Can dogs eat bacon?
It’s common for dog owners to occasionally share their food with their canine friends. Even dogs that are fed a strict diet have likely had at least one human food treat from their owners. This is usually not concerning, since most human foods are generally safe for dogs to eat, as long as it’s given in controlled quantities. A favorite breakfast food, bacon is also a common ingredient in many dishes due to its strong savory taste. Given its popularity, bacon is also one of the most common treats that dog owners share with their pets. But is this really something your pup should be eating? Keep reading to learn the facts about bacon and if you need to find a new treat to share with your dog.
How is bacon made?
Bacon is a processed pork meat strip, typically cut from pork belly or back muscles. Other pork cuts can be made into bacon as well but are less common. Bacon is preserved and cured by 2 main methods: dry curing and wet curing. Dry curing makes use of salt crystals, while wet curing of bacon is done by injecting brine into the meat.
Both methods involve the use of salt as a preservative. It is also the ingredient responsible for the bacon’s salty flavor. Freshly cured bacon can then be dried for weeks to months or smoked to improve flavor and lengthen the preservation. Smoked or dried bacon is the common form of bacon we see in most supermarkets, but bacon can also be served fresh or boiled.
The curing process improves the flavor of bacon, but the main reason why it tastes so good is its fat content. These fatty acids found in bacon turn into compounds of varying taste and smell when cooked. These compounds are responsible for the savory and mouthwatering taste and aroma of freshly cooked bacon.
Juicy and tasty as they are, bacon is not always good for our health. Bacon contains high amounts of fat and salt, which, when eaten regularly in significant amounts, can cause obesity and various heart problems. Bacon has been linked with the increase in the number of weight, cardiac, and kidney problems in humans. This also means that bacon poses a significant health risk to dogs as well.
Is bacon safe for dogs?
Excessive bacon consumption has been linked to several serious health conditions in humans. It’s not a surprise that this tasty meat strip can also cause serious health problems in dogs as well since dogs and humans share many similarities in their physiological functions and metabolism. The way they digest, metabolize, and store the nutrients found in bacon is similar to ours.
Bacon contains high amounts of fat, and while fat can be an excellent source of energy for dogs, excessive consumption of it can lead to several serious health problems. Obesity is the most common health complication associated with excessive fatty acid intake. If a dog eats too much fat that isn’t burned through exercise or physical activity, it is stored in the dog’s body in various tissues and spaces. This can make a dog gain weight rapidly and can lead to obesity.
Obese dogs are more prone to developing joint and mobility issues such as osteoarthritis. The excessive weight puts too much strain on the joints and eventually causes inflammatory changes on the articular surfaces of the bones. Dogs with arthritis experience constant pain and movement problems and will often need maintenance supplements and medication to manage the condition.
The high fat content in bacon can also trigger pancreatitis in dogs. Pancreatitis is a very serious and potentially fatal condition in dogs and is usually considered an emergency case that needs to be treated immediately. It is described by the severe inflammation of the pancreas causing excessive production of pancreatic digestive enzymes. These enzymes leak outside the gastrointestinal tract and damage the organs and tissues around the pancreas, causing severe inflammation, abdominal pain, and peritonitis. If left untreated, pancreatitis is fatal in dogs.
Pancreatitis can occur spontaneously and without any apparent reason, but most cases are caused by a recent consumption of a fatty meal. Ingestion of excessive amounts of fatty food, such as bacon, overstimulates the production of pancreatic digestive enzymes, leading to auto-digestion and severe inflammation in the abdominal cavity.
Aside from its high fat content, bacon also contains excessive amounts of salt due to the curing process it undergoes. In humans, the salt content of bacon is tolerable and can easily be processed and excreted, especially with proper hydration. Dogs, however, have a very low tolerance to salt, and what is normal and tolerable for us can be highly excessive in dogs.
Sodium, a main component of salt, is primarily cleared from the dog’s body through the kidneys. It also plays an important role in the contractility of heart muscles. Excessive amounts of salt can lead to impaired renal clearance and eventual kidney failure in dogs. It also causes cardiac muscle damage that leads to heart failure.
Both these conditions are progressive and can make a dog very ill if not managed properly. Kidneys and heart tissues have very low regenerative capacities, and while there are treatment options, most cases of kidney and heart failure in dogs do not respond well to treatment and are only managed to delay the progression of the problem.
Is it ok for my dog to eat a small piece of bacon?
Most health problems associated with giving bacon to dogs involve ingesting excessive amounts of the cured meat. Does this mean that bacon is safe for dogs if given in controlled quantities?
While occasional small bacon pieces can be safe to be given to dogs, most veterinary experts recommend avoiding bacon altogether. Most dogs may be able to tolerate controlled quantities of bacon treats, but some dogs are more sensitive than others, and even the smallest amount of bacon can lead to serious health issues.
So, the next time you cook up crispy bacon for breakfast and your dog begs for a piece, resist the temptation to share your bacon with them. A well-balanced diet is still the best nutrition you can give to your canine buddies.
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