Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky? Is It Bad or Good?

can dogs eat beef jerky

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by veterinarian Dr. Aukse Caraite, DVM.

Can dogs eat beef jerky? It depends. Not all beef jerky treats are created equal. There are many different types of beef jerky treats for dogs, so you need to be mindful of which one you feed to dogs. Generally, dogs can safely enjoy beef jerky treats from a single ingredient containing appropriate sodium levels and no spices or preservatives. However, several important risks and common beef jerky ingredients could harm your dog’s health. This article clearly shows what ingredients to look for and which to avoid. We also analyze the different types of beef jerky for dogs to help you pick the healthiest and safest of them. Let’s dive right in!

What Is Beef Jerky for Dogs?

Beef jerky for dogs is similar to human beef jerky but explicitly formulated for canine companions. It contains pure, high-quality protein without high sodium concentrations or potentially toxic ingredients like onions. Beef jerky is produced through dehydration, which removes moisture from the meat and has a concentrated form. This process compresses one pound of beef into just four ounces of jerky.[1] As the moisture content is removed, beef jerky can be kept without refrigeration and stored for long periods without spoiling, making it an easy shelf storage option compared to many other canine treats.

Types of Beef Jerky

  • Homemade beef jerky: Making beef jerky treats at home is safe for dogs as long as you keep the sodium levels low and avoid adding spices or preservatives. Stick with plain beef jerky; it should be perfectly safe for your dog’s consumption.
  • Beef jerky for humans: It’s important to note that human-grade beef jerky is unsuitable for dogs due to its high sodium levels or added preservatives and flavorings such as garlic or onion powder. These ingredients can be toxic for your pup, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Dog-formulated beef jerky: Dog-specific beef jerky brands are considered safer and healthier than human alternatives. Beef jerky for dogs eliminates the potentially harmful ingredients in human beef jerky, making it a safe choice.

Is Beef Jerky Good For Dogs?

Generally, beef jerky, made specifically for dogs, is a healthy and nutritious snack that is extremely high in protein (34-74%) and low in carbs. It also contains many vitamins and minerals, including zinc, iron, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and folate. Plus, it has a long shelf life and is portable, making it a great on-the-go option.

Beef jerky also has a healthier nutritional ingredient composition than many traditional dog treats. Due to the low heat applied during the dehydrating process, beef is never exposed to as high a temperature as other treats, meaning it retains more nutrients and suffers less nutrient loss. The taste and flavor of the beef are also preserved, making it palatable. Some beef jerky dog manufacturers even use USDA-approved free-range beef, so you don’t have to worry about the quality.

Other Reasons Beef Jerky Is Good For Dogs

  • Its chewy and meaty texture dog encourages chewing and may have some benefits in reducing plaque and tartar
  • A palatable reward for training and promoting chewing, an important stress-relieving behavior in dogs
  • Mental stimulation
  • Smell like real meat
  • Low-calorie, lean profile
  • Long shelf life
  • Healthier nutrient profile than other treats

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky Made for Humans?

While homemade jerky and dog-specific jerky treats can all be good options for your dog, feeding your dog human-intended jerky treats is not recommended.

Beef jerky for human consumption could have ingredients unsuitable for dogs. Here are some of those potentially harmful ingredients:

  • Sodium Content: Excessive salt is found in human beef jerky treats. The CDC recommends a daily maximum of 2,300mg sodium for humans.[2] Depending on the brand, one ounce of beef jerky contains 500 – 590mg sodium, over a quarter of the daily limit. According to the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the recommended limit for dogs’ sodium consumption is not more than 200 mg.[3] A single ounce of beef jerky contains 2 to 3 times the recommended daily sodium limit for dogs. Feeding more than one ounce to a dog can significantly exceed their recommended daily sodium intake and cause problems if these human-intended treats are given to dogs.
  • Spices: Beef jerky’s delicious flavor comes from spices, but they can harm dogs. Two spices common in beef jerky snacks, onion and garlic from the allium family, can damage organs and red blood cells, causing breathing difficulties. At the same time, the spices that make beef jerky delicious for humans can be dangerous for dogs.
  • Sugars: Some beef jerky can contain a lot of sugar in the form of xylitol. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, and even small amounts can cause hypoglycemia.
  • Highly Processed: Most store-bought beef jerky is highly processed, meaning it has undergone many treatments to give it its texture and flavor. High levels of preservatives, additives, and other chemicals used to preserve in kibble or food like jerky can increase levels of homocysteine – 10 up to ten times higher than dogs eating a minimally processed diet.[4] Homocysteine is an inflammation marker that helps to determine the risk of inflammatory diseases, such as cancer.[5]

