Dr Tracy Douglas
Your guide to this article today is by veterinarian Dr Tracy Douglas Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 14:20 pm

If you’ve caught your dog eating bacon, you may find yourself in a state of panic. Is feeding your dog a bit of bacon the same as them having a bit of ham, and can dogs eat bacon at all? Well, depending on a couple of factors, you may be in for a shock or a treat. Below, we give you all the details about whether or not dogs can eat bacon and why bacon for dogs is a bit of a grey area.

Nutritional Information of Bacon for Dogs

As you’re likely aware, there are two main types of bacon – smoked and unsmoked, the latter of which is also referred to as salt pork. Effectively, the main difference is in how it’s prepared before being sold in stores. Smoked bacon is the most popular type in the US and uses various wood types to smoke the bacon before being sold, given the meat a unique, salty flavor that many find more delectable. The different flavorings can alter the nutritional value somewhat, but for the most part, these are usually given as standard.

In three slices of bacon (or 35g approx.), the nutrients of bacon include:

  • Calories: 161
  • Fat: 12g
  • Sodium: 581mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.6g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 12g

Clearly, despite the smaller serving size, bacon can have a big effect on the body.

Is Bacon Bad for Dogs?

As you may already be able to tell, beyond providing a little protein to our daily intake, bacon is packed with mostly unhealthy nutrients. Roughly 21% – or 1/5 – of the fats are saturated, which are the unhealthy fats that can cause cholesterol. In a dog, the impact of these is much more severe, especially for smaller breeds and toy breeds.

Too much fat can eventually lead to pancreatitis – a disease in which the digestive enzymes, which help to break down food, end up attacking the pancreas instead, after leaking into the abdominal cavity. Luckily, there are two different types of this disease – acute and chronic – with acute being a short-term problem that can be rectified with medication and chronic being a long-term condition that will affect your dog for the rest of their life.

There is also a massive level of sodium – or salt – in each slice, which can affect the kidneys, heart, arteries, and brain. The main issue here is raised blood pressure, which can be detrimental to dogs who are elderly or on medication affecting the viscosity of the blood (eg. blood thinners). Too much salt can even cause your dogs’ intestines to twist – a very painful condition that, unfortunately, frequently leads to otherwise healthy dogs to be put to sleep.

Put simply, salty, fatty bacon is definitely bad for dogs, for the same reason that it is bad for us humans but on a much larger scale. The added pressure can lead to chronic heart disease and, if your dog is already suffering from kidney problems, hypertension is likely, and your dogs’ overall quality of life will diminish severely.

Can Dogs Eat Bacon?

As much as we all love bacon – dogs included – it’s important to think about the nutritional value of bacon, as well as your dogs’ overall diet and how that can affect them. On top of this, you would need to consider whether or not your dog has any allergies, illnesses or intolerances that might make them more susceptible to the detrimental effects of eating bacon.

That said, it is generally agreed by most that feeding your dog bacon is a big no-no. While bacon may provide a little protein, the overall negative effects of adding bacon to your dog’s diet can decrease their overall quality of life and lead to many illnesses.

That said, if your dog has had a sneaky bite of bacon, this information shouldn’t scare you. A dog should be able to easily and happily digest a small tidbit of bacon. And, while feeding your dog a little human food can have an effect on their food-oriented behaviors, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the long-term consequences of a short-term decision.

Just be aware that, once your dog has figured out the smell and taste of bacon, you may find that they are likely to want more. As with all things, a touch of moderation is required, and you should try to limit the amount of human food your dog will have, including bacon.

Symptoms That Your Dog Has Eaten Too Much Bacon

As well as general symptoms such as a change in behavior or excessive lethargy, which usually mean you should seek veterinary assistance, there are a few other symptoms linked directly to your dogs’ diet that should indicate that they have eaten something they shouldn’t.

Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain are the main symptoms. The latter of which is shown through whimpering, curling up and “guarding” their sensitive stomach, laying in unusual positions and heavy breathing all indicate a serious gastrointestinal problem which requires urgent medical attention.

Tasty bacon slices

Healthy Alternatives to Bacon for Dogs

The best way, in our opinion, to get away with your dog eating bacon, is to look into healthy alternatives that are better for you and your canine companion. Items such as turkey bacon have a much better nutritional value and are healthier for both you and your pup. This has less than a third of the fat content which traditional bacon holds, and can half the level of sodium, depending on the brand you buy.

While this still isn’t the best option for food, it can have a much better effect on the health of you and your dog in the long-run, so it is definitely worth considering – especially as most people can’t taste the difference between the two.

Of course, better than any bacon is fresh, white meat such as chicken. This is usually much higher in protein and the freshest options come with little-to-no added salts. Chicken breast is also naturally lower in fat levels, making it a great alternative to bacon for dogs.

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Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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