Can Dogs Have Steak?
Though we love to snuggle our dorky dogs, we also like to remind ourselves that they are directly descended from some of the coolest, fiercest creatures in the forest: wolves. We may insist that our little Labrador would never hurt a fly, but, when we see them tearing the guts out of a new stuffed toy, we can’t help but think of their carnivorous cousins. The dogs we share our homes with live mostly on kibble and carrot sticks, but we can see their inner meat-eater every time we look at them. One look at those sharp teeth and we can’t help but wonder if meat may be better for them than kibble.
Many people love steak, so it seems like a good treat for our domesticated canine companions. But is it safe and healthy? Can you give your dog steak?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat cooked steak in moderation. Lean meat, including beef, are nontoxic sources of nutrition for our pets, and may even be beneficial to their health in moderation. It is important, however, to note that dogs should not live on meat alone (raw or not), and most of your dog’s diet should consist of high quality kibble. If you plan to give your dog a home cooked diet, make sure you have veterinary supervision. Attempts to create ‘natural’ or ‘whole food’ diets for dogs usually result in nutritional deficiencies.
In recent years, those focused on health for themselves and their pets have attempted to allow what is ‘natural’ to guide them; this has led many towards Paleo or raw diets. Unfortunately, our intuition—and our ideas of what is natural—do not always lead us to what is ideal for us or for our pets.
Though we think of wild wolves as subsisting entirely on the flesh of the prey animals they manage to catch, in reality, both wild wolves and domesticated dogs are omnivores—they are capable of eating both animal and plant foods. It is also worth noting that dogs, from Pugs to Dalmatians, are not biologically identical to wolves. Our dogs would not thrive on an all-meat diet the same way that a wolf would—just as a wild wolf would not tolerate moderate amounts of starches like our pet dogs.
So, if you want to give your dog steak because it seems like the most ‘natural’ way for them to eat, you may want to reconsider. That said, there are some potential benefits to feeding your dog small amounts of steak.
One of beef’s biggest assets is its large amounts of protein. Protein provides the raw materials that make up nearly every part of your dog’s body, from their fur, to their toenails, to the muscles that help them twitch their nose and swivel their ears. Animal proteins contain all of the essential amino acids that your dog will need to build and maintain a healthy body. Steak and other beef products are also very high in iron, which may help prevent anemia.
Steak has some drawbacks, too—it is often rather high in calories, fat, and cholesterol. If you supplement your dog’s diet with small amounts of steak, remember to reduce the amount of kibble and other foods that you give them. Most dogs have fairly low caloric needs, so any amount of extra calories can quickly add up and cause weight gain. This is more than a cosmetic issue. Dogs who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop a wide range of diseases, including insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and kidney problems. If your dog is already overweight or obese, avoid giving them calorically dense foods like steak.
Things to Consider
Even if their caloric intake is balanced, too much fat can cause other health problems. Dogs who eat too many high-fat, high-cholesterol foods may develop high cholesterol or pancreatitis, which can both develop into life-threatening illnesses. If your dog has a history of hyperlipidemia, pancreatitis, or cardiovascular problems, avoid giving them steak.
If you decide to prepare some steak for your dog, forego the salt and spices—they do not need them. Trim away as much fat as possible and remove all bones, then cook the steak thoroughly. Do not feed your dog undercooked meat. Though some would claim otherwise, there is very little evidence that raw meat offers any measurable health benefits for our dogs. Undercooked meat is also more likely to contain dangerous bacteria and parasites that can harm your dog’s health. Also make sure to cut the steak into bite-sized pieces before serving it to your pooch; dogs often get excited and may choke on large chunks of meat.
In conclusion, cooked steak is a safe food to feed to your canine companion in moderation. It contains high amounts of protein and iron, which can be beneficial for active or growing dogs. This food should not, however, make up a large part of your dog’s diet, because it is high in calories, fat, and cholesterol. For recommendations on how much you should feed your dog, consult a veterinarian.