In an Emergency Can You Eat Pet Food?

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Desperate times call for desperate measures.  However, when you find yourself in a desperate situation, you need to remember that common sense must prevail.  If you find yourself unable to buy enough food to sustain you, you may consider eating pet food. But is pet food safe for human consumption?

Can you eat pet food? Yes, you could likely eat pet food and be okay. However, it is not recommended. 

In this article, you will learn about reasons pet food may be safe for human consumption as well as cautions to be aware of if you are attempting to eat pet food. 

What is Pet Food Made Of?

Before you jump to open a can or bag of pet food to eat it, you need to be aware of the ingredients that go into most pet foods.  Notice the term most. There are many varieties of pet food, so there are many ingredients used.   

According to the Skaer Veterinary Clinic, there are a vast amount of ingredients that can be found in pet foods; in fact, they have created a 23-page document that gives a complete list of pet food ingredients.  

Among these ingredients are:

Vitamins and Minerals: Just like any food item, there are going to be several added vitamins and minerals.  While many of the required vitamins and minerals are like those needed by humans, they have been formulated for animals, so there may be some discrepancies in the amount needed for total health.

Artificial Flavors and Coloring: Animal food is not exempt from flavoring and colors; however, because this food is made for an animal, the coloring and flavors will likely be more suitable for an animal’s palate. 

Meat/ Protein Source: Most pet food has some form of meat-based protein included.  When thinking about the meat aspect, this is not the meat you are used to consuming.  The meat sources in most foods are animal by-products (or the parts people would not eat).  They are not held to the standards human-grade food is held to, so that could be problematic. 

Corn: Corn is frequently used as a filler in pet food.  While this may provide sustenance, it is not likely to provide enhanced nutritional content. 

Dried Blood Meal: This is taken directly from animal blood and processed into a dried form before being included in the food. 

Eggs and Egg Products: The eggs that are found in pet food are often eggs that would not usually be eaten by humans; this includes the shell. There is calcium in the shells, which is essential for animals to consume. 

Rice/Oats/ Wheat/Other Grains: There are often many grains included in pet food that serve the purpose of making the food more digestible for animals. 

Soybean Hulls/ Flour/Meal: Pet foods do not use just part of the soybean; they tend to use all of it, including the outside shell.  This is not typically a part of the human diet and can cause issues if you attempt to digest it. 

This list is far from comprehensive, but it provides a picture of the array of ingredients that are often included in pet foods. While the ingredients will likely not cause harm to you, they may be difficult to digest. 

How Can Pet Food be Dangerous for Humans?

After reading about the multiple ingredients, you may be left sitting and wondering what would happen to you if you tried to eat your pet’s food. You must remember it is formulated to be appealing to an animal, not a human. 

Therefore, it is essential to remember these critical details before sampling your furry friends’ food:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The standards set for food that is being consumed by humans are much more strictly enforced than those set for pet food.  While the FDA does pay attention to pet food production, the standards are different.  The ingredients in pet food sound like something a human could consume, but because of the limited standards, it may be detrimental to your health to do so.

Bruce Y. Lee explains some of the vast disparities between human and animal food in his article, Serena Williams Shows Why You Should Not Eat Dog Food. When looking at beef, for example, there are strict standards regarding which portions are safe for human consumption, so you know exactly what you are getting at the store. When it comes to pet food, there are no limits to what can be included.  Some of the parts that may be included are bones, hide, feces, brain, and udder.  While pets can safely consume and digest these items, humans cannot. 

Nutritional Value: Pet food lacks the nutrition humans need to be healthy.  While the vitamins are like those needed by humans, they are not going to fulfill all the nutritional needs of a human. You could also be getting an excess of vitamins that are not necessary for humans to consume, which can cause illness.  

Germs: According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), both canned and dried food can contain germs that could potentially be harmful to both pets and humans.  If you have the choice between eating and not eating pet food, this may be reason enough to stay away. 

Human-Grade Pet Food

Recently, a new type of pet food has hit the market labeled as human-grade.  If you focus on those words only, you may think this indicates a specific level of safety, which could influence humans to attempt to eat the kibble. 

Ryan Yamka shares some of the reasons you shouldn’t be fooled by the human-grade label in his article, Are Human-Grade Foods Really Human-Grade? The label human-grade does not indicate a finished product that can be safely consumed by humans.  The term human-grade refers to the process by which the food is manufactured, stored, and transported.  It must be held to the sanitation standards of human food, but it may still not be fit for humans to eat safely. 


If you are in a position where you think pet food may be cheaper to buy than regular food, think again. Pet food is quite costly and will likely force you to spend more on a less nutritional option that could lead to illness and possibly death. 


In an emergency, convenience is likely a driving force to many of the decisions you will make.  In the case of pet food, the convenience of pulling kibble out of a bag or popping open a can may be a time-saver, but you also have to remember the health factors that will likely go along with this convenience. 

Shelf Life

The option of pet food may be appealing in an emergency because of the length of time you can store it before it goes bad.  Typically, dry pet food can last, unopened, for one year, while canned food can be used for up to two years after purchase. 

If this is a factor in your decision to utilize pet food in case of an emergency, you may want to look at other canned food options such as soup and grains. These items have a more extended shelf life than pet food and have a higher nutritional value to humans because they can be digested. 

Final Thoughts

It may be tempting to think about the possibility of eating pet food in an emergency, but it is advisable to avoid this option if possible.  You will likely not save yourself any money by eating pet food. If anything, you could be creating a medical bill for yourself if you end up sick from your decision. Pet food may lead you to believe it is all-natural and human-grade, but this is typically not the case. Save the pet food for pets and stick to human food for yourself.


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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