Can I Give My Dog Pork?
Though beef and chicken are probably the most widely consumed meats in the United States (after all, they make up most of the choices available in fast food and sit-down restaurants), pork can’t be far behind. If you’re not watching your meat intake, you probably don’t realize how often you eat pork. The most glamorous pork-based food is probably bacon, which has become something of a pop culture phenomenon in the last decade or so—with a little hunting, anyone can find chocolate-covered bacon, bacon T-shirts, bacon-flavored soda, and even the tools necessary to make the intriguing monstrosities known as ‘bacon bowls’.
Still, bacon is definitely not the only pork the average American eats. Commonly consumed pork products include ham, spare ribs, and even pork rinds. Most of us are not afraid of including pork in our diets, but is it okay to share it with our animal companions? We can’t remember the last time our precious pooches turned down table scraps, but we may have heard rumors about the safety of pork products in the canine diet. Is pig meat really any more dangerous than meat that comes from other animals, like chickens, cows, or turkeys? Can dogs have pork?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat lean, thoroughly cooked pork in small quantities. While it is certainly a bad idea to give your dog a heap of greasy bacon for breakfast, leaner cuts of pig meat that haven’t been fried in oil are generally considered safe. Despite what some online sources may have led you to believe, pig flesh does not contain anything that is known to be poisonous to dogs—giving your furry friend a chunk of pork is not likely to cause kidney failure, shock, or any other symptoms of toxicity. Still, pork is not without its risks, and it is certainly not a health food. Only give pork to healthy dogs as a treat.
The one health benefit associated with feeding pork to dogs is the protein content. Like all meats, pork contains all of the amino acids that your pooch needs in order to maintain health; meat and other animal foods contain what used to be called ‘complete protein’. Though your dog certainly does not need to eat animal protein in order to stay healthy (as long as they get all of the essential amino acids, it doesn’t matter if they eat them in the same meal), meat is often a convenient source of protein for physically active dogs.
Protein is necessary for canine health because it provides the building blocks necessary to make nearly every structure in the body. The amino acids that make up protein are used to build everything from your dog’s heart and powerful jaw muscles all the way to their skin and their soft, luxurious fur coat. Without adequate protein, dogs can suffer from amino acid deficiencies that can cause symptoms like fatigue and skin problems.
Protein is also the most satiating macronutrient, so canines who do not eat enough of it may be prone to overeating. If your dog seems to have a ravenous appetite despite the fact that they are packing on the pounds, check to see how much protein they are eating. Pets who eat diets high in refined sugars and empty carbohydrates are much more likely to deal with constant hunger, weight gain, and insulin resistance. If your dog’s appetite is truly insatiable, consult a veterinarian. They will be able to determine whether your dog is dealing with a poor diet that can be fixed with more protein, or if there is an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.
Eating too much pork, which contains fat and cholesterol, can contribute to weight gain, high cholesterol, and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis, which happens when the pancreas becomes inflamed, can show up in symptoms like depression, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and a swollen or painful abdomen. Left untreated, it can cause serious or life-threatening complications. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis or cardiovascular problems, ask a vet before adding meat to their diet.
Things to Consider
Make sure all pork given to your dog is fresh and fully cooked. Raw pork may be contaminated by parasites, which can cause a condition called trichinosis. If your dog eats undercooked pork and develops symptoms like upset stomach, chronic fatigue, high fever, swelling, and stiffness, consult a vet as soon as possible.
Do not feed pork bones to your dog. Raw or cooked, pork bones may splinter inside of your dog’s stomach, which can result in blockages, choking, and internal bleeding that can be fatal. If your dog needs something to chew on, invest in chews that have been specially made for canines.
In conclusion, most healthy dogs can handle eating fully cooked pork in small quantities, but it isn’t one of the best foods you could give your pets. As long as your pooch does not have a history of pancreatitis or heart disease, feel free to use pork as a treat, but don’t give it to them regularly.