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Why can’t dogs eat bacon?

Bacon is a processed meat that is commonly eaten by humans for breakfast. However, dogs cannot eat bacon, and it can be dangerous if they consume too much. There are a few key reasons why bacon is not safe for canine consumption.

Bacon is high in fat

One of the main issues with feeding bacon to dogs is its high fat content. On average, a slice of cooked bacon contains around 5 grams of fat. Dogs’ bodies are not as efficient at metabolizing fat and cholesterol compared to humans. Eating too much bacon can lead to obesity, pancreatitis, and other health issues in dogs.

Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition that occurs when the pancreas becomes damaged. It is often triggered by a high-fat diet. Obesity also puts extra strain on the body and increases the risk of joint problems, breathing difficulties, and diabetes.

Bacon is salty

In addition to its high fat content, bacon contains a lot of sodium. A single slice of bacon may have as much as 350 mg of sodium. Consuming too much sodium can cause excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and even sodium ion poisoning in dogs.

Sodium ion poisoning occurs when sodium levels become abnormally high in the blood. This causes cells to lose water due to osmosis and leads to swelling of the brain and other organs. Sodium poisoning can be fatal if not treated promptly by a veterinarian.

Nitrates and nitrites

Many types of bacon contain preservatives called nitrates and nitrites. These compounds help preserve the color and flavor of processed meats. However, nitrates and nitrites can be toxic to dogs in large quantities.

When ingested, nitrates are converted to nitrites in the body. Nitrites can reduce the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. This condition is called methemoglobinemia. Symptoms include lethargy, increased heart rate, breathing issues, and bluish gums.

Other preservatives

In addition to nitrates/nitrites, bacon contains other preservatives like sodium erythorbate and sodium phosphate. While these compounds are considered safe for people, dogs are much more sensitive.

Eating too many preservatives may cause gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Preservatives may also lead to liver or kidney problems over time.

Parasites and bacteria

Raw or undercooked pork poses a risk of transmitting parasites and bacteria to dogs:

  • Trichinella spirals – Causes trichinosis, which leads to digestive issues, breathing problems, and neurological dysfunction
  • Toxoplasma gondii – Can cause neurological issues like seizures
  • Salmonella – Causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration
  • Listeria – Leads to fever, diarrhea, and nervous system issues

Properly cooking bacon kills these organisms. But dogs may still get sick if they eat raw or undercooked bacon.

Pancreatic issues

Some studies have found that processed meats like bacon may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in humans. The reasons are not fully known but may be related to preservatives and carcinogens formed during high-heat cooking.

While canine pancreatic cancer is uncommon, bacon could potentially raise dogs’ risk as well due to similar physiology of the pancreas.

Kidney problems

The high sodium content of bacon puts extra strain on dogs’ kidneys. Over time, this can reduce kidney function and lead to renal failure.

Signs of kidney disease include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, vomiting, bad breath, and loss of appetite. Kidney disease is serious and requires treatment from a veterinarian.

Upset stomach

Eating fatty foods like bacon may cause acute pancreatitis or gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Signs can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

These symptoms often subside within a day or so if treated by removing access to fatty foods. But in severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

Heart disease

Feeding bacon and other fatty foods to dogs raises their cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis – a narrowing of arteries due to fatty buildup.

Over time, this causes reduced blood flow which may result in heart attacks and strokes. Obesity also strains the heart and exacerbates these problems.

Toxic flavorings

Certain types of flavored bacon contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs:

  • Onions – Can cause anemia by damaging red blood cells
  • Garlic – Also causes anemia and low blood pressure
  • Xylitol – An artificial sweetener that can lead to liver failure
  • Chocolate – Contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs

Be sure to check the ingredients list before giving any flavored bacon to dogs.

Pancreatitis risk factors

Certain dogs are more prone to developing pancreatitis. Risk factors include:

Risk Factor Description
Obesity Excess fat puts strain on the pancreas
High dietary fat Triggers inflammation of the pancreas
Old Age Pancreas function may decline with age
Underlying disease Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and cancer increase risk
Medications Some drugs like corticosteroids may contribute
Genetics Heredity may play a role in some breeds

Safe people foods for dogs

While bacon is not advised, there are many human foods that are safe and healthy for dogs in moderation, such as:

  • Cooked chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes

It’s best to introduce new foods gradually to check for allergies. Talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your dog.


Bacon should not be part of a dog’s regular diet. The high fat, salt, and nitrates can cause serious health issues over time. Stick to unseasoned meat and dog food for a balanced canine diet. While the occasional bacon treat may not harm healthy dogs, it’s better to avoid this fatty snack altogether.