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White husky smelling bacon

The essentials

  • Small amounts of cooked bacon are usually harmless — But just because bacon isn’t acutely toxic to dogs doesn’t mean it’s something they should be eating on a regular basis.
  • Too much bacon can cause health problems — Bacon’s high fat content can cause stomach issues in dogs and eventually lead to more serious health problems like pancreatitis.
  • Opt for healthier treat alternatives than bacon — If you really want to treat your pooch to the taste of bacon, feed them bacon-flavored dog treats or dog food formulated with real bacon.

Dogs love bacon almost as much as people, and we can’t blame them. The cornerstone of hearty breakfasts around the world, bacon smells great, tastes great, and can be cooked to an assortment of appetizing textures. But can dogs eat bacon safely?

Unfortunately, processed meats like bacon contain high levels of salt, saturated fats, and chemical additives that pose major health risks for humans and dogs alike.

While your dog will probably be okay if they eat small quantities of cooked bacon on special occasions, there are healthier treats out there that deliver the same tasty flavor without the downsides. If you’re going to feed your dog bacon, keep some of these things in mind to make sure you  do so in the safest way possible.

Nutritional content of bacon 

It’s important to understand bacon’s nutritional value before feeding it to your dog. Why? For one, it’s important to know exactly what you’re giving them – and it also might make you think twice about your own bacon consumption.

Macronutrients. According to the USDA, the average pack of bacon contains 60 grams of protein, 164 grams of fat, and 1.55 grams of carbohydrates in the form of glucose. Maple or brown sugar bacon varieties may also contain added sugars for flavor. Bacon contains no fiber.

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Bacon is high in potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and B vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12. Potassium promotes nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and heart and kidney function, while phosphorus is necessary for bone health and energy production. Similarly, selenium is important for healthy thyroid gland function and strengthening cells against free radicals.

Sodium content. While bacon is high in select energy-boosting vitamins and minerals, it’s also quite high in sodium. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises adults to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day, and a single slice of bacon contains 210 mg. An entire package of bacon contains 3,320 mg — over double the daily limit. Overconsumption of sodium contributes to potentially lethal health issues including high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Fat content. Roughly 68 percent of the calories in bacon come from fats, and half of those are from saturated fats. Because overconsumption of saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol and increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the AHA recommends limiting your intake to no more than 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that comes out to around 13 grams a day. A single slice of cooked bacon is estimated to contain 1.1 grams of saturated fats.

Effects of bacon on dogs’ health

Because bacon is considered an unhealthy food in general, veterinarians advise against feeding it to your dog. While a small piece here or there is usually fine, nutrients in bacon like salt and fat can negatively impact a dog’s health if consumed in excess.

Impact of high fat content on dogs

Because every dog has different dietary needs, the ideal amount of fat in your dog’s diet will depend on factors like their age and weight. Growing puppies, dogs that are pregnant or nursing, active dogs, and underweight dogs generally need higher levels of fat in their diet, while overweight dogs, inactive dogs, and dogs suffering from certain conditions like hyperlipidemia require lower levels.

While certain fats like omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids can be beneficial to a dog’s health, high-fat foods like bacon can cause unwanted weight gain, obesity, and other life-threatening conditions like pancreatitis.

Damage from high salt content

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a natural substance that dogs need, but eating too much can be potentially life-threatening. Consuming too much sodium results in dehydration and triggers symptoms including fast heartbeat, confusion, shortness of breath, and fainting. Dogs with too much salt in their blood can also experience shaking and jerking as a result of stiff, dehydrated muscles, as well as more serious symptoms including convulsions, coma, and death.

Effects of heat-induced toxins

Meat cooked at high temperatures (typically above 300 degrees Fahrenheit) or cooked for long periods of time has an increased risk of developing chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which have been found to trigger changes in the consumer’s DNA that may increase their risk of cancer. This applies to both dogs and humans. These toxins are most likely to form as a result of high-temperature cooking methods like pan frying — one of the most common ways bacon is cooked.

Nutritional deficiencies

Since bacon is mainly high in unhealthy saturated fats, it’s not considered a nutritionally dense food. Feeding your dog a large amount of bacon (or other unhealthy human foods) can spoil their appetite and leave them uninterested in their standard dog food, subsequently resulting in deficiencies for key nutrients like complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Poor nutrition   weakens a dog’s immune system and opens the door to a host of ailments including obesity, pancreatitis, and diabetes.

