Can I Give My Dog Pizza?
Though we love junk food of all kinds, there are only a handful of junk foods that capture our hearts, minds, and imaginations the way that pizza does. Pizza is universally eaten (and loved) throughout most of Europe and the United states, with other countries rapidly catching up as their diets become more westernized. Pizza is fast, easy, and highly customizable. It is a favorite fuel of college students, busy moms, and eight-year-old soccer players across the country. Best of all, pizza is always seasonally appropriate and easy to share.
But speaking of sharing—what about our best friends, our four-legged companions? Should we throw a slice their way on Saturday night? Can dogs have pizza?
While a single slice of pizza every few months probably will not cause immediate, life-threatening health issues, it is not recommended to feed pizza to your dog. Most delivery and frozen pizzas are made almost entirely of ingredients that can only hurt your dog’s health. The measly chunks of vegetables atop combination pizzas are not enough to redeem these fat and carbohydrate bombs, in terms of nutrition. It is true that most dogs will fall over themselves with excitement when presented with a greasy, delicious slice, but if you want to keep them healthy and happy in the long term, you probably want to resist their begging.
Are There Any Health Benefits?
Are there any potential benefits in a slice of pizza? What about a vegetarian pizza loaded with mushrooms and bell peppers?
No, pizza does not have any health benefits. As previously mentioned, the vegetables on top of a slice of pizza will offer little (if any) nutrition—the portions are very small, much of the nutrition has been cooked out of them, and they are often covered in a greasy film that makes it difficult for the body to extract nutrients from them.
Vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes are great for your health (and probably for your dog’s health, too), but once you throw them on top of a lump of fatty cheese and white flour, they lose much of their impact. Pizza is not a tasty way to sneak veggies into your dog’s diet. If you want to give your dog a serving of vegetables, try feeding them baby carrots or sliced cucumbers. They will be far healthier, and almost just as happy as if you gave them pizza. After all, most dogs want to be included more than they actually want pizza. Anything that is not their kibble will suffice.
What’s wrong with pizza? Well, the most obvious problems are the same things that make pizza unhealthy for us: refined flour and high-fat dairy in the form of greasy cheese. Dogs do not handle either of these foods very well. In the short term, giving your dog pizza can cause digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, the high fat content in pizza may even cause your dog to develop a dangerous, painful disease called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is described as sudden inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms vary based on severity, but often include a painful and swollen abdomen, poor appetite, depression and other behavioral changes, low energy, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If the illness is severe, your dog may develop breathing problems, heart arrhythmias, and even permanent damage to the pancreas. That is why it is important to watch your dog’s fat consumption!
Things to Keep in Mind
In the long term, feeding your dog pizza is likely to cause weight gain and increase their risk of developing illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Just as we are likely to grow thicker around the middle if we eat pizza regularly, our dogs will likely get fat if they indulge too often. Obese dogs often lose their love of exercise—it becomes painful for them—and may live shorter, sicker lives than their healthy-weight counterparts. Managing your dog’s weight is an important part of ensuring that they have a good quality of life.
But when it comes to dogs, pizza houses two things far more sinister than refined flour: garlic and onions. These popular pizza toppings are super foods for us humans, but they are extremely poisonous to dogs. These vegetables contain chemicals that damage red blood cells, which can cause a life-threatening condition called Heinz Body Anemia. Symptoms of this dangerous disease include pale gums and mucus membranes, low energy, labored breathing, poor appetite, and vomiting. This condition requires veterinary care, and if you suspect your dog has eaten any garlic or onions, you may want to contact the vet or a pet poison helpline.
In the end, it’s probably better if you resist the urge to slip your dog a slice of pizza on movie night. Pizza offers no nutritional value and carries a lot of health risks, both in the short and long term. If your dog feels left out, prepare a canine-friendly treat for them to munch on while the rest of the family eats pizza.