Tell the truth. Haven’t you been in the supermarket and thought about buying beef jerky for your dog? I was in the store today and very nearly bought a bag when I saw it at the register. It’s beef, right? It’s tasty. Shouldn’t it be good for dogs in small bites? Actually, there is some controversy about giving dogs beef jerky. Let’s find out more about dogs and beef jerky.
Beef Jerky Nutrition
You might be surprised to learn that beef jerky is considered to be a nutritious snack – for humans. However, it is high in sodium/salt. It’s a dried or dehydrated lean, trimmed meat that’s cut into strips. It’s dried at low temperature, with salt added, to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.
Many commercial beef jerky products are marinated with a spice rub or liquid. Some are smoked. Some have brown sugar or other sweeteners added. They can be similar to cured meats. Jerky is ready to eat when you buy it.
In some jerky products, sugar is the second most common ingredient after beef.
One large piece of beef jerky (20 grams) such as you might commonly find in a grocery store has about 32 percent protein, 56 percent fat, and 12 percent carbohydrates. This beef jerky is a good source of zinc. It has a glycemic load of 1.
On the down side, this beef jerky is high in saturated fat and very high in sodium.
One piece of beef jerky has just 82 calories, 6.6 grams of protein, and 2.2 grams of carbohydrates. It has 5.1 grams of fat. With the exception of zinc and sodium, most of the vitamins and minerals are very low in this serving though it does provide some folate, iron, and phosphorus. It has small amounts of vitamin B12, copper, choline, selenium, potassium, thiamine, magnesium, riboflavin, and niacin.
Since beef jerky is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, it’s often considered to be a healthier snack than chips and sweets. It’s sometimes a favorite with people on paleo and low-carb diets.
Beef jerky is also easy to carry and it has a long shelf life so it’s popular with people who hike and enjoy outdoor activities.
There are negatives to eating beef jerky, especially if you have some health problems. One ounce of beef jerky makes up almost one-fourth of your daily sodium requirement. Too much sodium can be bad for your heart and for your blood pressure. If you need to restrict your sodium intake, beef jerky should probably be off-limits.
Beef jerky is usually a highly processed food if you buy the manufactured version. Processed, cured meats are often linked to a higher risk of certain cancers, especially gastrointestinal cancers. You can always make your own beef jerky if you have a food dehydrator at home. You can control the amount of salt and other ingredients added.
If you are making your own beef jerky at home, start with a good lean cut of beef and slice it into thin pieces. Marinade the pieces as you prefer. Pat dry and place the pieces in a meat dehydrator at 155–165°F (68–74°C) for approximately 4–5 hours — depending on the thickness of the meat. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can achieve similar results by baking in your oven at a low temperature — approximately 140–170°F (60–75°C) for 4–5 hours. You can allow the jerky to dehydrate another 24 hours at room temperature before packaging. If you don’t plan to use it within a week, it’s best to freeze it.
Dried, cured meats such as beef jerky can also be contaminated with mycotoxins according to some studies. If you find fuzzy, dusty, or furry patches on your beef jerky, throw it out. However, not all white patches on beef jerky are mold. Some white patches can be fat or salt which are safe to eat.
All of this means that it’s best to eat beef jerky in moderation.
Should You Give Your Dog Beef Jerky?
It depends. Some beef jerky is loaded with spices such as garlic, onion, pepper, and lots of salt. Other beef jerky, such as some that you might make yourself, could be milder, without all the spices. In general, it’s best if you don’t share store-bought beef jerky with your dog.
There are lots of good beef treats for dogs. There are even beef jerky treats, made in the USA, especially for dogs. We suggest that your dog would enjoy them. They would usually be safer for your dog than beef jerky for humans.
What about Jerky Products Made in Other Countries?
Some people may have worries about giving their dogs any jerky treats made for dogs because of stories about dogs getting sick from eating jerky treats a few years ago. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) received over 6000 complaints about jerky treats and it was reported that some 1,140 dogs died from eating these treats made by various companies between 2007 and 2015. Most of the reports involved chicken jerky treats. Most of the problems reported were linked to pet jerky treats sourced from China. The FDA is continuing to investigate but there are very few reports of any problems now.
How Much Beef Jerky Can You Give Your Dog?
If you plan to give your dog any beef jerky made for humans, remember that it is very high in sodium. A dog weighing 30 pounds only requires about 100 mg of sodium per day. One large piece of beef jerky contains 416 mg of sodium! That’s (obviously) more than four times as much sodium as your dog needs in a day. With that much sodium, your dog could become dehydrated very easily.
If you are going to share a little beef jerky with your dog, only give him a pinch of the jerky for a taste.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Beef Jerky?
Don’t give your dog beef jerky very often unless you make the jerky yourself and you know that it is low in sodium. Commercial beef jerky is too high in sodium for your dog to eat very often even if you are only giving your dog a small amount.
The protein in beef jerky seems like it would make this food a good treat for your dog but it’s so high in sodium and some other spices that it can be harmful to your dog. If you dehydrate the meat yourself and make beef jerky at home, it can be safe for your dog. However, if you are buying beef jerky in the store, it’s best to avoid giving it to your dog. There are some good, safe beef jerky products made for dogs that you can buy. Buy beef jerky products for dogs made in the USA and they should be safe.