Are Dog Treats Bad for Cats? Milk Bones and Chews

According to Megan Keller, DVM, dog treats are not designed to be digested by cats. Cats are carnivores, they do not need most of the ingredients that are added to dog treats. However, because of the added flavors that are with dog treats, the dog treats are appealing to cats. They of course are not aware that treats are not made for them.

Are you worried because you accidentally bought your cat dog treats and your cat loves them? I will explain if allowing your cat to eat a dog treat is endangering your cat in the slightest.

Are dog treats bad for cats? Dog treats are not bad for cats.  The ingredients are similar for a dog treat or a cat treat.  There are ingredients that are not needed by cats at all. Dog treats should not be considered as a meal replacement for your cat.  There is some nutritional value in dog treats, but the nutrients are not balanced for cats.  

What are Most Dog Treats Made from and How Would These Ingredients Affect Cats?

The typical dog treat is in the form of a dog biscuit, so I will highlight the ingredients in the typical dog biscuit.

  1. The main ingredient in a dog biscuit is a carbohydrate that is a flour.  Most of the manufacturers use one of the following: rice, corn, or wheat.  It is ground down to create a flour.  This flour contains the main portions of the seeds such as the endosperm, germ, or bran.  The endosperm is what allows companies to create the dog bone shape once it is mixed with water. Carbs are not required according to Claudia Kirk, DVM in a cat’s diet, but they do provide energy, needed especially when a cat is nursing or is pregnant.  Dog treats are not going to harm your cat, but they are not essential to their diet.
  2. Proteins are also in the average dog biscuit.  The protein provides the dog with essential amino acids, energy. The protein test enhances the taste.  If the biscuit has a protein that is derived from animals, cat can benefit according to Jeff Grognet, DVM.  Some dog biscuits derive their protein from plant sources.  This protein source can cause some bloating in cats, but it is not dangerous to their health.
  3. Fiber is also found in most dog biscuits.  The reasoning is to improve the water absorption and the stools of the dogs, which is important for dogs that are overweight. Nevertheless, cats do not require fiber in their diets. According to Ken Keeler, DVM, too much fiber will cause constipation in a cat.
  4. Fats and oils are also found in dog biscuits.  They increase the level of nutrients in the treats, and they make the biscuits taste better. The omega-3 fatty acids help to increase the brain function of cats and they also reduce inflammation.  Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by a cat on its own, but they do require it in their diet according to Catherine Lenox, DVM. Nevertheless, sometimes manufacturers source their fats and oils from fast food establishments which I feel is suspect.
  5. Dog biscuit companies also add flavor enhancers so that the treats taste better, such as a taste of fish and meat.  These flavors are appealing to cats since cats are carnivores.

Are Milk Bones OK for Cats?

Milk bones are a popular brand of dog biscuits.  They have a sixty percent market share in the industry for pet treats.  They are manufactured by J. M. Smucker that is constantly adding in premium dog treats and chews to their list of pet products.

Cats are attracted to smells that ressemble fish and meat, which are prevalent in milk bones. Humans may not be aware of these flavor enhancers, but since a cat has a keener sense of smell than us humans, they are aware of the scents.

Here are the ingredients of milk bones with explanations on the effects on cats:

  1. White flour: There is white flour in milk bone dog biscuits. Cats do not need the flour because flour is a carbohydrate. In the wild, a cat would need carbohydrates to have more stored energy. This stored energy is needed to be make quick dashes to catch prey. Hunting mice and birds are not required by our domesticated cats to survive.
  2. Milk bones contain beef bone meal and beef meal: Cats do not need beef to survive, but meat sources that have high protein contents are required by cats to survive.
  3. Milk bones contain cooked bone marrow: Bone marrow is a power ingredient for cats.  It has the following benefits: boosts the digestive tract, helps the joints of a cat that has arthritis, makes a cat’s immune system stronger, clears toxins from the liver.
  4. There are poultry by-products in milk bones: These poultry parts are added to many dog and cat foods.  They consist of such parts such as undeveloped eggs and bones.  They have been proven to be good for cats.
  5. Dried yeast in Milk Bone – Many cat foods contain dried yeast.  The yeast repels fleas, and it is nutritious.  It is very tasty to cats and dogs.
  6. Corn Starch is contained in Milk Bones: This ingredient is present because it provides energy to a dog, and it is much less allergenic than corn flour that some manufacturers add to dog treats.  Cats seem to fair better on this carbohydrate versus corn flour.

Can your Cat Consume the Dog Treat Called Greenies?

Greenies are a dog treat that cleans the teeth of your dog.  The Greenies gingerbread treats are great for dogs that are 15-25 lbs. Click here to see the pricing on Amazon.

If your cat consumes a few greenies, should you be concerned?