Health Benefits of Beef Jerky For Dogs

Here is a breakdown of the ingredient composition of beef to help you understand whether this food is nutritious. We also explain each component to help you determine if it’s safe and healthy.

The following information is for 1oz (28.35 g) of beef jerky.

  • Protein: 9.41 g
  • Fat: 7.26 g
  • Energy: 488 kj
  • Sodium: 505 mg
  • Fiber: 0.51 g
  • Carbs: 3.12 g
  • Vitamin B12: 0.281 µg
  • Zinc: 2.3 mg
  • Folate: 38 µg
  • Copper: 0.064 mg
  • Phosphorus: 115 mg
  • Selenium: 3.03 µg
  • Iron: 1.54 mg
  • Thiamine: 0.044 mg
  • Choline: 30.9 mg
  • Potassium: 169 mg
  • Niacin: 0.49 mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.04 mg
  • Magnesium: 14.5 mg

Here are a few more reasons why beef jerky is beneficial for dogs:

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky?

After a rigorous nutrient analysis, we advise only feeding beef jerky explicitly made for canine consumption. Full Moon Beef Jerky Tenders and Blue Buffalo Nudges Jerky Cuts are some of our favorite beef jerky treats for dogs. Beef jerky is a protein-packed and delicious snack that is low-fat and calorie-dense, making it ideal for dogs who want to maintain a healthy weight and muscle growth and recovery. These treats are a source of essential minerals, including iron, magnesium, and zinc. Iron is necessary for healthy red blood cells, magnesium plays a role in enzyme function and nerve-muscle signaling, and zinc contributes to growth, immune system health, and wound healing.

Though beef jerky is a healthy snack, dogs should consume it in moderation. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie requirement. It’s also good practice always to check the label to ensure your dog’s safety

Is Beef Jerky Bad For Dogs?

Dog-friendly beef jerky treats or homemade are not bad for dogs as long as the ingredients meet the safety standards for dog consumption. Of course, anything in excess is bad.

On the other hand, beef jerky brands for human consumption are bad for dogs because they typically consist of harmful ingredients such as excessive salt, garlic, onion, peppers, spicy flavors, xylitol, and other preservatives and additives. Be cautious of dog beef jerky brands. Since 2007, the FDA has received reports of illnesses in pets associated with consuming jerky pet treats. These illnesses include gastrointestinal upset, kidney failure, liver diseases and death in dogs.[10]

However, the FDA has warned that certain beef jerky brands can be hazardous to our canine companions. So, it’s essential to thoroughly research the brand and select those derived from trusted sources, as some brands, specifically from China, have been linked with cases of poisoning and death in dogs.[11]

It is essential to consider not only the brand you’re purchasing but also its ingredients. Double-check that all the ingredients used are safe for them. Many store-bought products contain spices like cayenne pepper and paprika along with onion powder or garlic, which aren’t suitable for canine consumption – their stomachs can’t handle spicy foods as well as humans. Similarly, protein-rich foods like beef jerky dog treats should be avoided in dogs with liver or kidney disease, and if your dog has any underlying health issue, always speak to your vet before changing their diet. Dogs allergic to beef should avoid these treats.

Possible Risks of Beef Jerky in Dogs

Let’s examine the potential adverse effects and dangers that beef jerky made for humans may pose to dogs.

