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Can dogs eat bacon?

Strips of bacon piled up on a cutting board

Caring for your dog is by no means a walk in the park! Knowing which foods your dog can and can’t eat is critical for keeping him safe and healthy. And since dogs are so curious (and typically don’t think before they eat!), it’s not always an easy task.

There is actually a huge variety of ‘human’ foods that dogs can eat—and that harbor nutritional benefits for them. Pup parents are often surprised to learn how varied their dog’s diet can be when they add in fruits, vegetables, and other so-called people foods.

The trick is to know what’s good and what isn’t—and one food that regularly causes a lot of confusion is bacon!

Bacon is a type of cured meat made from various cuts of pork, usually the pork belly or the fatty back cuts. We all know that dogs are meat eaters; their ancestors lived on wild animals, which is why dogs’ teeth are designed for tearing and chewing flesh. 

What’s more, dogs love bacon (and things that smell like bacon)! Just like humans, they find the smell, texture, and salty flavor of bacon irresistible. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. So, can you feed your dog bacon?

Is bacon good for dogs to eat?

No! Bacon might be a meat, but it’s not the type of meat that will benefit any dog. In fact, it may have some serious drawbacks for your dog’s health.

Bacon is very different from plain cooked pork. Unlike some other cuts of meat you might get from the butcher or supermarket, bacon can come from any part of the pig. And it usually comes from the parts that have the highest fat content. In the US, the most popular form of bacon is ‘streaky’ bacon (also known as side bacon), which is cut from pork belly.

The meat then goes through a curing process, in which it is rubbed with salt and other seasonings. This adds flavor and cures the meat over a period of a week or two. This obviously increases the content of sodium and additives. Not good for a dog! 

The risks of giving your dog bacon

There are many reasons why bacon isn’t a healthy option for your dog. 

Bacon is high in sodium

Healthy dogs weighing 33 pounds should consume no more than 100 mg of sodium a day, according to the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. However, the salt content of just one ounce of bacon is around 400 milligrams! That’s four times your dog’s recommended allowance. 

Dogs may be able to tolerate the high sodium content in the odd dog treat, but too much salt on a regular basis can lead to serious health issues. It can even be fatal. 

High amounts of salt will absorb water in the body, causing your dog to become extremely thirsty. His circulatory system and kidneys will have to work harder to cope with the imbalance of fluid and sodium. In the worst case, sodium ion poisoning can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.

Bacon is high in saturated fat

The high fat content of bacon is very difficult for your dog’s digestive system to process.  

This can lead to serious gastrointestinal distress or tummy upset in some dogs. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Over time, regular bacon treats can lead to pancreatitis. This is an inflammatory disease caused by digestive enzymes attacking the pancreas. It typically occurs when dogs eat too many fatty foods. Smaller dog breeds such as schnauzers, poodles, and cocker spaniels are even more prone to pancreatitis than other breeds.

Bacon contains a range of harmful additives

Cured meats often contain a host of flavourings such as garlic powder, onion powder, maple chili, honey chipotle, pepper, and brown sugar. Each of these can irritate your dog’s gut and increase the potential for GI problems. Dried garlic and onion are actually toxic for dogs.

Bacon also contains more harmful additives such as nitrates and nitrites. High-heat cooking causes these additives to form compounds called nitrosamines. These are known carcinogens. In fact, they’re as dangerous to humans as they are to dogs. 

Alternatives to bacon for your dog

It’s important to realize that dogs don’t require anything in bacon. There are plenty of other sources of meat and protein that are much safer and more beneficial for your dog. 

Remember, dogs may love meat, but they’re actually omnivorous. This means their bodies can obtain nutrients from both plants and animals. 

Instead of filling your dog up on unnecessary calories, fat, and sodium, stick to leaner and healthier protein sources. Freshly cooked chicken, beef, or fish are great options (but make sure they’re free from added salt and preservatives). The odd serving of liver also provides an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Combine these meats with plant-based nutrients where possible. This can include vegetables like carrots, peas, and asparagus, or fruits such as blueberries and strawberries

Of course, there are bound to be occasions when a friend or family member feeds your beloved pooch a piece of bacon as a treat, If your dog does happen to eat bacon, keep an eye on him over the next 24–48 hours. If any negative symptoms appear, be sure to call your veterinarian immediately.

The article was written by Katie Stone on December 23, 2020.

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