Greenies have been proven to clean a dog’s teeth. Does a cat really need to chew on a greenie to achieve healthier teeth? Greenies have a special texture that dislodges plaque from teeth that is important to your dog’s health. Many dogs have gum problems that can cause infections that are dangerous to dogs. I have not noticed any reference to the dental benefit of greenies helping a cat’s teeth or being beneficial to their health.

Besides just the cleaning agent in the greenies treats, greenies contain vitamins and nutrients that are required by dogs. Personally, I not a fan of assuming that treats will make your dog or cat healthier. Your pets should be getting vitamins, minerals and other nutrients based on their diet in general.

Here a list showing the greenie ingredients that are highlighted by the manufacturer and their spokesperson that is a DVM:

  1. Vitamin E
  2. Vitamin B12
  3. Vitamin B5
  4. Niacin
  5. Vitamin A
  6. Riboflavin
  7. Vitamin B2
  8. Vitamin D3
  9. Vitamin B1
  10. Vitamin B6

A cat is consuming greenies that is already eating in a healthy way is not going to benefit in the slightest. The extra vitamins and nutrients will simply be expelled through the urine since they will not be needed. Having a few greenies, is not going to harm your cat, but the added calories is not a good plan. A cat will like the taste of a greenie because of one magical ingredient that I had noticed. This ingredient is poultry flavoring. Cats need protein to survive. The poultry smell will entice your cat to eat a greenie even though it is like junk food to a cat.

Dogs tend to love greenies more than cats because they love sinking their teeth into the solid texture of a greenie. It is as if a greenie is a tasty chew toy to a dog. The benefit of the greenie is they are elastic enough to break only after the greenie has touched the surface of gum which cleans to the whole tooth up to the gumline.

Can Cats Eat Homemade Dog Treats?

I searched online for the typical dog treat recipe. Here are the ingredients that surfaced the most often. Also indicated in this chart is whether an item would be beneficial to a cat:

Ingredients in the typical homemade dog treatbenefit to a cat
whole wheat flourcarbohydrates in flour, not needed by cats, not dangerous
peanut butterunneeded calories according to Jennifer Dempsey, DVM
skim milkSusan Wynn. DVM stated that lactose in milk cannot be tolerated by most cats. Even skim milk can cause diarrhea.
carrotsCarrots are low in calories and ok for cats according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. However, not required in the diet of cats.
sweet potatoesOK for the immune system for a cat (Dr Jean Dodds), but not required by cats.

All these ingredients are ok for dogs, but some of the ingredients would not fare well with the typical cat. A cat may eat dog treats that are made this way, but the taste factor would be low. Also, the health benefits are not all that apparent. In other words, a cat that would eat the typical dog biscuit would be eating treats that contained empty calories.

I will indicate the affect that each of these ingredients would have on a cat.

Dog treats in general are not recommended for cats because of the lack of nutrients that a cat can use and due to the elevated level of calories. Cats tend to eat less than dogs when the availability of food is there. Dogs will overeat if they have the change. Dogs evolved to eat as quickly and as much as possible since food was scarce for them in the past. Thye needed to build up their reserves so that they could avoid starvation.

Cats do not seem to try to build up on their fat reserves. They need to be slim and fast to catch prey. An overweight cat will have trouble catching birds and other rodents for themselves. Cats that have kittens need to be consume lots of animal protein that come from animals that have evolved to escape from predators. In other words, consuming peanut butter that is high in fats and calories is not a food that cat tend to search out.

Cats will consume milk in most cases. They are used to consuming milk as kittens. The problem with milk consumption for cats is that milk in general contains lactose. Kittens can digest lactose, but this ability is not needed for adult cats. It is not genetic flaw; it was true that there were no milk sources availability in the past for adult cats. They did not have access to cow’s milk like the current domestic cat. Their digestion system dropped the ability to digest lactose so that it could focus on other digestive functions.

Cats can digest some vegetable sources without much problem, but they do not need vegetables. So, the sweet potato ingredient in the average homemade dog treats is again just filler for a cat. Dogs do need more of the nutrients found in vegetables to consume fiber and probiotics according to W. Jean Dobbs, DVM.

Since cats do not need the nutrients in vegetables, it would be best to remove the vegetable ingredients from the recipes for dog treats and to replace them with a high protein source such as tuna, that has been packed in oil. Your cat will love the taste and the protein will strengthen your cat.

These are the ingredients of a good, altered dog treat recipe that would be work for cats:

Ingredients for the typical cat treat recipe:

Ingredient for the typical cat treat recipeHealth effects on a cat due to this ingredient
whole wheat flour carbohydrates in flour ok for a boost in energy
lactose free milkadult cats have trouble digesting lactose, lactose free milk would be better for them
tuna that canned in oilthe oil in the tuna will help to hold together the treats and it is great for a cat’s coat. The tuna has a high protein content that is needed by cats

Here is video that explains how to back cat treats that have: olive oil, eggs, tuna, oat flour as ingredients:

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