Are you a fan of bratwurst? Wisconsin and the upper Midwestern states, in particular, are known as a haven for bratwurst lovers. These tasty sausages originated in Germany several hundred years ago. Many German-American sausage makers continued the tradition in the U.S. Are you wondering if you can share your brats with your dog? Your dog may plead for a bite but you should use caution.
Some people use the term “bratwurst” to refer to German sausages in general. Real bratwurst can be made from pork, veal, or beef – or a mixture of these meats. Pork is most common. Typical seasonings used to make bratwurst include ginger, nutmeg, and coriander. Other seasonings include salt, garlic, onion, and red pepper. Bratwurst may contain eggs.
Brats are often compared to hot dogs. However, due to the pork and seasonings used, bratwurst usually has a richer flavor than the basic hot dog. Some people don’t like the flavor of bratwurst. According to sources, there are over 40 different varieties of German bratwurst.
By comparison, hot dogs are usually made from scraps of leftover meat when pigs and cows are butchered. They can be made from chicken, pork, or beef. They are usually seasoned with salt, garlic, and paprika.
Bratwurst is higher in calories and saturated fat than hot dogs. It also has more sodium.
According to nutritional data, one bratwurst link (85 grams) is made up of 79 percent fat. It has 18 percent protein and 3 percent carbs. It has about 283 calories. It has 24.8 grams of fat and 11.7 grams of protein. It is high in several B vitamins as well as phosphorus, zinc, and sodium.
Can you give your dog bratwurst to eat?
If you are cooking brats, there’s a good chance that your dog is going to give you “the look.” That’s the look with the soulful eyes that insist he’s starving. It’s the look that’s hard for most of us to resist. Most dogs love sausages and bratwurst is especially full of fat which makes them very tempting to dogs.
The problem with brats is that they are not just high in fat. They are also high in salt and sodium. In addition, if the sausage contains nutmeg as one of the seasonings, it can be harmful to dogs. Nutmeg contains a naturally-occurring compound called myristicin which can cause serious reactions in dogs including high blood pressure, hallucinations, increased heart rate, abdominal pain, and even seizures. It’s true that bratwurst may only contain a small amount of nutmeg, but you should use caution.
Bratwurst may also contain onions and garlic as seasonings. These ingredients are closely related. They contain a toxin called N-propyl disulfide. This compound causes red blood cells to break down which can result in hemolytic anemia in dogs.
Symptoms of onion (and garlic) toxicity:
- Decreased appetite
- Pale gums
- Reddish urine
If you notice these symptoms, especially if your dog has eaten onions or garlic, contact your veterinarian immediately. Hemolytic anemia can be fatal but there are ways of treating it if it’s caught early.
On the other hand, there can be occasions where a small bite of bratwurst could be beneficial for some dogs. For example, if you have a dog that won’t eat, a little piece of bratwurst cut up in your dog’s food might encourage him to eat more. A senior dog might appreciate a morsel of bratwurst to tempt his failing taste buds.
Do consider your dog’s age and health situation before giving him any bratwurst. Only give a very small amount if you share some with your dog. Dogs that need to eat a low-sodium diet should definitely avoid eating any bratwurst. Dogs that eat a low-fat diet should also avoid eating bratwurst.
If your dog has a sensitive digestive system, he may be more likely to have problems digesting even a small amount of bratwurst.
By the way, uncooked bratwurst (or any kind of raw sausage) is always a bad idea for your dog.
How many bratwurst can your dog eat?
To be honest, despite the sodium and the seasonings, you will find people who give their dogs small bites of bratwurst as an occasional treat or as a training reward. Their dogs may suffer no ill effects. You should simply use caution. Don’t let your dog eat entire sausages, for example.
As usual, large dogs can generally eat more than small dogs. This is also true if your dog finds a way to over-eat. Your Saint Bernard would likely have to eat more bratwurst to experience any problems compared to your Chihuahua.
If your dog does find a way to help himself to an entire package of brats (and dogs are good at finding ways to help themselves), we recommend that you contact your veterinarian. See if your vet would like you to bring your dog in to the vet’s office. It’s possible that your vet may be concerned about the sodium your dog has ingested. Too much sodium can lead to dehydration.
If your vet tells you to observe your dog at home, watch for signs such as:
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle tremors
If you notice these signs, take your dog to the vet immediately.
The high fat content in the brats can also be a concern if your dog over-eats. Eating a high-fat meal is considered a possible cause of acute pancreatitis in dogs.
How often can you give your dog bratwurst?
If you plan to give your dog some bratwurst occasionally, we suggest that you limit it to a few small bites once a week. The high fat and sodium, along with the seasonings, make bratwurst a food that dogs are better off if they only eat it once in a while.
Dogs and bratwurst: conclusion
Like humans, many dogs love the savory taste of brats. Unfortunately, brats are not the healthiest food for dogs. High in fat and sodium, bratwurst can also contain seasonings such as nutmeg, garlic, and onion which can be harmful to dogs. An occasional bite of bratwurst shouldn’t hurt your dog but we recommend that you don’t give your dog very much of these sausages very often.