All dog owners know that dogs are able to eat meat. In fact, almost all dog foods contain meat, most commonly chicken and turkey.
Knowing this, it’s natural to think that dogs might be able to eat other meats. For example, you might consider feeding your dog pork. But is it healthy and safe for a dog to eat pork?
The answer to this question is a little bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. In some circumstances, it can be okay to feed your dog pork. But it’s definitely not true that you can always feed your dog any manner of pork products. In many cases, you could harm your dog by doing so.
Can Dogs Eat Pork?
It can be fine to feed your dog pork under the right circumstances. In order to be suitable for a dog to eat, pork should be cooked thoroughly and unseasoned. While a plain piece of pork with no spices or seasonings might not sound very attractive to you, this is the right way to serve pork to a dog.
The reason the pork should be unseasoned is that most types of pork seasonings contain elements that are harmful to your dog’s health.
Onion, Garlic and Other Harmful Seasonings
Two seasonings very commonly found in pork prepared for humans are onion and garlic. (In fact, onion and garlic are used in all manner of human foods.) Both onions and garlic are hazardous to a dog’s health.
Onions and garlic contain a compound called thiosulfate, and this compound is uniquely hazardous to dogs, cats and certain other creatures. Thiosulfate damages a dog’s red blood cells, and can cause death if eaten in high enough concentration.
Because garlic and onion are so commonly found in human food, it’s usually a good idea to limit the amount of human food a dog eats. And this is true of pork prepared for people to eat in many cases.
Beyond onions and garlic, pork prepared for humans may contain spices like nutmeg which are toxic for dogs, or may feature large amounts of butter, oil and other added fats. Pork recipes may also contain large amounts of salt, which isn’t good for dogs either.
The bottom line is that while cooked unseasoned pork may be alright for dogs, most preparations aimed toward humans will contain ingredients your dog shouldn’t be eating.
Eating Raw Pork
You should never feed your dog raw pork, no more than you yourself should eat raw pork. The reason in both cases is the risk of a parasitic infection called trichinosis. Trichinosis is caused by a larval parasite called the trichinella spiralis, and can be found in pork from time to time.
Today, trichinosis is far less of a problem than it was in years past, but the risk remains when eating uncooked pork. Both humans and dogs are susceptible to trichinosis, which causes a range of unpleasant symptoms from vomiting to muscle pain to fever.
Cooking pork thoroughly eliminates the risk of trichinosis. As such, if you’re feeding your dog pork make sure to cook it thoroughly. For ground pork, this means an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For other pork, it’s 145 degrees.
Allergies and Intolerances
Assuming you steer clear of harmful supplemental ingredients and cook pork thoroughly, many dogs will be able to eat it safely. However, this isn’t universally true. Some dogs will still have trouble digesting pork without side effects.
Pork tends to be a fairly fat-rich meat. As a result, some dogs can have trouble digesting it, especially in large quantities. The leaner the better when it comes to meat for a dog. Fattier cuts of pork may cause your dog intestinal troubles.
Additionally, a small percentage of dogs are allergic to pork, just like they can be allergic to other normally-safe meats and foods. Dogs suffering a pork allergy will have trouble eating pork even if prepared correctly.
Because of these factors, if you’re planning to feed your dog pork you should use caution. Start off with a small portion of pork the first time. Observe your dog after he or she eats the pork.
If you see any instances of vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stool, or if your dog appears to be in pain or discomfort or seems lethargic, your dog may not be able to eat pork.
What About Preserved Pork Products?
So far, we’ve discussed feeding dogs cooked pork. But what about preserved pork products ranging from bacon to ham to other delicious pork preparations.
While these foods might be tasty, they are most certainly not suitable for your dog. Even if you want to feed your dog pork, make sure to stick with unseasoned cuts of pork or ground pork cooked thoroughly. Ham, bacon and other preserved pork products should never be fed to dogs.
There are a couple of problems with feeding preserved pork products to dogs. The first is sodium. Preserved pork is almost always high in sodium, as the salt acts as a preservative in keeping the meat unspoiled.
Unlike humans, dogs aren’t built to consume significant amounts of sodium. While too much sodium can be harmful to people, dogs have far less threshold for sodium consumption before it starts to hurt their health.
Preserved pork also tends to be extremely high in fat, and as we previously covered dogs aren’t equipped to digest foods high in fat.
The combination of salt and fat makes foods like bacon wonderful treats for us, but they also make them unsuitable for your dog.
If Not Pork, What Can Dogs Eat Instead?
If you don’t want to feed your dog dog food but you decide that pork is unsuitable, what alternatives exist? The good news is that leaner poultry meats are ideally suited for dogs to eat.
Chicken and turkey both tend to be great protein sources for dogs, and can be fed to dogs in conjunction with rice for a healthy foundation for a dog’s diet.
Like with pork, it’s important to cook chicken or turkey thoroughly and avoid using seasonings and spices. Plain meat is more than good enough for your dog.
The only other thing to keep in mind if you’re avoiding dog food is that your dog may end up missing certain vitamins and minerals if you don’t supplement their diet.
In the wild, dogs and other carnivorous animals eat organs which are rich in certain nutrients. Feeding your dog solely on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice won’t meet all those needs. You can find vitamin supplements that will give your dog all the additional vitamins they need to be healthy.