Can I Give My Dog Beef?
Man’s best friend has long relied on the nutritional prowess of us humans. In centuries past, nutrition was all about getting enough food to keep your body moving—our canine companions ate whatever table scraps we were willing to part with. Food was simple, science had not yet invented high fructose corn syrup or princess-shaped macaroni and cheese, and most of us were too busy worrying about meeting our caloric needs to even begin to ponder the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein for our own human bodies, much less the protein needs of our pets.
Today, however, people are obsessed with the intricacies of nutrition—both for themselves and for their pets. The Internet is full of fierce debates over the pros and cons of feeding your pets grain-free, raw meat, high-fat, or low-carbohydrate diets. Many of the pet parents who try to lead their lives as ‘naturally’ as possible buy into the idea that our furry friends do best on strict diets of raw meat fresh off the cow, but what’s the truth? Should your dog live on steak? If not, can they eat it as an occasional treat? Can dogs have beef?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat fully cooked lean beef in moderation. Though it is not a good idea to give your dog fatty meats such as hamburgers or fried foods, giving them small quantities of minimally seasoned lean beef will probably not cause any serious health problems. Dogs are omnivores who are well-suited to eating meat in most situations. That said, beef is also one of the most common canine allergens, so you should keep their portions small and monitor them for any negative side effects. It is also important to remember that beef is extremely high in fat and calories.
Though proponents of raw meat diets love to point out that dogs are descended from carnivorous wolves, this line of thinking can lead to some dangerous dietary mistakes. You should never attempt to construct a natural, whole food dog for your diet without the close guidance of a veterinarian—dogs have nutritional needs that differ vastly from our own, so many attempts to put together homemade dog food result in dangerous nutritional deficiencies.
It’s also worth noting that your dog is not a wolf. Dogs have many physical differences that alter their dietary needs. Even if you were to adopt a pack of healthy young huskies, they would not be able to thrive on an all-meat diet. Dogs are omnivores who tend to do best on a diet that contains some amount of plant foods.
That said, in moderation, beef is not without its perks. The biggest reason to eat almost any type of meat is its high protein content. Whereas carbohydrates are easy to burn for quick energy, protein is important because it provides the raw materials that make up many of the structures in your dog’s body. Consuming adequate protein is crucial for maintaining strong, healthy skin, fur, nails, muscles, and internal organs. Protein is a key part of wound healing, growth, and recovery from strenuous exercise.
Dogs who struggle with fatigue, depression, skin problems, or obesity may benefit from eating a larger percentage of their calories from protein. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so you may find that your pup is less likely to beg if you replace some of their carbohydrate-laden table scraps with a small portion of lean beef. Like most animal proteins, beef contains all of the essential amino acids necessary for your dog to build and maintain a healthy body.
Beef is loaded with protein, but it is also rather high in fat, which can cause serious health problems for your pooch. If you feed your dog too much fat and cholesterol, they may develop cardiovascular problems or pancreatitis. Both of these conditions can become chronic or life-threatening. If your dog has a history of either of these conditions, you should probably minimize the amount of meaty treats they consume.
Things to Consider
As previously mentioned, beef is also extremely caloric, and extra calories can add up quickly. If you decide to give your dog beef on a regular basis, you have to reduce the amount of kibble and other treats they consume in order to make sure they do not become overweight or obese. Obesity is just as unhealthy for our pets as it is for us, so, if they start to waddle, get your pudgy pup examined by a vet.
Important: any meat given to your dog should be fully cooked. While it is true that your dog may be able to digest raw meat, the beef purchased in supermarkets is often contaminated with E. Coli and other dangerous bacteria. Cooking beef is the only way to make sure that any dangerous pathogens are destroyed.
In conclusion, lean beef can be a part of a healthy doggy diet, but it should not serve as the foundation. Most dogs do not do well on diets that consist of large quantities of meat, so this high-fat, protein-rich food should only be fed to them in moderation.