Can dogs eat pepperoni? We’ve all had those lazy nights when we just want to order freshly baked pepperoni pizzas for dinner and have a relaxing night at home. But is it ok to share one slice or two with your best furry friend? Find out as we discuss the effects of feeding pepperoni to your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni?
So can dogs eat pepperoni slices? The short answer is they can eat a small amount, but they should not. While a slice or two picked off the top of your pizza is not likely to cause any immediate harm, regularly eating pepperoni, even just a few slices can threaten a dog’s health.
Pepperoni slices and other deli meats may be made of animal meat that dogs can safely eat, however, these deli meats are loaded with salt, spices, seasonings, and preservatives which are not safe for dogs.
Dogs with sensitive tummies and other health problems have a higher risk of getting sick from eating highly processed, heavily seasoned foods. If you are pet-sitting a sensitive dog, ask the owner for a list of safe foods, as well as a list of items to avoid.
What Goes into Pepperoni?
What makes pepperoni so irresistible to us humans? Why does it go so perfectly well with pizza? What makes pepperoni bad for dogs? Here are the main ingredients of everyone’s favorite pizza topping:
Beef and Pork
Ground beef and pork are the meats traditionally used in pepperoni. Both flavorful types of meat, beef and pork go so well together that they are often cooked together and turned into meatballs, sausages, ragouts, and numerous varieties of stews all over the world.
On their own, beef and pork are great protein sources for dogs, especially lean cuts of meat. Pork is a bit higher in fat but is rich in B vitamins, iron, selenium, zinc, and phosphorous. Because most of the pig’s anatomy is used in meat products meant for human consumption, they are not as commonly used in dogs’ food as beef is.
Beef is one of the most widely used protein sources in dogs’ meals. So much so that some dogs have developed allergies to this protein. That said, beef is rich in protein, iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B12, B3 and B6.
These days you can also get pepperoni made from other meats such as turkey or chicken pepperoni. However, it is not the meat that makes pepperoni unhealthy for dogs. It is actually the preservatives, seasonings, and other additives that can cause harm to dogs’ health.
The savory flavors of pepperoni cannot be achieved without salt. Unlike humans, dogs are not built to consume as much salt in their diets. In fact, too much salt can be toxic to dogs, and eating pepperoni significantly increases their salt intake.
According to Dr. Larry J. Thompson of the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, salt poisoning can result in vomiting within several hours of ingestion of too much sodium. Other symptoms to look out for are weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures.
Aside from salt or sodium poisoning, eating too much pepperoni or even regularly feeding your dog pepperoni in small amounts can cause irreversible damage to dogs’ kidneys. The same goes for other foods with too much sodium.
Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite
Curing agents are used as preservatives in many types of deli meats including pepperoni. Two of the most commonly used are nitrates and nitrites. These curing agents prevent the growth of microbes.
As they are sodium-based preservatives, they also add to the salt content of pepperoni, which means it also contributes to the risk of salt poisoning in dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) warns that toxic levels of sodium or salt can also cause more serious consequences, such as kidney damage, seizures, coma, and even death.
Spices, Seasonings, and Artificial Flavors
Aside from salt, pepperoni is seasoned with a lot of flavors from spices like black pepper, paprika, and cayenne powder to onion powder, garlic, fennel seeds, and various types of hot chili peppers.
Spicy food like hot pepperoni is bad for dogs as it can cause damage to your dog’s digestive tract. They can cause upset stomach, abdominal pain, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Garlic Powder/ Onion Powder
Garlic and onion in cooked, raw, or powdered form can be detrimental to your dog’s health. Garlic powder and onion powder are some of the most commonly used seasonings in processed meat.
They can cause Heinz body formation, anemia, and poisoning in dogs. According to MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets, Heinz body formation in red blood cells is due to oxidative damage and results in severe hemolytic anemia in dogs.
Pepperoni is quite high in fat. Every component of the pepperoni contributes to its delicious savory goodness, and fat is no exception. The high fat content from the pork and beef makes it dangerous for those who require a low-fat dog’s diet, such as those with pancreatitis.
Fatty foods can cause gastrointestinal issues such as loose stools, gas, and diarrhea. Regularly feeding your pup foods with a very high fat content such as pepperoni can lead to pancreatitis and obesity.
High-fat dog foods can be given to highly active or working dogs. Your dog’s ideal diet largely depends on his or her age, breed size, ideal weight, activity level, and overall health. We recommend consulting your vet on a diet that is best suited for your dog.
What if My Dog Eats Pepperoni By Accident?
