If you’ve ever been munching on beef jerky, you’ve seen how it grabs your dog’s attention as soon as you open up the bag. The smell of smoked, dried meat is just too much for even the most polite dog to resist begging for, so you’ve probably handed off a few bites to your pup. Are you familiar with the foods that are dangerous to dogs? If you aren’t, then the jerky you’re sharing might not be the best option for canines.
What About the Dog Jerky That Killed a Bunch of Dogs?
Dog owners across the country were horrified when they heard of dogs dying after consuming certain brands of jerky treats for dogs. Thousands of dogs have died so far from different brands of chicken jerky made especially for canines. These dogs died of kidney disease because the chicken was contaminated with glycerin or irradiation. Stores won’t have these treats on the shelves anymore, but it should serve as a warning about buying cheaper brands of dog treats.
Is Human Beef Jerky a Safe Snack for Dogs?
The answer: yes and no. The danger in beef jerky isn’t the beef or meat found in the product; it’s the spices used to flavor it. While the variety of spices found in typical jerky snacks is incredibly delicious and make both humans and dogs salivate, some of them make dogs really ill.
First, jerky is very high in salt. To preserve packaged jerky, it’s treated with a salt solution. This adds to the flavor, but it also makes jerky shelf stable. It’s debatable whether this level of salt is healthy for humans. The USDA reports than one ounce of beef jerky has 590 milligrams of sodium. As a human, you should have less than 1500 milligrams of sodium every day, so just three ounces of beef jerky will put you over that limit. In comparison, a 33-pound dog shouldn’t have more than 100 milligrams of sodium per day. One ounce of jerky is over five times their healthy limit!
It isn’t just the salt that makes jerky an unhealthy choice for dogs. The spices in the meat typically consist of onion and garlic powders. They make things taste delicious, but they make dogs very sick. Onions and garlic belong to the Allium family. Plants belonging to the Allium family cause organ damage and damage to red blood cells. When red blood cells are damaged, they aren’t able to effectively carry oxygen throughout the dog’s body, causing difficulty breathing. Some people mistakenly believe that garlic and onion powders aren’t as dangerous as their natural form, but since they’re extremely concentrated forms of the plant, they are actually more potent.
What About Homemade Jerky?
Yes, homemade jerky is absolutely safe for your dog as long as you skip the spices. You certainly don’t have to have any special equipment to make jerky; all you need is an oven. Use whatever meat you have on hand, and if your dog isn’t able to tolerate things like beef or chicken, you can use game meat (elk, rabbit, venison, etc), fish (salmon, trout), or even beef liver. If you have a freezer of older meat that’s a bit dried out, you can use it for your pup’s jerky!
Trim any fat off of the meat before you start to filet it. Fat has excess moisture and it slows down the dehydration process. Next, filet the half-frozen meat into long, thin slices. If you’re using an oven, 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices are ideal. When you cut it with the grain, it makes the jerky chewier. The slices should all be roughly the same size/thickness for even cooking.
Evenly arrange the slices on the cooling racks of the oven. Put cookie sheets under the meat to catch any drippings. The meat should cook for two hours at 200 degrees. Rotate the racks every 30 minutes for even baking. Some types of meat take longer to dry out than others, so cooking times vary. You’ll have jerky when the meat hs no moisture in it at all. To test its readiness, bend a slice. If it’s spongy feeling, it isn’t dried fully. Overcooking is better than undercooking!
While commercial or professionally prepared jerky is shelf-stable, your homemade jerky has no preservatives in it. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it from going bad.
While a few tiny bites of your jerky isn’t harmful to your dog, don’t make it a habit. If you love to spoil your pup, making your own jerky is easy, quick, and much healthier!