Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky? Is It Dangerous or Safe?

can dogs eat beef jerky

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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 made 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 made similar to human beef jerky but is formulated specifically for our canine companions. It contains pure, high-quality protein without high concentrations of sodium or potentially toxic ingredients like an onion.

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 not suitable for dogs due to its high levels of sodium 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 safe 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’s also high in 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.

Even if it’s made for dogs, it’s good practice always to check the label to ensure your dog’s safety.

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky Made for Humans?

Thinking about feeding your pup human beef jerky treats? Think again! 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 may have ingredients not suitable 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 between 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. Even small amounts of xylitol 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]

Is Beef Jerky Safe For Dogs? Ingredient Breakdown

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 conventional beef jerky.

Nutrient Profile Beef JerkyAmount
Protein9.41 g
Fat7.26 g
Energy488 kJ
Sodium505 mg
Fibre0.51 g
Carbs3.12 g
Vitamin B120.281 µg
Zinc2.3 mg
Folate38 µg
Copper0.064 mg
Phosphorus115 mg
Selenium3.03 µg
Iron1.54 mg
Thiamine0.044 mg
Choline30.9 mg
Potassium169 mg
Niacin0.49 mg
Riboflavin0.04 mg
Magnesium14.5 mg
Source: USDA[6]

  • Protein: Protein supplies essential amino acids needed to develop and maintain muscle growth, mass, and tissue repair.[7]
  • Iron: Iron is essential for overall vitality, and it aids red blood cells (RBCs) in transporting oxygen to the different cells around their bodies – plus, it’s necessary for energy levels, brain function, and healthy growth and development.
  • Vitamin B12: Beef is an invaluable dietary source of vitamin B12, which is necessary for the healthy formation of blood cells and brain and nervous system development. It also aids with skin improvements and promotes a positive mood, better sleep quality, and neural regeneration.[8]
  • Selenium: Selenium is a vital trace element with abundant benefits, from antiviral properties to preventing autoimmune diseases! Not only does selenium improve cognitive and immune function, but it could also reduce your risk for certain chronic illnesses.[9]
  • Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that not only helps to promote healthy growth and development but also assists in reducing the occurrences of diarrhea.
  • Niacin: Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, plays a significant role in the digestive system. Research has found that a niacin deficiency increases the chances of heart disease.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is essential for perfecting your pup’s teeth, bones, and metabolism. It aids calcium in preserving homeostasis within the body and is crucial for maintaining a healthy kidney function.
  • Riboflavin: Vitamin B2, known as riboflavin, enables your canine companion to process nutrients efficiently and convert them into other B vitamins. Additionally, this vitamin is critical for metabolizing fats and other compounds in the body for optimal health. Not to mention that it also helps keep your pup’s skin and eyes vibrant!
  • Choline: Choline plays a crucial role in developing healthy brains,  heart health, muscle function, nervous system operations, and liver functioning.
  • Folate: Folate (Folic acid) is essential for forming DNA, which determines tissue growth and cell functionality. An absence of this critical nutrient is associated with congenital disabilities in expectant mothers.
  • Copper: Copper plays an integral role in your dog’s well-being, from forming red blood cells to absorbing iron. Additionally, it helps with skin pigmentation, hair coloration, and the production of connective tissue.
  • Potassium: Potassium, an essential electrolyte for your pet’s well-being, is utterly necessary as it helps power the electrical impulses of their heart, nerves, and muscles.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium assists with the absorption and metabolic processes of other vital minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium and sodium. Moreover, it is also essential to effectively use B-complex vitamins and vitamins C and E.

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky?

Are dogs allowed to eat beef jerky? Is beef jerky healthy for dogs?

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.

Benefits of Beef Jerky For Dogs

Here are some of the benefits of feeding beef jerky to your dog.

  • Excellent source of protein for dogs. Beef jerky is an ultra-concentrated protein source that packs up to 74 percent of high-quality proteins.
  • 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 is 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

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 it typically consists 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, FDA has received reports of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of 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]

Not only is it essential to take into account 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 Side Effects and Risks of Beef Jerky in Dogs

Human-grade beef jerky contains substances that can be extremely harmful to dogs. Let’s examine the potential adverse effects and dangers that human-made beef jerky may pose to our canine friends.

  • 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 due to the consumption of human-grade beef jerky. In this disorder, part of the kidney called the proximal tubule doesn’t work properly and causes depletion of essential nutrients like glucose, amino acids, and bicarbonate from the body. 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 it is essential to keep all human-grade beef jerky away from our dogs, 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 not affected 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 in Beef Jerky Treats for Humans: Onions, pepper, garlic and sugar (xylitol) are popular ingredients used to flavor beef jerky and can result in serious side effects such as lethargy, fast breathing and more.

Are Dogs Allergic To Beef Jerky?

There’s also a chance your dog could be allergic or sensitive to beef jerky. We suggest you do a dog food allergy test before giving your dog beef jerky to help you determine if your pup is sensitive or intolerant to this food — or any other foods. If not, you should be fine to give dogs beef jerky in moderation.

dog food allergy testing

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.

How Much Beef Jerky Can Your Dog Eat?

Feeding beef jerky to dogs depends on their size.

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

Remember that 200 mg is the maximum daily intake of sodium for dogs. Check the sodium levels of each piece to be safe.

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 prevail 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 with a veterinary professional via our online veterinarian chat (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Frequently Asked Questions About Beef Jerky & Dogs

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about dogs and beef jerky.

Can Dogs Eat Beef Jerky? — Conclusion

Beef jerky can be a tasty treat for dogs as long as 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 to learn more about how we fact-check 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 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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