Is Pork Safe for Dogs to Eat?
We hate to go "bacon" your dog's heart, but you may want to think twice before sneaking a slab of pork to your pup at the next backyard barbecue.
Pork became "the other white meat" back in the late 1980s, thanks to a popular advertising campaign that reminded Americans how tasty pig can be. But does that mean pork is perfect for dogs? Is it totally fine to share pork chops, pork rinds, bacon and ham, and other pork-based food with your favorite pooch?
Is Pork Good for Dogs?
There is nothing toxic or poisonous to dogs in pork itself, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline.
Meat and other parts of pigs are included as an ingredient or flavoring in many commercially available dog foods. Those should be formulated to offer dogs a nutritionally balanced and complete diet that includes pork, so pork is not totally off the menu for dogs. However, the kinds of pork and the ways we humans eat pork may not be healthy or safe for your pet (no matter how badly she wants what you're eating).
Can Dogs Eat Pork Bones Safely?
Bones from common pork products, like pork rib bones or pork chop bones, are a hazard for dogs to eat, Schmid says. They can poke a dog in the mouth or gums, but more importantly they can become "foreign body obstructions" (a fancy word for anything that blocks up a dog's digestive system that didn't start in your dog's body).
"Pork bones, cooked or uncooked, are a risk to dogs for causing obstructions that may require surgery," Schmid says. Because the bones—especially dry, cooked bones—are especially prone to breaking off during chewing, she warns: "Slivers of bones can perforate the intestinal tract, leading to sepsis and death."
Better safe than sorry, so steer away from giving pork bones to your dog. The same goes for pork rib bones.
When Pork Can Be Dangerous for Dogs
Before you start assembling the perfect pork roast for you and your dog's dinner, evaluate which preparation methods are safe for your pooch, and which are probably going to give him stomach issues.
Raw Pork: Bacteria's Hiding Place
Raw meat carries contamination risks for you and your dog while preparing or eating.
"Raw pork carries the risk of transmission of a roundworm parasite called Trichinella spiralis," Schmid says, which is why you may have heard of the risk of contracting Trichinosis or Trichinellosis, especially from raw pork.
You and your dog can get Trichinellosis, so skip the raw pork to skip this problem.
RELATED: Raw Food Diet for Dogs: Good or Bad?
Seasoned Pork: Additives Dogs Don't Need
Most recipes in the kitchen and on the backyard grill that start with pork don't end with pork. Usually spices and other additives give people the flavor they want. Some of those additives may be bad for dogs, Schmid says.
"Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs," she says, "but the amount in barbecue rubs and seasonings is not likely to be enough to be a toxicity concern. It may just lead to some stomach upset."
Fat: A Problem With Pancreatitis
Pork can be high in fat. It's part of what pet parents and their pups enjoy about the taste of cooked pork. And fat's not necessarily bad, in moderation. Just like us humans, dogs need a good mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to be healthy.
Too much fat, however, can be difficult for your dog to digest. A particularly high-fat meal can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, which does hard work in our bodies (and our dogs' bodies) to break down food into energy. Pancreatitis can lead to severe organ damage and even death.
Keep any pork you give to your dog as lean as possible.
Processed Pork: Not a Part of a Dog's Regular Diet
Processed pork like seasoned deli ham, bacon, and sausage can taste good. When you buy them from the grocery store or make them yourself, they may be loaded with sugar, salt, additives, and a cooking process that really brings out mouth-watering joy in you and your dog.
That also means it may be loaded with seasonings that don't agree (or are toxic) to your dog as well as excess amounts of fat, sugar, and salt that may be hard on your dog's digestive system. Extra sugar could bother a dog with diabetes, while extra salt may cause problems for a dog with high blood pressure or heart problems. And we already mentioned how fat is rough on dogs with pancreas problems or sensitive stomachs.
Pork rinds, made from pig skin and often deep-fried to be even more fatty, aren't toxic, but they're not good for dogs.
If your dog eats a piece of ham, a slice of bacon, a bit of sausage, or a pork rind of two, they'll probably be fine. But watch for signs of poisoning, and call your veterinarian if vomiting, diarrhea, or other signs linger.
Too much salt, on the other hand, can cause digestive issues known as "bloat" or twisted stomach because your dog may feel dehydrated from high salt foods, drink too much water to compensate, and this could cause their bellies to expand. Bloat is an emergency condition that can potentially be fatal if not treated quickly, so it's best to just prevent it in the first place.
How to Safely Give Your Dog Pork
You can see how pork is not a recommended part of the average dog's diet, or the top choice for a treat off the kitchen counter or the backyard barbecue grill. But if your dog is otherwise healthy and really digs the occasional bit of pork, Schmid recommends you only feed pork fully cooked, plain, and just a small amount (a few tidbits to taste).
If you're enjoying outdoor parties and eating with your favorite canine, consider healthier, lower-calorie, lower-fat options like fruits or vegetables, and steer away from big servings of meat or bones.
"Even a small amount of pork can cause pancreatitis," she warns, "which can be costly to treat, very traumatic for your pet, and potentially fatal."