Can Dogs Eat Bacon?
Human foods like raisins and grapes, chocolate, and peanut butter can be toxic and even deadly for dogs. Reports of various food-related deaths have encouraged pet owners to ask about the safety of foods like bacon and other meats. Learn more about what foods are safe for dogs in our Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat.
So…can dogs eat bacon?
The answer to this question is… yes, they can! Most dogs love the smell, texture, and salty flavor of bacon. Remember though, just because dogs can eat bacon doesn’t mean they should. Bacon is a fatty food with high sodium (salt) content that can cause health problems in some dogs.
Bacon comes from the belly, sides, or back of a pig. On its own, it can be fried, grilled, or baked. It’s also a popular addition to salads, pastas, and omelets and can be wrapped around other meats or vegetables like steak or asparagus. Bacon has an amazing, instantly-recognizable aroma and flavor which has made it a favorite among humans and dogs. In fact, Americans are estimated to consume an average of 18 pounds of bacon each year. There are, however, a number of potential side effects to bacon consumption that pet owners should keep in mind.
The Risks of Bacon for Dogs
When feeding bacon to your dog, keep the following risks in mind:
- Because bacon is very high in fat and sodium, pancreatitis or gastrointestinal (GI) upset can develop in some dogs, resulting in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Click here to learn more about pancreatitis.
- Garlic powder, onion powder, maple chili, honey chipotle, pepper, and brown sugar are often used to flavor bacon. Each can increase the potential for GI problems.
- Bacon’s high sodium content can increase thirst. After ingestion of high-sodium foods or snacks, dogs will drink excessive amounts of water. This combination can lead to an emergency condition called bloat.
- Raw or undercooked bacon may contain bacteria or parasites. The larvae of the trichinella spiralis parasite, also known as trichinosis, is transmitted by ingestion of undercooked or raw pork meat. Symptoms of trichinosis include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, and reluctance to move due to muscle pain.
- Some dogs may be allergic to pork. Learn more about Food Allergies in Dogs.
- It is important to consider that human meals containing bacon may include other toxic ingredients. For example, a cobb salad with bacon may also feature onion, garlic, raisins, or fresh grapes, which can be toxic for dogs. Be very careful when feeding leftovers to your dog.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that processed and preserved meats, such as bacon, are considered carcinogenic. Nitrites — chemicals used to “cure” or preserve bacon — can cause gastrointestinal upset in some dogs and are potentially linked to cancer, liver, and heart disease in humans.
- Choking can occur when dogs are fed pork bones. This is more common in small dogs, but it’s a potential risk for dogs of every size. In some cases, pork bones can splinter, causing cuts in the oral mucosa or esophagus.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any food can lead to gastrointestinal upset in dogs. What may not cause illness in one dog, can cause problems for another. If your dog has ingested bacon and is showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or any other problem, please call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency clinic.
Do Dogs Need Bacon or Pork?
There is nothing in bacon required by dogs. That being said, most dogs absolutely love it. Many dog treats and foods are flavored with bacon to increase palatability.
Though we might think of them as carnivores, dogs are actually omnivorous. This means that they can derive nutrition from both plants and animals. Because of the high calorie, fat, and sodium content of bacon, most veterinarians recommend snacks with leaner and healthier protein sources, such as chicken, beef, or fish. While dogs love meat, they can also derive necessary nutrients from vegetables like carrots, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, and kale.
Are There Dog Foods Made with Bacon?
Bacon is a common flavoring for treats and dog foods. Pork can also provide the basis of high-quality dog foods, including grain-free varieties. Dog foods formulated with pork as the primary ingredient may be recommended for dogs with allergies to chicken or beef. Learn more about your dog’s dietary needs here.
The Safest Way to Feed Bacon to Dogs
The safest way to feed bacon to your dog is to offer a small amount of cooked, crispy bacon that has been drained of excess grease. When the bacon is cooked until crispy, most of the fat will be cooked off. It can be drained by allowing the cooked, hot bacon strip to sit on a paper towel-lined plate.
How Much Bacon Can You Feed a Dog?
If your dog tolerates bacon and shows no signs of gastrointestinal upset, you may feed it bacon in small amounts. You can offer a small dog about 1/8 to 1/4 of a strip (dogs < 20 pounds), a medium-sized dog (dogs 21 – 55 pounds) around 1/2 of a strip, and about 3/4 to 1 strip for a large dog (over 55 pounds).