Nutrition Dogs Cats

dog and cat enjoying food

Nutritional Needs Differ Between Cats & Dogs

While both cats and dogs are common household pets, they not only have very distinct looks and personalities, these two furry family members also have specific dietary needs. If you’re the happy owner of both cats and dogs, there are nutritional needs you’ll want to be aware of to ensure that both of your pets are healthy and happy.

While it may be convenient to feed all of your pets the same food, this is a mistake you'll definitely want to avoid; otherwise, you can count on needing veterinary services in the near future! Here’s what you need to know about pet nutrition for both your cat and dog.

Proper Cat Nutrition

While sometimes their behaviors may show otherwise, it’s a fact that cats aren't small dogs. In fact, cats have very different dietary requirements when compared to canines. These dietary differences lie in a cat’s anatomy. Notable differences between a cat and a dog include:

  • Shorter intestine
  • Different gastric mucosa
  • Less-developed caecum
  • Teeth cannot move sideways
  • Small meals throughout the day are best

High Protein

Because of these anatomical changes, proper cat nutrition is much different from a dog. To start, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need certain nutrients that are only found in animal products, such as organ meat and muscles. A cat's diet must include meat-based products so that they can obtain necessary amino acids, such as taurine and arginine.

Taurine is needed for a functioning heart muscle, eye health, and proper bile formation. Arginine is an essential amino acid that, when deficient, can lead to excess salivation, ataxia, and even death because of high ammonia levels.

While it seems odd, cats have a higher requirement for dietary protein than dogs. Protein, which is made up of amino acids, is needed to keep your cat healthy both inside and out. When a cat is lacking essential amino acids, there's an increased risk of abnormal development, dilated cardiomyopathy, retinal degeneration, and even reproductive failure.

Fatty Acids

One of the most important fatty acids that must be a part of a cat's diet is arachidonic acid. This fatty acid is needed to create an inflammatory response to suppress inflammation from common issues like allergies. Arachidonic acid is also needed for proper blood clotting, regulating skin growth, and for proper reproductive and gastrointestinal health.

In dogs, this fatty acid can be manufactured from other fatty acids, but, in cats, it cannot. This means a cat’s diet needs to contain foods that are high in arachidonic acid.


Unlike dogs, cats are unable to make adequate quantities of niacin or vitamin A. These vitamins are critical for maintaining skin health as well as eye support. They're also critical in converting protein, carbohydrates, and fats into energy. Proper cat nutrition should include food that has high vitamin content, especially active vitamin A and B vitamins.

Proper Dog Nutrition

We all know that wolves and dogs are related, but did you know that dogs aren't obligate carnivores? Unlike cats, dogs are omnivores. This means that they can meet their nutritional requirements by eating both meat and plants. In fact, a dog's diet would be imbalanced if it were all meat.

Over time, dogs have adapted to an omnivorous diet. This is evident in the design of their intestinal tract and tooth structure.

Omnivore Doesn't Mean No Meat

Your dog's diet should be made up of at least 18% protein. Dogs can eat meat as well as fish, along with vegetables. While dogs are omnivores, this doesn't mean that your dog should be fed a vegetarian diet, unless required by your veterinarian. Dogs need certain amino acids that are found in high quantities in meat compared to plants.

The key to keeping your canine healthy is to feed a food that not only offers a quality protein source, but should also include vegetables to ensure that Fido gets the necessary amino acids, vitamins, and other important nutrients.

Grains Are Good

Dogs mostly use proteins and fats as their primary energy sources. However, canines can also use carbohydrates for energy. Dogs are able to digest starches and sugars, though there are certain carbohydrates that are more nutritionally beneficial. For proper dog nutrition, be sure to feed healthy complex carbohydrates.

Cooked complex carbohydrates like grains are much easier to digest when compared to uncooked complex carbohydrates. This is why it's important to ensure your dog's food has whole grains, but you don't want this to be a top ingredient. Meat and plants are much more important.

Dietary Fat

A dog's diet should contain proper levels of fat. Fat is needed to ensure both internal and external health, ensuring the paw pads, nose, coat, and skin are healthy. Dietary fats are also a dog's first source for energy, so it's important to feed a diet that's 9% to 15% fat.

Make note there's a delicate balance between just enough and too much fat. High levels of fat, especially from treats and table food, can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Your dog's diet should contain fat but not too much!

All Pets Are Different

These cat and dog nutrition guidelines are just guidelines. It's important to remember that your cat or dog may have different nutritional needs. Age, health conditions, and other factors all play a role in determining what your cat or dog’s diet should consist of. As a rule of thumb, to provide your pet the best nutrition, focus on:

  • Feeding foods made with only whole ingredients
  • Avoiding raw feeding unless necessary
  • Looking for an AAFCO label

Since nutrition can be a fine balance, it’s best to seek a professional opinion if you believe your pet’s diet may be lacking. Find a trusted veterinarian in Fort Collins to pinpoint any dietary deficiencies and other issues that may be impacting your pet's health.

Questions About Pet Nutrition? We’re Here to Help

At Advanced Animal Care, we provide more than the standard veterinary services. While you can count on our office for diagnostic and routine health checks, we have a firm belief in providing holistic treatment. As a holistic veterinarian office, we believe that proper nutrition plays a large role in your pet’s health.

If you have any questions about your pet’s diet, we’re here to answer them or any other concerns. While we will work with you to correct your dog’s diet, ensuring your pet is receiving the proper nutrition can also be beneficial in treating certain ailments that your pet may be facing. Combined with Chinese medicine for pets, your cat and dog will be in optimal health.

We look forward to becoming your go-to animal hospital in Fort Collins. Contact our office today at 970-493-3333 to schedule an appointment.



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