Since dogs love meat and jerky is just dried meat, why must we question whether or not to feed it to our dogs? The truth is that beef jerky is a little more than just dried meat today, and your dog has nutritional needs to consider. So, while you’re snacking on beef jerky treats with your dog sitting at your feet, you may feel tempted to relent to their begging or lovely, longing eyes and share it with them. Here are a few facts to think about first.
Is Beef Jerky Good for Your Dog?
The short answer is no. While it might not immediately poison your dog, it isn’t the safest treat for them. The problem is that today’s beef jerky is highly processed and contains ingredients that may harm your dog.
Here are some of those potentially harmful ingredients:
- Excessive salt
- Spicy flavors
These ingredients are delicious to humans and make our beef jerky experience a satisfying one, but not so for our dogs. These are not good for your dog, and some dogs are especially sensitive to gluten - which is also an ingredient.
Your Dog’s Dietary Concerns
You may have already noticed this about your dog, but they don’t respond well to changes in their diets. They require a slow transition even to change the brand of food you feed them. So when you’re thinking about sharing your beef jerky with your dog, think about the flavorings, the amount of salt contained, and also about the overall quality of the product.
Highly processed foods aren’t good for any of us. While we may be able to stomach it, your dog may experience tummy upset. The preservatives will do your dog no good, but the real issue with beef jerky is the salt content.
A large amount of salt in your dog’s blood can lead to sodium poisoning, also called hypernatremia. If they consume too much salt, in an ordinary situation, your dog would simply drink enough water to balance the salt in their blood. But if there is no water available or they consume too much salt too quickly, their cells will desperately release water to combat the ill effects.
The dangers of hypernatremia to your dog are not to be ignored. This condition will destroy their brain cells because of the lack of water. They will suffer headaches, dizziness, and seizures. Additionally, their muscles can become stiff and shaky as they lose moisture and shrivel.
But the worst effects of hypernatremia are the neurological ones. When your dog’s cells release water to compensate for all the extra salt in their blood, brain cells dry out. Your dog can face going into a coma, convulsions, and death. So, if your dog ingests a large amount of salt, contact your vet whether or not they show adverse signs. Milder signs of dehydration may include excessive thirst, urination, vomiting, muscle spasms, diarrhea, fluid buildup, and increased heart rate.
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Other Harmful Beef Jerky Ingredients
As mentioned earlier, onions and garlic are popular ingredients used to flavor beef jerky. But these are also on the list of foods your dog should not consume. These are toxic to your dog. Large amounts of either of these vegetables can cause red blood cell destruction in your dog, resulting in anemia.
Here are some signs your dog has consumed too much onions or garlic:
- Onion/garlic smell on their breath
- Pale mucous membranes
- Fast breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Reduced appetite
Treatment in Case of Onion or Garlic Consumption
According to the Pet Poison Hotline, if your dog ingests onion or garlic in a quantity that concerns you, you should induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal. Further, do blood smears every day to monitor anemia. Blood transfusions are indicated for more severe anemia.
Can I Feed Beef Jerky to My Dog?
If you’re able to find plain jerky, which is plain dried meat for your dog, without the added salt, feel free to give it to your dog. Not only will your dog love it, but it can also be healthy for them. Dried meat provides them with a yummy, high-protein treat. Despite this, they should only have it in moderation.
Alternatives to Jerky for Your Dog
So, unless you can find plain beef jerky, what can you do? There are alternatives to giving your dog your flavored jerky. Here is a recipe for homemade dog beef jerky treats.
Homemade Jerky Treats for Dogs
- Lean beef
- Pineapple Juice
- Liquid Aminos
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Fish Sauce
- Ginger Powder
- Liquid Smoke (Optional)
- A Dehydrator or your oven on its lowest setting
- A glass container for marinating (or just a Ziploc bag)
- In your oven, use baking sheets or cookie sheets with parchment paper
Using a marinade will make this jerky delicious for you and your dog. The ingredients are low-sodium, with no added sugar. Here are the marinade ingredients:
- 1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
- ½ cup liquid aminos (in place of low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce)
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- A bit of fish sauce
- A pinch of ginger powder
- 1 - 2 drops liquid smoke (this is optional)
Now follow these instructions to prepare,
- Mix the marinade (one batch per pound of meat).
- Prepare the meat by slicing in thin uniform sized pieces.
- Put beef in the marinade for 4 - 24 hours.
- If using a dehydrator: preheat it to 160 degrees F.
- If using an oven: preheat to 160 degrees or your lowest setting.
- Pat marinated meat dry with a paper towel.
- Place meat on trays, leaving space between slices for airflow.
- In a dehydrator, leave enough space between each tray.
- Set your timer for 4 hours in a dehydrator.
- Set your timer for 3 hours in an oven.
You’ll know when the jerky is done when it appears shrunken (by at least half), dark-colored, bendable, and completely dry. When it’s cool, store it in an airtight container.
Final Thoughts on Dogs and Jerky
It may be hard to resist giving in to your dog’s begging when you’re eating beef jerky, but it may be the right thing to do. Unless the jerky you want to feed them is without salt and other spices, that tasty treat may be toxic to your furry friend. So, read the labels on your jerky and know what you’re feeding your dog, or consider making your own.
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