If your dog eats a few thin slices by accident or if your dog ate pizza, ensure that your dog has access to fresh drinking water and observe your pup. If he or she manages to eat a sizable amount of pepperoni, contact your vet immediately.
If your dog ate even just a few slices of hot or spicy pepperoni, call the vet right away.
Can Pepperoni Kill Dogs?
We don’t think that pepperoni can necessarily kill a healthy dog unless it has gone bad and has been contaminated with harmful bacteria. Pepperoni poisoning from toxin-producing bacteria like listeria can happen to both dogs and humans alike.
Eating one pepperoni slice too many even when not contaminated can still be highly dangerous to dogs who are suffering from kidney disease, pancreatitis, and other health problems wherein their wellbeing can be severely impacted by food.
Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni Sticks/ Jerky?
So can dogs eat pepperoni jerky or sticks? Pepperoni sticks or jerkies are made with the same main ingredients as regular pepperoni. So avoid feeding them to your dogs. They are high in salt, sugar, fats, seasonings, and even more preservatives as many of these jerkies are made to be shelf-stable.
The good news is, that there are dog treats available that are slightly similar to the pepperoni stick but made with ingredients safe for dogs. You can let your dogs eat pepperoni jerky as long as it is of the kind that is made specifically for dogs.
If your dogs eat pepperoni sticks or spicy jerky accidentally, provide fresh drinking water and call your vet for further instructions.
Can Dogs Eat Hot Pepperoni?
No. Dogs should not be given hot or spicy foods like hot pepperoni slices. These foods can give dogs diarrhea, abdominal pain, loose stools, gas, or even vomiting. Even a few slices of spicy pepperoni or any spicy food can be harmful to your dog.
If your dog eats a hot pepperoni slice by accident, give your pup some fresh, clean water to drink and call your vet.
Can Dogs Eat Turkey Pepperoni?
Turkey pepperoni may be lower in fat than beef and pork pepperoni. However, turkey pepperoni is still not advisable to feed to dogs. The high salt content as well as the garlic, onions, spices, and curing agents are the main ingredients of turkey pepperoni that can make it dangerous to dogs especially when they are allowed to eat pepperoni regularly. It is not the actual turkey meat that makes it unhealthy to keep feeding your dog pepperoni.
These ingredients in turkey pepperoni can cause kidney damage, salt poisoning or sodium poisoning, as well as damage to the dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni Pizza?
So can dogs eat pepperoni pizza? One slice of pepperoni pizza once in a blue moon is not likely to harm your dog. However, that depends on other toppings or ingredients that may be present in the pizza as well. A pizza with toppings such as garlic, onions, or anything hot and spicy can be bad for your dog even in small amounts.
If your dog ate a slice of pepperoni pizza with just hot pepperoni slices as toppings, it can cause gastrointestinal upset. A small piece with just cheese and pizza sauce should be fine for a healthy dog once in a while.
If you are making your own pizza, always ensure that your dog is not able to reach the raw pizza dough. Pizza dough has yeast and ingesting raw dough of any kind is very dangerous to dogs. The uncooked dough will expand inside a dog’s stomach and can cause severe bloating. Bloating puts pressure on the dog’s organs, making it difficult to breathe.
If your dog eats yeasted dough, it also puts her at risk of alcohol toxicosis. If you suspect that your dog ate some raw dough, call the vet immediately.
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs
The yeast in the raw dough is highly likely to ferment inside a dog’s stomach. The fermentation process produces alcohol which is extremely dangerous to dogs. The AKC lists down the following symptoms of alcohol toxicosis in dogs:
- Depressed central nervous system
- Unsteady, drunken gait
Healthier Pepperoni Alternatives
Instead of feeling guilty for indulging yourself in a slice of pepperoni pizza and not sharing a few slices with your dog, think of it as keeping your dog healthy and happy so that he or she can enjoy life and have more playtimes with you for many years to come.
Thankfully, there are numerous treats that you can safely let your dog eat without having to worry about things like salt poisoning or stomach upsets.
Dog Pepperoni or Pepperoni-Style Dog Treats
There are lots of dog treats that mimic the texture or meaty flavors of traditional pepperoni. While some of them may include seasonings and other flavoring agents, they are nowhere near the amount that goes into pepperoni made for humans. It is perfectly safe to feed pepperoni pet treats to your dog.
While these pepperoni-inspired treats are safe for dogs, keep in mind that dog pepperoni is meant to be given as just treats. Dog treats are typically richer in fats and flavor than dog food. You still should not let your dog eat pepperoni-flavored treats in meal-sized portions.
