Whether you like bacon, ham, pork chops, or sausage, pork is enormously popular around the world. When you cook or eat one of these tasty foods, it’s likely that your dog gives you “the look.” You know the look. It’s the way your dog stares at you pitifully, trying to convince you that he’s starving. Surely you have to share some of your delicious food with him? Even though pork is an important meat, it’s not always safe to share it with your dog. Can dogs have pork? It depends.
Pork is a major category of meat. In fact, pork is the most popular, commonly consumed meat around the world. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, people in North America were so dependent on pork that hogs were known as “mortgage lifters.” Many people paid off the mortgages on their farms by raising hogs. Even today people in North America consume thousands of metric tons of pork each year. (China consumes by far the most pork.)
The nutrition for pork will vary a little depending on the product. Different cuts and preparation methods (such as curing) will make a difference. Pork today is leaner than 30 years ago with 16 percent less fat and 27 percent less saturated fat. This is due to modern breeding and feeding methods for pigs . However, it does depend on the specific cut of meat.
Fresh, ground pork, which you can buy in the grocery store, has 37 percent protein and 63 percent fat with zero carbohydrates. It is low in sodium. It’s a good source of thiamin and selenium as well as protein.
On the down side, this form of pork is high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
In terms of its glycemic load, it has zero.
The yield of one pound of ground pork after it’s been cooked is about 313 grams of food. It contains 929 calories, 65 grams of fat, and 80.4 grams of protein.
The ground pork includes generous amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid. It also contains plenty of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
The cooked ground pork contains 294 mg of cholesterol.
So, pork in this form, without curing, is a powerhouse of protein, minerals, and B vitamins but the saturated fat and cholesterol can be problematic.
Cured pork meats such as bacon and ham, contain higher amounts of sodium/salt.
Pork contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for human growth and maintenance. It’s one of the most complete dietary sources of protein.
The fat content of pork will vary depending on the body parts used and trimming. In most cases, there are about equal parts saturated and unsaturated fats.
A 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of cooked ground pork contains about 7.7 grams of saturated fat and 9.3 grams of monounsaturated fat, along with 1.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
Pork is low in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and a little richer in unsaturated fats.
Under-cooked pork can be dangerous to eat so it’s important to make sure any pork you eat is fully cooked. Raw pork can contain several parasites that can affect humans. The pork tapeworm is an intestinal parasite. It’s rare in developed countries but if someone has it, it can lead to cysticercosis. Cysticercosis affects some 50 million people in the world each year. It’s considered to be a leading cause of acquired epilepsy.
Eating raw or under-cooked pork can also lead to the presence of parasitic roundworms and a disease known as trichinosis. This disease is also uncommon in developed countries but it can occur, especially if you are eating wild pigs. The symptoms are usually mild: diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and heartburn. Or there may not be any symptoms at all. However, it can be a serious problem, especially for older adults.
Eating raw or under-cooked pork can also lead to toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis exists worldwide. It is a parasitic protozoan that can only be seen under a microscope. It’s estimated that approximately one-third of all humans have this protozoan.
There usually aren’t any symptoms if you have this protozoan but you may develop toxoplasmosis if your immune system is weakened.
At the other extreme, overcooked pork (or any kind of overcooked, burnt food) can contain carcinogens.
Should You Give Your Dog Pork?
Yes, dogs can eat pork, with a few caveats.
- Make sure the pork is cooked thoroughly. The same parasites that can affect you in raw pork can also affect your dog. Symptoms of trichinosis in dogs can include:
- Choose plain pork such as fresh ground pork. Cured pork such as bacon and ham have spices and salt added that can be problems for your dog.
- Avoid pork with condiments. Barbecued pork with barbecue sauce, for example, contains too many spices for your dog. Condiments such as barbecue sauce often contain salt, sugar, garlic, onion, and other ingredients that aren’t good for your dog.
There are a number of dog foods that include pork as one of the meat proteins in the ingredients. You can safely feed these foods to your dog. Even canned foods that use pork are safe for your dog. Pork used in these foods has been processed to be safe before it is added to the dog food. If you feed your dog a raw food diet, pork would not be advised since it needs to be cooked. Pork is a novel protein for some dogs that have food allergies.
If you are giving your dog pork for the first time, always start with just a small amount to make sure that it agrees with your dog’s digestive system. If your dog likes it and there are no problems, you can give him a little more the next time.
Can Dogs Have Pork Sausages?
Sausages are made in different ways. Some of them are raw. Others are cured, dried, or smoked. There are hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of sausages around the world. One thing most of them have in common is that they contain added spices. For this reason, it’s usually not a good idea to give your dog pork sausage. The herbs and spices used can vary, depending on the kind of sausage, but most of them contain added salt as well.
In the United States, some sausages can be up to 50 percent fat according to the USDA. This high fat content can be a problem for dogs. Sausages also tend to contain bread and other filler ingredients.
For all of these reasons, pork sausages are not recommended for dogs.
Can Dogs Have Bacon?
