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Ask a Vet: Cat Treats for Dogs–Which Ones Are Safest?

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Question:

Dear Dr. T.,

I have 3 cats and 2 dogs. My dogs steal treats from my cats and I’m afraid they’ll get sick. Is there some kind of cat treat they can all eat?

-Kelly R.

Answer:

Do your dogs read the label on their treat packages? Mine don’t!

Honestly, I don’t think they care whether they’re getting something made for cats, monkeys, mice or dogs as long as the treat tastes good.

I’ve already written about how not all dog treats are safe for cats. Now let’s talk about whether cat treats for dogs are safe.

What Happens if a Dog Eats Cat Treats?

Cat treats are nice because they’re usually quite a bit smaller than dog treats. I like to use them for training because I can give more of them without cutting or breaking them.

The biggest concern when dogs eat cat treats is that they tend to be very rich compared to dog food and treats. Many dogs have a sensitive stomach and fatty food can set them off. But not all cat treats are especially fatty!

Some other sources claim cat treats have too much protein for dogs, but I’m less concerned about that. Unless a dog has severe, chronic pancreatitis, most dogs should be able to handle it.

Which Treats Safe for Both Dogs and Cats?

After reviewing the ingredients of the 15 most popular cat treats on Amazon.com USA, I did not find any toxic ingredients that would cause a problem if your dogs eat cat treats on purpose or accidentally. 

Next, I wanted to see if any of these treats were better candidates to use as dog treats than the others.

I converted the guaranteed analysis information from the label of each cat treat into protein, fat, and carbohydrate percentages. I found some interesting information to help you choose a product that’s safe for both dogs and cats.

So If you are going to give your dog treats made for your feline friend, here are a few things to consider when making your selection.

Check Ingredients List for Food Toxic to Dogs

I’ve put together a list of foods that are toxic to dogs but not to cats. I wouldn’t expect that any of these items would be included in a cat treat, but if you see them in the ingredients list you will know that those treats are not okay for your dog!

It’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list for the following foods that are toxic to dogs but not to cats:

Hops

Nobody knows for sure why hops are toxic to dogs, but they caused some significant neurological problems.

Macadamia nuts

Macadamia Nuts can cause partial paralysis in some dogs. Fortunately, it’s a temporary condition and it doesn’t affect all dogs.

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that causes major problems with low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs but it doesn’t seem to affect cats bad way at all! (1)

Are Cat Treats Really Too Fatty for Dogs?

I was a little surprised by what I found when analyzing the macronutrient ratios of the top cat treats on amazon.com.

I’ve always heard veterinarians comment that cat food and treats are far too fatty for dogs. Heck, I’ve said it many times myself!

I discovered that some of the most popular cat treats are not high in fat at all! You could even try using some of these as dog food toppers for a pup who is a finicky eater. Some of these could also work well for use as dog training treats.

Best 3 Cat Treats Safe for Dogs

Of the top-selling cat treat products on amazon.com, I found a handful with a much lower fat content than the others.

Hartz Delectables Squeeze Up Lickable Wet Cat Treats (any variety)

Hartz Delectables Squeeze Up Lickable Wet Cat Treats are surprisingly low in fat! This product is a puree of real meat and comes in a plastic packet (like fast food ketchup) and you can squeeze a little bit out at a time for your pet to lick and enjoy chicken or tuna flavors.

A lickable treat might not be the most convenient training treat, but I envision squeezing a little bit of this high protein/lean cat treat onto dog food as a flavor enhancer.

Whole Life Pet Freeze Dried Chicken Breast Cat Treats

Whole Life Pet Freeze Dried Chicken Breast treats are healthy treats that have been a popular option with both cats and dogs, in my experience. The one caveat to recommending this particular trait is that it’s made from raw chicken meat. Even though the treats are freeze-dried, there is still some potential for them to carry harmful bacteria.

Still, I like these chicken breast treats because they are made from only one ingredient (real meat), they are not messy, they are very low in fat and high in protein.

Greenies Feline Natural Dental Care Cat Treats, Chicken Flavor

Greenies Feline Natural Dental Care treats chicken flavor would be an ideal training treat for a dog. Each crunchy treat only contains 1.4 calories, and they’re not messy to handle. They also have a relatively low-fat content and should not bother the stomach unless your dog is extremely sensitive Or prone to pancreatitis.

Cat Treats to Avoid Giving to Your Dog

Now to discuss the scary feline treats your vet has been warning you about! 

There are plenty of products that are quite high in fat. Here are the ones from the Amazon.com bestsellers list you should avoid, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Sheba Meaty Tender Sticks Chicken Cat Treats

Sheba Meaty Tender Sticks remind me of Pupperoni chews for cats. Although they look and taste delicious, they might not be the best idea for dogs because of their high fat content.

Temptations cat treats for dogs--not a good idea!
Delicious for cats, but too fatty for sensitive dogs!

Temptations Cat Treats (any variety)

With Temptations being as popular as they are, it’s a good thing that cats can tolerate fatty treats better than dogs. These treats are rich enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if your dog gets a tummy ache after eating more than a couple. Dog owners: save the Temptations for your kitty!

Greenies Feline SMART BITES Hairball Control

Greenies Feline Smartbites Hairball Control treats are surprisingly high in fat. There’s another type of Greenies cat treat on my recommended list but this one is probably too rich for sensitive dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Temptations Cat Treats?

I knew Temptations were popular, but I didn’t realize just how popular they were until I started writing this article!

Temptations make up a large part of the top 50 most popular treats for cats on amazon.com. Some people even worry that their cats are addicted to the tasty treat. 

That’s probably because they are “double basted” in animal digest. Animal digest is a flavoring ingredient made by chemically processing the more savory-tasting parts of animal-based parts like liver. Cats also seem to love the crunchy texture of some of the varieties. 

The good news is that these cat treats do not contain any ingredients that would be toxic to dogs. The bad news is that they are fairly high in fat and could upset your dog’s stomach, especially if she eats more than one or two.

While it’s okay for dogs to eat a few Temptations treats, I would not feel safe giving my dogs a significant quantity of them. Their fattiness makes them more likely to cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Catnip for Dogs–Is It Safe?

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a green plant that holds a special attraction for some but not all cats. Affected cats will sniff, rub, shake their head and roll in response to close contact with catnip. These are behaviors usually associated with mating or eating and are interpreted by humans as being pleasurable to the affected cat. (2)

So, would it be safe to give catnip cat treats for dogs?

While there are no reports of dogs experiencing toxicity from ingesting catnip, anecdotal reports hold that catnip may have a sedative on dogs. That could be a desired effect for anxiety but it could make your pet too sleepy.

I would advise pet owners to use great caution if you’re going to let your dog have access to catnip. Anything that causes sedation, even mild drowsiness, worries me.

Conclusion: Are Cat Treats Bad for Dogs?

There’s a good chance your dog won’t have any problem with eating an occasional cat treat. Most, if not all, feline treats do not contain any ingredients that are toxic to dogs. The most likely adverse effects of eating them would be digestive upset including vomiting, loose stools and a decreased appetite. 

If your dog eats a large number of treats made for kitties, he could experience severe digestive upset or even pancreatitis. But that could happen with overindulgence in any food!

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  1. Jerzsele, Á., Karancsi, Z., Paszti‐Gere, E., Sterczer, Á., Bersényi, A., Fodor, K., … & Vajdovich, P. (2018). Effects of po administered xylitol in cats. Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, 41(3), 409-414.
  2. Todd, N. B. (1962). Inheritance of the catnip response in domestic cats. Journal of Heredity, 53(2), 54-56.

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