Symptoms of bacon overconsumption in dogs  

As explained above, too much bacon can lead to a few different health problems for dogs. Be on the lookout for signs of these conditions after feeding bacon to your dog.

Pancreatitis. This condition is characterized by an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that normally helps the body break down fats by secreting the enzymes lipase and amylase. However, when a dog’s pancreas is inflamed, it releases these digestive enzymes into itself instead of the small intestine. This can result in a loss of appetite, loss of energy, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weakness, and a hunching or curving of the back in response to abdominal pain.

Salt poisoning. Also known as salt toxicosis or hypernatremia, salt poisoning is caused by the overconsumption of sodium chloride, i.e. salt. This is less likely to happen if your dog has continuous access to fresh water, but can be life-threatening in severe cases, contributing to conditions such as kidney damage and high blood pressure.Common signs of salt poisoning include dehydration, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Food poisoning. Raw meat harbors harmful pathogens like salmonella, e.coli, and trichinella parasites, all of which can give dogs food poisoning. Symptoms include dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. Since food poisoning can be quite serious in severe cases, it’s best to seek immediate veterinary attention if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms.

👉 Only ever feed your dog cooked bacon. 

Veterinary perspective on dogs and bacon 

Animal products like pork are more likely to trigger allergic reactions in dogs, triggering uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, vomiting, chronic gas and diarrhea, itchy skin, rashes, and hives. Pair this with all of bacon’s other unhealthy qualities, and it’s easy to see why most vets advise against feeding your dog bacon — even as an occasional treat.

In addition to its high fat and salt content, bacon often has preservatives such as nitrates which are unhealthy for most dogs. It is recommended leaner meats such as chicken or turkey are used for treats to avoid any digestive issues.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

How to feed your dog bacon safely 

If you’re set on feeding your dog bacon, it’s essential to take the proper steps in preparing and serving the meat. Never feed your dog undercooked or raw bacon.

Consider the serving size — At most, you should only give your dog a small piece of bacon. Since each piece is loaded with sodium and saturated fats, feeding them too much bacon can quickly lead to unwanted health problems.

Serve bacon in moderation — Just because most dogs can eat a little bacon doesn’t mean you should be giving it to them every day. On the occasions when you do feed them bacon, try to limit the amount to no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. If your dog normally eats 500 calories a day, only 50 calories should be coming from bacon (about 1 slice).

Think about alternative treats — There are several ways to give your dog a delicious and nutritious treat without all the downsides of bacon. Vet-formulated treats are packed with essential nutrition and can even be bought with bacon flavoring to give your dog the same great taste. Alternatively, you can feed them healthy human foods like boneless cooked chicken, plain cooked eggs, or plant-based snacks like carrots and apple slices. These foods contain the proteins, fats, fiber, and vitamins dogs need to thrive, and they’re sure to enjoy them just as much as bacon.

As long as you understand the health risks and take care to thoroughly cook the bacon, there’s probably no reason to panic if your dog eats a small piece or two. Only feed your dog bacon as a rare treat, and make sure the bulk of your dog’s diet is made up of high-quality, vet-formulated commercial dog food.  When in doubt, consult a professional to make sure you’re giving your pup all the nutrients they need to live a healthy, happy life.

Frequently asked questions

Can I feed my dog cooked bacon?

Yes. While it’s not advised that you feed your dog bacon in any form, you need to make sure the bacon is thoroughly cooked if you are planning on feeding it to your dog. Most dogs can handle a piece or two of cooked bacon as an occasional treat — but raw and undercooked bacon contains harmful pathogens that can cause food poisoning.

Can my dog eat one piece of bacon?

Probably. While every dog is different, most dogs should be okay with eating just one piece of bacon every now and then. However, if your dog already suffers from a condition like pancreatitis or diabetes, it’s best to avoid feeding them bacon altogether.

Why are dogs not allowed to eat bacon?

Bacon is an unhealthy food for dogs and humans alike. It’s a fatty food that’s high in salt and chemical additives like nitrates, which have been proven to increase the consumer’s risk of serious illnesses like cancer. That’s why most vets advise owners to opt for bacon-flavored dog treats instead of actual bacon.

What kind of bacon is safe for dogs?

It’s generally safe for most dogs to consume a piece or two of cooked bacon as an occasional treat. However, since bacon is unhealthy in any amount, your dog will probably be better off with a healthier treat alternative like plain cooked chicken or scrambled eggs.

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