Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky? Is Beef Jerky Safe for Dogs?

As dog owners, many of us feed our dogs pieces of our meals all the time. With some foods, this isn’t a major concern as they can be harmless treats that won’t have any negative effects on your dog’s health. But other foods can be harmful and even potentially fatal.

Sometimes, the foods that can be dangerous for our dogs might be surprising. That’s the case with beef jerky, a food that most of us would assume is perfectly safe for your dog to consume. While that may seem like the case, upon closer examination, you’ll see that beef jerky isn’t the safest of snacks for your canine.

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Why Is Beef Jerky Dangerous for Dogs?

When you think of foods that are toxic for dogs, beef jerky isn’t likely to be at the front of the list. In fact, it’s probably not on the list at all!

Many people would assume that since it’s just meat and that it’s very similar to the meat sticks you purchase as treats for your dog and probably won’t hurt your pup at all.

On the surface, this seems like a safe statement. But once you dive deeper into the ingredients used in beef jerky, you’ll see that this isn’t quite the case.

But you might object, beef jerky isn’t just made with beef!

No doubt, beef is the main ingredient. But what about all the preservatives used to keep it safe without refrigeration? And how about all the spices that give it that great flavor? Unfortunately, these are the ingredients that aren’t good for dogs.

homemade beef jerky
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Sodium Content

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans should be limiting their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day at a maximum. A quick internet search will reveal that a single ounce of beef jerky contains 590 milligrams of sodium. So even for us, a single serving of beef jerky has more than one-quarter of your day’s recommended maximum sodium intake.

Now let’s look at how that compares for your dog. The Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources says that a 33-pound dog should be consuming a maximum of 100 milligrams of sodium per day. If you double that for a 66-pound dog, a pretty sizable pooch, that’s still a maximum of 200 milligrams of sodium intake per day.

Let’s compare that to the beef jerky. A single ounce has 590 milligrams of sodium, but your pooch can only eat 200 milligrams in a day. That means that an ounce of beef jerky contains about three times as much sodium as your dog can safely consume in a single day.

If your dog is just 33 pounds, then that same ounce of beef jerky contains approximately six times as much sodium as your dog can safely ingest in an entire day. So, what happens if you feed your dog two ounces or even three? You’ll be going over their daily recommended sodium intake by a massive margin.

Spices

Sodium isn’t the only dangerous compound for your dog that’s found in beef jerky.

We love beef jerky for the delicious flavor, which is produced by a particular blend of spices that makes it so tasty. While those spices just add flavor for us, they can do a lot worse for our pooches who aren’t meant to eat some of those spices at all.

In beef jerky, two spices, in particular, don’t do well with our dogs — onion and garlic.

Onion and garlic are part of the allium family of plants. These plants can damage organs and even red blood cells. This can lead to difficulty breathing when the blood cells can no longer carry oxygen through your dog’s body.

So, this means that the very spices that make beef jerky so delicious for us are the same spices that make it dangerous for your dog.

sick puppy
Image credit: Bruno Cervera, Pexels

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Human Beef Jerky vs Dog Jerky

So far, we’ve been discussing beef jerky that was made for humans. But what about jerky made specifically for dogs?

In general, dog-specific jerky is going to be healthier than human alternatives. Jerky for dogs generally has far fewer ingredients. This means fewer spices and far less sodium, which can result in a much healthier treat for your four-legged family member.

When looking for dog jerky, take a look at the ingredients list. You want to find jerky that has as few ingredients as possible. In fact, if it has just a single ingredient, that’s the best bet.

Did Dog Jerky Kill Over 1,000 Canines?

You might have heard a scary news story ran by NBC in 2014 about dogs dying after consuming dog jerky treats. This is absolutely true and over 1,000 dogs died.

The jerky that killed these dogs was imported from China. As it turns out, the dogs were getting kidney disease because these treats were contaminated.

Obviously, you need to be careful with what treats you feed your dog. Just because they’re sold in a store and are labeled dog treats doesn’t make them safe. This is why we recommend taking a look at the ingredients list and finding out what’s really inside of those treats before feeding them to your beloved pet.

Also, as a general rule of thumb, you should stay away from low-end dog treats.

plate of beef jerky
Image: Pikist

Homemade Jerky vs Store Bought

A final question that many ask pertains to homemade jerky: is it as bad as store-bought jerky for your canine?

It depends on how you make it. One great thing about making jerky yourself is that you know exactly what it contains. You can keep out any of the harmful additives, keep the sodium levels low, and even avoid adding in spices so that it’s safe for your pooch.

If you do all these things, then your homemade beef jerky should be perfectly safe for your dog’s consumption.

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Conclusion

Though beef jerky may seem like a harmless treat to offer your dog, the truth is that it can be dangerous due to the preservatives and spices. The high levels of sodium present in beef jerky can cause your dog to ingest many times more salt than they should consume in a single day.

Worse, the onion and garlic used to add flavor to beef jerky can actually be very harmful to your dog. Stick to dog jerky and homemade treats instead of feeding your furry friend harmful human jerky.


Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons