Should we feed our animal companions the same foods that we eat? A balanced diet is crucial for keeping our furry buddies happy and healthy, but by all means, do not feed Fido with the same stuff that you eat! Vets explain that human foods could be harmful because your pet has different nutritional requirements

Pet food is manufactured to meet the nutritional needs of our furry buddies, and it is totally different from what’s on our plates. Here’s more about the nutritional differences between pet food and human food. But first, an answer to the all-time classical question; is it safe for humans to eat pet food and vice versa?

Is human food good for pet consumption and vice versa?

If this question has been bugging you, you probably looked at the list of ingredients and nutritional information on pet food packaging and saw many similarities with what’s on your plate. Pet food may contain chicken, rice, corn, and other ingredients on your plate. Moreover, pet food manufacturers fortify with vitamins and minerals – better for your health!

Although pet food may look similar to what we eat, there are significant differences. For example, most meat in pet foods comes from sections deemed unsuitable for humans, like hides, bones, and offal. The standards for processing and handling are also not the same. Besides sourcing, processing, and handling, there are significant differences in nutritional content and mix.

Human foods may not be technically regarded as harmful to your pet (save for some ingredients). However, you could cause severe physical and behavioral issues by sharing a plate with your furry buddy.

For example, it’s okay for your dog to consume small amounts of vegetable oil. However, too much of it could cause the dog to develop pancreatitis, and as Aisling O’Keeffe, MVB advises, it could be fatal. It’s not that vegetable oil is toxic, but it contains too much oleic acid and fats and the dog’s pancreas cannot handle it.

Crucial nutritional differences

To help us get a better understanding of these nutritional differences, we checked the profiles of dog foods and cat foods provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). We compared these profiles with Harvard University’s Healthy Plate, which gives more information on the human food profile.

Protein and amino acid

Human and pet diets should contain sufficient proteins. A balanced meal should have about 25-30% protein. But the type and composition of protein vary.

Humans and dogs are omnivorous – they can synthesize some amino acids and survive on a vegan diet. However, felines are obligate carnivores; they depend on animal protein. Cat food is often high in protein because it must contain amino acids like taurine, arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Any deficiency, especially of components like taurine, will result in ailments.

Dogs also require high-protein diets (often an animal protein) because they cannot synthesize amino acids like arginine. Humans, on the other hand, can thrive on a vegan diet.

Carbohydrate and energy supply

Starch in commercial pet foods comes from cereals and other plant foodstuffs. Most dry pet foods contain about 30-60% carbohydrates. Human diets contain about 25% carbs, and the recommended supply is from whole grains.

The amount of carbs in any food varies with the target consumer. For example, expectant mothers require more energy-giving foods. The same applies to physically active people and pets.

The proportion of carbs in cat food is often lower and compensated by the protein content. Cats draw energy from the protein they consume. A high amount of carbs in a cat’s diet could cause obesity.

 Fatty acids

Fatty acids are crucial in pet and human diets. They help wounds heal faster, make coats healthy, and reduce inflammation. But high content of fatty acids could also lead to health complications and obesity, especially in pets.

An example of good food turned toxic was the case mentioned above. Although cooking oil may seem harmless (or even good for your furry buddy), it could lead to issues like pancreatitis and obesity.

Other nutrients

Humans and pets require vitamins and minerals. But humans often require slightly higher quantities and wider variety. For example, humans need vitamin C in their diets, but dogs don’t because they can synthesize it in their bodies.

Humans should also avoid some ingredients in commercial pet food. For example, artificial flavors and additives like propylene glycol and MSG are carcinogens and could harm a person’s health.

Concluding remarks

Although human food may not be technically harmful to pets, it does not match your pet’s nutritional requirements and could harm them. On the other hand, pet foods do not meet the nutrition needs of humans and could be detrimental. Pet food manufacturers consider what is suitable for pets (not their owners) when preparing their products. But if you must bond with your furry buddy over a meal, follow these rules, and speak to a vet nutritionist about what you can share.


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