cat treats are safe for dogs, and learn a little more about safe snacking in our canine friends.

What is the difference between dog treats and cat treats?

Firstly, let’s look at where the best dog treats and cat treats differ. Of course, there are lots of different types of treats on the market for both species, but the range tends to be greater for dogs.

Dog chews, dried natural treats, and bones tend to be created for dogs alone – cats have no equivalent. This is because cats aren’t natural chewers – they tend to eat freshly killed prey, of a small enough size that their teeth can quickly crunch through bones. Whilst dogs often prefer long, chewable stick-like treats, cats prefer something they can eat quickly and move on. 

Dog training treats, on the other hand, are similar in size and content to the best cat treats. They’re often meat-based, although many cheaper brands will include plant materials and grains to produce a kibble-like treat. 

If you look at the ingredients in dog training treats and cat treats at the supermarket, you’ll see they’re pretty similar. Cat treats are slightly more likely to contain chicken and fish rather than beef and lamb, and they’re also often smellier than dog treats. Dog treats are often larger than cat treats and may contain more calories per treat. Lastly, cat treats tend to be more expensive than dog treats when you compare similar products.

Can dogs and cats eat the same treats?

So, let’s look at whether dogs can eat cat treats. Luckily for owners of both pets, the answer is yes. Cat treats are generally safe for dogs. But what about cats – can cats eat dog treats? The answer is a little more complicated. Whilst a one-off dog treat is unlikely to harm a cat, it’s important to be aware that dog treats can sometimes contain small amounts of ingredients that are toxic to cats. For instance, they might contain ethylene glycol, onion, or garlic. These treats will have been manufactured to be safe for dogs and tested thoroughly – but they won’t have been tested on cats. 

Whilst cat treats are generally safe for dogs, there are a few basic rules you need to apply in order to safely feed cat treats to your pooch:

1. Don’t make a habit of it!

It’s not a good idea to feed cat treats to your dog on a daily basis. After all, they are different species with different nutritional needs. Cat treats are often too small to be interesting to most dogs – many will be happier with one of the best longest lasting dog chews.

2. Stick to the 10% rule

Treats, whether dog or cat, are nutritionally incomplete – they don’t contain all the nutrients required to thrive. This means that, alongside other incomplete sources, they should never make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie allowance. When you’re working out how many cat treats your dog can have, look at their total daily calorie allowance, then find 10%. Now, take off calories for any table scraps, dog treats, dental chews, or other snacks they get. What’s left is how many calories they can have in cat treats – and it’s probably not many!

3. Check the ingredients

It’s a good idea to check the ingredients list for red flags before feeding anything to your pet. Although cat treats are unlikely to contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, they can be extremely high in fat, which may cause pancreatitis in susceptible dogs.

Can dogs eat catnip?

Can dogs eat cat treats?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Catnip is a favorite with many cats. It’s sometimes included in cat treats as a natural calming agent. If your dog has eaten catnip from the garden, dried catnip, or a catnip treat, you might be wondering whether it’s safe for dogs to eat catnip.

Luckily, catnip is thought to be safe for dogs, although they don’t have the same reaction to it as cats do. However, some people claim there’s still a calming effect and, whilst there’s no scientific evidence of this, there’s no harm in trying catnip treats with your dog to see whether they work.

What happens if my dog eats cat treats?

If your dog eats one or two cat treats, there’s nothing to worry about. Cat treats are generally safe for dogs as they don’t contain any toxic ingredients. However, you should be more cautious if your dog eats lots of cat treats. Whilst it’s not good for your dog to gorge on any food, even his own, cat treats are often higher in fat than dog treats are, meaning they’re more likely to cause pancreatitis if your dog eats a lot. 

Unless you are concerned about your dog, it’s usually fine to monitor your dog at home after eating cat treats. Look out for signs of stomach upset, including abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and call your vet if you become worried about your dog at any time.

So, can dogs eat cat treats?

Cat treats are generally safe for dogs to eat, but dog treats are not always safe for cats. It’s fine to feed your dog the occasional cat treat as a reward if they enjoy them but make sure you aren’t feeding them too many, or you could cause pancreatitis, obesity, or a nutritional deficiency.

After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She quickly developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realising that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine. Jo now lives in the Channel Islands with her husband Ian and terrier Pixie, and they are expecting their first child very soon.