Hot dogs! One of the great American icons, like apple pie and baseball. But should you give your dog hot dogs? Maybe not. Yes, we know that dogs love them and plead for them, but are they good for your dog? You might not be aware of some of the ingredients used to make hot dogs – and you might not want to know. We’ll give you the inside scoop on hot dogs and whether dogs can – or should eat them.
Can dogs eat hot dogs?
The fact is that most dogs love hot dogs. There are plenty of savvy dog lovers who take advantage of this fact and use small hot dog pieces as training treats to reward good behavior. Hot dogs used in small amounts likely won’t harm your dog.
However, from a nutritional viewpoint, hot dogs are not exactly the healthiest treat or reward you can give your dog. If you’re thinking of giving your dog hot dogs, consider them junk food with some not-so-good ingredients.
Facts about hot dogs
Hot dogs can be made from different kinds of meat so some wieners can be healthier than others. The average hot dog is made from pork and/or beef parts and fat, along with seasonings such as salt and garlic. Preservatives such as sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate are common. These preservatives and seasonings can be bad for your dog in large amounts.
You can buy hot dogs made from chicken, turkey, or vegetarian ingredients. In some cities you can buy hot dogs made by butchers. Some hot dogs are also lower in sodium. These products could be better for your dog but you still shouldn’t give your dog lots of hot dogs at one time.
There is some research that suggests consuming just one hot dog per day increases the long-term risk of colorectal cancer in humans by 20 percent. Like a lot of cancer research, there have been questions raised about this study.
A package of hot dogs does have the potential to contain ingredients that are prone to the bacteria Listeria. If you plan to give your dog any hot dog pieces, it’s recommended that you heat them first.
Hot dogs do present a choking risk to small children. Presumably, a whole hot dog could present a choking risk to a dog so if you plan to give your dog a hot dog, make sure you cut it up into small pieces first, especially if you have a small dog.
None of these potential risks have deterred Americans from consuming hot dogs. They eat about 20 billion hot dogs annually. And, of course, dogs don’t care at all about any risks that might be associated with hot dogs. Few dogs will refuse to eat a hot dog.
Are hot dogs healthy?
Hot dogs are not really considered to be a healthy food though, as mentioned earlier, some kinds of hot dogs are healthier than others.
Salt is considered to be the biggest problem with most hot dogs. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a 33-pound dog only needs 200 mg of sodium per day. An average hot dog contains more than 500 mg of sodium. Even if you give your dog just half of one hot dog, he will likely be over his sodium requirements for the day. Over time, excess sodium can lead to dehydration and high blood pressure in dogs.
A typical beef frankfurter is estimated to have 15 percent protein, 4 percent carbohydrates, and a whopping 81 percent fat.
Should you give your dog hot dogs?
In moderation, hot dogs are not going to kill your dog. They aren’t “toxic.” Many dog trainers sing their praises and dogs love them.
That said, hot dogs are not the healthiest treat you can give your dog. There are lots of good dog treats you can make yourself or buy for your dog. Liver is easy to chop up and bake in the oven as a training treat. So is chicken. And, the great thing about making your own treats is that you can control any salt or other spices used; and leave out any preservatives.
Of course, if your dog is diabetic, overweight, or has any health problems, hot dogs are definitely not a good idea. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing suitable healthy treats for your dog.
How should you give your dog hot dogs?
If you plan to give your dog hot dogs for a training treat, many people prefer to cut them up into small pieces and nuke them in the microwave for a few seconds. The hot dog pieces should be dry but not beyond recognition.
When you prepare the hot dog pieces this way it removes much of the fat. This makes it a little healthier for your dog. They are also easier to keep in one of your pockets without being so greasy.
You can store the treats in your refrigerator for a few days.
A hot dog on a bun is riskier to give your dog. Even big dogs can choke on something this big so it’s best to cut a hot dog on a bun into smaller sections. If you do give your dog a hot dog on a bun, make sure that the bun is plain – no condiments, no chili, no relish, etc. Dogs tend to wolf food down even if it’s not good for them so you have to police what your dog can eat.
Hot dogs aren’t the healthiest food for dogs or humans. However, in moderation a hot dog won’t harm your dog if you are careful. If you have a choice, look for healthier kinds of hot dogs for your dog at the grocery store – especially hot dogs that are lower in sodium. Many dog trainers like to use small pieces of hot dog as a training reward. These treats are easy to make in the microwave.