If you find it hard to resist your pet’s puppy dog eyes, we recommend getting high-quality dog food that is freeze-dried or air-dried. These meals for dogs are so meat-rich and highly flavorful that they can double as treats or toppers as well.
Overtreating your dog can result in weight gain and other conditions that can be detrimental to your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Too many pepperoni slices even of the kind made for dogs can still be unhealthy.
Jerky treats come in a variety of flavors, textures, and sizes. You will have no trouble finding one that your pup would love.
From pepperoni jerky to plain meat jerkies like beef, lamb, chicken, fish, and other protein sources, to organ meat jerkies like beef liver, kidney, and even plant-based ones like sweet potato, these chewy treats are beloved by numerous dogs. You can even get limited-ingredient or single-ingredient ones that you can let your sensitive dog eat without worrying about allergies.
Depending on the ingredients and the way they are processed, you can get jerky treats that are thick and chewy, or if your dog prefers crispy treats, thin and crispy ones are also widely available in a variety of flavors.
Pizza and Cheese Flavored Treats
It’s pretty hard not to love pizza or cheese. Even our dogs agree. But as many dogs are lactose intolerant, not all cheesy snacks can be given to them safely without causing upset stomach, gas, loose stools, or diarrhea. Pizza is a cheesy snack for humans that is greasy from cheese as well as other fatty toppings like pepperoni, bacon, or ham.
Like any fatty food, pizza can cause stomach upset especially in sensitive dogs. It’s a good thing there are dog treats that are made to taste like pizza, without all the grease and other dangerous ingredients.
Just like dog pepperoni and jerky treats, you can buy various types of treats flavored with cheese or pizza. They are available in chewy hides, soft and chewy morsels, jerkies, and even crunchy biscuit forms. There are even chewy dog toys made of edible nylon that come in pizza, cheese, and other flavors.
So don’t feel bad about not giving in to your dog’s begging for one slice of pizza. There are endless treat options that your dog may even like more than a slice of pepperoni pizza.
It is quite fun to make homemade snacks as a special treat for your pup. Unlike meals, you do not need to worry about ensuring that the precise amount of nutrients goes into every batch. You can simply whip up treats with fresh, simple ingredients that are safe for your dog.
From crunchy cookies, and crispy veggie chips, to chews that will keep them occupied, there are so many recipes for healthy dog treats that you can find online. They are especially great for sensitive dogs as you can control every aspect of the food and make sure that they have no ingredients that can trigger allergies or food intolerances in your pup.
If your dog is a fan of cheesy snacks, you can give her small amounts of cottage cheese if she is not lactose intolerant. You can dip some of her doggy biscuits in cottage cheese and voila! A cheesy snack that has no garlic, onions, or spices that can endanger your dog’s health.
If your dog has no gluten allergy, you can even make a homemade pizza that is safe for your pup. There are even gluten-free pizza crusts or flours that you can use if you are making your own dough.
Use tomato sauce or tomato paste that is free from salt, garlic, onion, and spices. You can put cooked chicken breast, ground beef, or any unseasoned meat that your dog likes. Put some cheese on top and bake until the pizza crust is cooked or the cheese is melted (if using prepared crust). Let the pizza cool before serving it to your pup.
We all love dogs and we want to share with them things that we enjoy, such as good food. But we humans are built differently from our furry loyal companions. This is why we can eat a variety of foods in a day and be healthy, whereas dogs need to be transitioned gradually when just switching between dog food variants.
Dogs are prone to stomach upset and sudden changes in their diets are one of the most common causes, especially if they have been on the same food or diet for a long time. Consuming foods like pepperoni that are not only very high in fat, but also contain ingredients in amounts that are not found in dog food can disrupt the day-to-day function of a dog’s digestive system, as well as their other organs.
Aside from issues like abdominal pain, gas, loose stools, and diarrhea, regularly feeding your dog processed meats that are high in sodium, spices, seasonings, artificial color, and preservatives can put a strain on their kidneys, liver, and overall health.
These unhealthy cured meat products can cause irreversible damage to a dog’s organs that can severely impact the dog’s quality of life. Expensive vet, medication bills, prescription food, and stress from worrying about your dog can greatly impact your life as well.
While enjoying pepperoni and pizzas are some of our lives’ greatest pleasures, as a dog owner, it is simply not worth risking our dog’s health by giving in to their begging. There are many treats that are much healthier for dogs that they enjoy even more than junk food. If your dog is particularly fond of smoky, meaty flavors, reward your pup with dog pepperoni jerky that is made just for them.