  • Hypernatremia: Excessive salt in this beef jerky can cause serious harm to your pup’s health, potentially resulting in hypernatremia. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal as it causes irreparable damage to the brain cells and leads to seizures, convulsions, dizziness, headaches and stiff muscles due to dehydration. The overall case fatality rate of animals with hypernatremia is significantly higher than that of animals with a normal sodium concentration or hyponatremia.[12]
  • Fanconi Syndrome: Fanconi syndrome, a rare inherited kidney disorder that primarily affects certain breeds of dogs, can be caused by consuming human-grade beef jerky. In this disorder, the part of the kidney called the proximal tubule doesn’t work correctly. It causes the body to deplete essential nutrients like glucose, amino acids, and bicarbonate. This leads to excessive drinking and urinating, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Even after removing the jerky from the diet, a positive urine test for Fanconi syndrome can still be detected several weeks later.[13] Thus, keeping all human-grade beef jerky away from our dogs is essential so they remain safe and healthy.
  • Thyrotoxicosis: Since jerky treats contain higher concentrations of thyroxine (T4) than other food types, dogs that consume beef jerky may experience increased serum T4 concentrations, which can lead to the development of thyrotoxicosis.[14] This is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of hormones and can cause hair loss, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst. In severe cases, the condition can even be fatal!
  • Bacterial Contamination: Like any other processed food product, beef jerky can become contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Ingesting these bacteria can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your pup, potentially leading to dehydration and even death if left untreated. Although most dogs are unaffected by these contaminants, young or older dogs and those with weakened immune systems may become ill if exposed. To reduce the risk of illness and food safety concerns, owners should practice proper food hygiene, including regular handwashing after handling raw meat products, avoiding close contact with pets, and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Toxic Ingredients: Onions, pepper, garlic, and sugar (xylitol) are popular ingredients used to flavor beef jerky made for humans. However, these ingredients are toxic to dogs and can result in serious side effects such as lethargy, fast breathing, and more.

Possible Side Effects of Beef Jerky In Dogs

The following symptoms may indicate a bad reaction to beef jerky.

  • Discomfort and bloating
  • Gas
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Beef Jerky Made For Humans?

One or two beef jerky bites shouldn’t be too much of a cause for concern. Just prevent your dog from eating it regularly. However, if your dog overate beef jerky or is showing symptoms of an adverse reaction, provide plenty of cool and fresh water to your pup to stay hydrated and counteract salt overload in the beef jerky. Be vigilant for signs of sodium poisoning.

However, if you suspect that the beef jerky contains spices, garlic, onion, or xylitol—or if the symptoms of hypernatremia have prevailed for more than 24 hours—do not wait; contact your vet immediately.

Can’t reach your vet? Contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or chat live with a veterinary professional via our online vet chat or video chat support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Dogs showing worsening symptoms, such as blood in their vomit or stool, difficulty breathing, weakness, or collapse, should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Can Beef Jerky Kill Dogs?

The FDA linked beef jerky made in China to over one thousand canine deaths. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that dog-friendly and even human-intended beef jerky won’t kill your dog. Inspect the ingredients before feeding them to your dog and avoid beef jerky products made in China.

Are Dogs Allergic To Beef Jerky?

While not common, some dogs may be allergic to beef jerky or any of its components. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, hives, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis, a medical emergency. If you suspect your dog is allergic to any food, including beef jerky, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian. Your vet can provide appropriate advice and help you formulate a safe diet plan for your dog. We also recommend conducting an at-home dog allergy test to determine if your dog is sensitive or intolerant to certain foods.

How to Safely Feed Beef Jerky to Dogs

When feeding beef jerky to your dog, it’s best to follow a few simple guidelines to help keep them safe:

  • Buy dog-specific beef jerky
  • Check the Ingredients List
  • Avoid seasoned or spiced Jerky
  • Consider homemade jerky
  • Moderation is key
  • Provide plenty of water

Here are some creative and safe ways to incorporate beef jerky into your dog’s diet:

  • Mix into meals: Cut the beef jerky into small, bite-sized pieces and mix them into your dog’s regular dry or wet food. This can enhance the flavor of their usual meals and make feeding time more exciting.
  • Use as a training reward. Beef jerky can be an effective, high-value treat for training sessions.
  • Create a puzzle treat. Place pieces of beef jerky inside a dog puzzle toy like Kong toys.
  • Frozen beef jerky treats. In warmer weather, you can freeze beef jerky pieces inside an ice block or with broth that is safe for dogs.

