Can Rats Eat Dog Food? Benefits & Risks

There are 3 things that everybody knows about pet rats: they’re some of the most resilient scavenging animals on the planet, they’re friendly, and they eat everything. They’re also pretty similar to humans regarding the last part.

Rats are omnivorous, so there’s theoretically nothing they won’t eat. That’s true from a practical perspective as well. Rats eat fruits, veggies, animal protein, sweets, and pretty much anything they can get their rat paws on. This doesn’t mean that all foods are good for them, it just means they will eat it.

But do they eat dog food, and is it good for them? Let’s check it out!

Is Dog Food Safe for Pet Rats?

Yes and no. It all depends on the type of food and how often your rats have it. In general, you shouldn’t feed your pet rats too much dog food, primarily because it’s not meant for them. While dogs and rats are similar in terms of physiology and biology, they’re also different in many aspects.

Dog food is created specifically for dogs, so it may not hold as much nutritional value for rats. It’s also worth noting that some dog foods are high in fat and vitamins, which might not be ideal for rats. This being said, there’s nothing wrong with a few dog food snacks occasionally, especially if your rat seems to enjoy them.

Benefits of Dog Food for Pet Rats

There really aren’t any noticeable benefits worth discussing other than the taste. And this only goes for certain dog foods as well since they’re not all equal. From a nutritional perspective, though, dog food is far from ideal for rats.

Most dog foods contain dehydrated meat, various grains, and plenty of vitamins, making them ideal for canines. These foods are suboptimal for rats for 2 reasons:

  • Improper nutritional content – Rats and dogs are omnivorous mammals but have different nutritional needs. Rats won’t get the sustenance they need from dog food only, so they require nutrient supplementation to meet their nutritional needs.
  • Too much protein and fat – Dog food contains a lot of protein and fat, fit for far larger animals than rats. Even the smallest dog you can find is several times bigger than the biggest rat. It goes without saying that the animal requires a nutrient-dense food to meet its nutritional needs. This fact alone makes the food unfit for rats, who can’t handle that level of nutrient density.

In short, dog food only has taste-related benefits, as most rats seem to enjoy most dog foods. But there’s not much more to it than that.

How to Feed Dog Food to Your Rats?

If you’re set on feeding your pet rat some dog food occasionally, consider the following points:

  • Always check the label – Not all dog foods are equal in terms of nutrient content or nutrient type. That’s because dogs themselves are not equal. Make sure you always check the label and compare it to your rat’s nutritional needs to understand what needs tweaking. This allows you to supplement the meal with proper nutrients based on what your rat needs.
  • Mix it up – I suggest mixing dog food with other treats for a more optimized meal. Throw in some veggies, maybe some fruits, or a handful of nuts, and keep the amount of dog food low. The dog food should only account for a bit of taste and some nutritional value, but it should never be the main course.
  • Little-to-no preparation needed – Most dog foods come ready to eat, whether they’re dry or wet. Depending on the preparation technique, you only need to figure out the best serving method. If you’re only serving your rat plain dog food in the form of treats, no preparation is necessary. You just give your rat a small dog food portion and call it a day. If you’re blending the dog food with other ingredients, I recommend going for a thicker paste which you can separate into balls. You can freeze these to make them more compact, so your rat can crunch them down. This provides the rats with a nutritious meal and an opportunity to grind their ever-growing incisors at the same time.

Dry vs Wet Dog Food for Rats

What type of dog food is best for your rat depends on the rat itself. Let me explain:

Choose wet dog food if:

  • Your rat is old with broken teeth, rendering it unable to chew solid foods anymore
  • Your rat enjoys wet food more than dry one thanks to its taste; wet dog food is generally more palatable than the dry versions
  • You can’t feed your rat for a while – Wet dog food is more filling, delivering long-lasting satiety compared to dry foods. This makes wet food great if you need to leave home for a minute and you want your rat to have a filling meal until you return.

Choose dry dog food if:

  • You have a healthy rat with good teeth that needs the extra grinding challenge; rats need to keep their teeth in good health, which involves grinding harder food items
  • You can’t clean food leftovers too often; dry food is always preferable to wet food in these cases, given that it doesn’t spoil as fast
  • You need to store it for longer; wet food generally comes in ready-to-eat packs, while dry food can be stored for longer after opening the pack

You can choose the option that fits your situation the best.

Best Dog Food for Rats

If you’ve decided to give dog foods a try, consider the following 5 options:

  1. Holistic Dry Dog Food – The holistic part refers to the well-rounded nutrient content and a sizeable probiotic add. This product is great for dogs and rats with sensitive stomachs, as it aids in digestion. Some of the core ingredients contain fiber-rich probiotics, digestible fibers, whole grains, fish protein, etc.
  2. Christopherus Grainfree Senior – Another great option for animals with sensitive stomachs, making this one fit for senior rats. This is a protein-rich product that’s free of colorants or any artificial preservatives. Only feed it to your rat in small portions due to the high fat and protein content.
  3. Hill’s Science Dry Dog Food – This one is great for puppies but can benefit rats as well. The protein content is high, mainly chicken-based, and delivers fish-sourced DHA for brain health and stronger bones. It’s a great fit for juvenile rats that need that extra protein boost to support their growth.
  4. Natural Choice Lite Dog Food – This one is more fitting for less active rats, typically seniors, that need the extra minerals necessary to support their skeletal strength and health. Natural Choice is rich in antioxidants, chondroitin, glucosamine, and taurine, among a variety of other minerals and vitamins.
  5. Wellness Complete Health Dry Food – This one is also amazing for your dog’s and rat’s immune system, skeletal health, and organ functioning. Glucosamine, omega fatty acids, taurine, and vitamins and antioxidants are some of the core ingredients aiding in bone, teeth, skin, and heart health. There are no corn, wheat, gluten, soy, or artificial colorants, or preservatives.

These are decent options for rats, but remember that they’re not ideal. If you’re going for dry food, at least go for rat dry food. There are plenty of rat food options available on the market. These products are designed for rats, so they’re far more nutritious, with none of the downsides associated with dog foods.

Conclusion

Rats can consume dog food with just as much pleasure as they would any other food item. This doesn’t mean that the food itself is good for them. It won’t hurt them in small portions and when used as treats, but don’t include dog food in your rat’s daily diet.

There are more nutritious options out there for your rats.

Rats   Updated: November 25, 2022
avatar I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets.
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