Your dog thinks bacon is just as delicious as you do. However, bacon is a cured meat. This means that the pork is soaked in a solution of salt, nitrates, and often sugar, then smoked . Curing and smoking meats like bacon are ways of preserving the food and preventing bacteria from growing. Cured foods like bacon have a longer shelf life than fresh pork and other meats. Curing and smoking meats also gives them their specific flavor.
Unfortunately, the salt used to cure bacon is not good for your dog. A single strip of bacon has 188 mg of sodium/salt. A dog weighing 30 pounds needs only 100 mg of sodium in his diet per day, which he gets in his dog food. Eating even one strip of bacon is too much for your dog.
Along with the high salt content, bacon is high in fat. It’s made up of about 68 percent fat. Indulging in fatty foods can result in pancreatitis for some dogs. Pancreatitis is an inflammation in the pancreas that can result in abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting. In extreme cases it can lead to death.
Most of us have a hard time saying no to dogs when they beg for bacon. You can occasionally give your dog a small amount of bacon as a special treat but only a small amount. One-half strip of bacon would be enough for a small dog. For a large dog, don’t give your dog more than one strip of bacon.
Can Dogs Have Pork Chops?
Yes, dogs can have pork chops, as long as you are careful with them.
Before giving your dog pork chops:
- Remove any bones
- Make sure the pork chops are cooked well
- Trim away any extra fat
Pork loin chops are considered one of the leanest pork cuts.
Remember not to add any sauces or condiments when cooking the pork chops.
Can Dogs Have Ham?
Like bacon, ham is a cured meat. It’s high in salt and it has a relatively high fat content. For these reasons it’s best to only let your dog have it sparingly as a special treat. Or, you can use very small pieces as training treats.
A dog that consumes too much ham could become dehydrated and drink so much water that bloat becomes a possibility.
Can Dogs Have Pork Liver?
Liver, in general, is a healthy addition to a dog’s diet. However, you shouldn’t let your dog stuff himself on liver.
Dogs love liver. And liver is full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, and copper. Liver is liver, when it comes to giving your dog treats. If you are planning to use liver as part of your dog’s diet, you will need to consider the specifics for pork liver.
Too much liver, especially if your dog isn’t used to eating it, can lead to an upset stomach, so introduce liver slowly to your dog, in small amounts.
In any case, yes, you can give your dog pork liver. Use small amounts for treats. Pork liver can also be used in dog cookies, baked, fried, and cooked other ways as treats and mixers for your dog. Remember to avoid adding spices and other ingredients that could be harmful to your dog.
Can Dogs Have Pig Ears?
Pig ears have become a hot topic in the last few years. At one time pig ears were a popular treat for dogs. However, there have been numerous recalls and alerts about pig ears over the years, mostly warning about Salmonella. The largest and most recent was in 2019 when the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issued alerts about pig ears. According to the CDC, 154 people in 34 states were infected via the pig ears. No deaths were reported.
As of October 30, 2019, the CDC and FDA dropped their warning to avoid buying or feeding pig ear treats (other than the ones which had specifically been recalled). However, according to a 2020 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, pig ears remain a source of Salmonella.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pig ear treats, other pet treats, and pet food.
Can Dogs Have Pork Bones?
No, pork bones are not recommended for dogs, especially cooked bones. All bones tend to become fragile with cooking. The bones can splinter. As dogs bite or chew them they can snap and become lodged in a dog’s throat or mouth. Jagged bones can damage the esophagus, the stomach, and other internal organs.
Raw bones are not as brittle but they can still cause problems.
Those nice round ham bones that can seem like the perfect size for your dog to chew can also become stuck around your dog’s jaw.
Can You Give Your Dog Raw Pork or Does It Have to Be Cooked?
Pork always has to be thoroughly cooked. The risk of parasites is too great to give your dog raw pork.
Whole cuts of pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time.
Ground meats, including pork, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. They don’t require a rest time.
How Much Pork Can You Give Your Dog?
If you plan to give your dog plain pork as part of his diet, you will need to check the calories. A 3.5 ounce serving of cooked ground pork contains about 297 calories. You would need to take those calories into account if you substituted the ground pork for part of your dog’s meal.
Or, if you decided to give your large dog a strip of bacon (about 43 calories) as a treat, you would need to deduct those calories from his calories for the day.
Pork loin, tenderloin, and pork loin chops are considered lean cuts. However, most other parts of the pig are considered relatively fatty. You should keep this in mind when considering how much pork to give to your dog.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Pork?
If you are giving your dog lean pork or plain pork as a balanced part of his diet, it would be okay to feed pork regularly.
However, for foods such as bacon or ham which have been cured and which contain lots of salt and fat, you should only give them to your dog in small amounts. And only let your dog have a little bacon or ham occasionally.
There are so many different kinds of pork. Some pork is safe for your dog to eat as long as it is plain, without spices and condiments. Other kinds of pork, such as bacon and ham, which are cured, really contain too much salt and fat to be good for your dog in large amounts. Only let your dog have bacon or ham in very small amounts, infrequently. If your dog has any problems with obesity, salt, or his immune system, be sure to talk to your veterinarian before adding pork to his diet.