As with any new food, it’s recommended to start slowly and feed gradually to give the digestive system time to adjust. 

How Much Beef Jerky Can Your Dog Eat?

Feeding beef jerky to dogs depends on their size.

Remember that dogs’ maximum daily sodium intake is 200 mg. To be safe, check the sodium levels of each piece.

Dog SziePeices (Per Day)
5 – 15 lbs1/2 – 1
15 – 30 lbs1 – 2
30 – 50 lbs2 – 3
50 – 75 lbs3 – 5

Can Puppies Eat Beef Jerky?

Puppies generally have more sensitive digestive systems than adult dogs and may be more prone to an upset stomach after eating rich or high-fat foods. Some puppies may tolerate small pieces of beef jerky, mainly when used as high-reward training treats. It’s worth remembering that puppies need fewer calories than larger dogs and higher protein content to aid growth and development. They must have a well-balanced diet, so treats such as hot dogs should only be fed in small quantities.

Can Pregnant Dogs Eat Beef Jerky?

Yes, pregnant dogs can moderately consume plain beef jerky. Beef jerky is high in protein and fat, which is critical for a healthy pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Jack Link’s beef jerky contains excessive salt and other spices, including garlic powder, that can be life-threatening for your pup. Although we may not find it tasty, too much can harm dogs.

No. Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef Jerky is an unhealthy choice for dogs because it contains a high amount of soy sauce, salt, citric acid, sugar, garlic powder, and fats. If consumed, these components can lead to indigestion in your furry friend.

It is not recommended that you feed your dog peppered beef jerky. Pepper is its main ingredient and can cause severe stomach and throat inflammation.

Dogs should not consume teriyaki beef jerky as it contains various ingredients like garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and honey, which can cause gastric distress. Moreover, the additional sugar from honey and brown sugar may result in weight gain or other health concerns.

Yes, dogs can eat beef jerky sticks as long as no toxic ingredients or spices are included. Beware jerky beef products with onion or garlic powder, which could be life-threatening for your pup.

Slim Jim beef jerky is unsuitable for your furry friend due to its excess fat and sodium levels. Not only can this make them ill, but the highly processed ingredients filled with artificial additives are toxic if ingested by dogs.

Dogs can enjoy homemade beef jerky free of added seasonings, preservatives, and other additives.

Dogs of all sizes, including toy and small breeds, can munch on beef jerky treats. However, monitor the amount you give your pup and break any large pieces into smaller chunks to reduce potential choking hazards.

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky? — Conclusion

Beef jerky can be a tasty treat for dogs if it is plain and contains no extra seasonings, preservatives, or other hazardous ingredients. Remember that too much sodium and fat from beef jerky can lead to health issues like pancreatitis, stomach upsets, or obesity; therefore, it is essential to carefully monitor the amount of beef jerky given to your pup. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian regarding safe treats for your pet. They will help you navigate the best option for your furry friend’s health. It is important to note that beef jerky should not be a substitute for your pup’s regular diet; it should only be used as an occasional treat. Therefore, feed them appropriately and always practice responsible pet ownership!

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Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. USDA Jerky & Food Safety
  2. Sodium CDC
  3. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs & Cats
  4. Metabolic Diversity
  5. Circulating Homocysteine
  6. Beef Jerky Nutrient Profile
  7. PubMed:Dietary Protein
  8. Texas A&M University: Veterinary School
  9. Selenium & Dogs
  10. FDA Investigates Jerky Pet Treats
  11. NBC News
  12. Hypernatremia In Dogs
  13. Fanconi Syndrome & Jerky Treats
  14. Pet Food-Associated Dietary Exogenous Thyrotoxicosis
Editorial Team at Canine Bible | + posts

Canine Bible authorship represents the unified voice of our entire editorial team and our in-house veterinarians rather than a single author. Each article, blog post, and review published under the Canine Bible name undergoes a rigorous review process, involving all team members to guarantee accuracy and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. This collaborative effort is an integral part of our editorial process and aligns with our four pillars of content creation. This approach ensures our content is backed by expert knowledge and factual information, offering our readers reliable, actionable, and trustworthy content.

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