Dropped a slice of pepperoni pizza? Or maybe you're wrapping up a charcuterie board and there's just a little meat left. Either way, you might be contemplating if it's alright to let your canine friend have a taste of either the pizza or those leftover charcuterie delights.
Though many of us have a soft spot for pepperoni, it might not be the healthiest choice even for us. So, if it's something we're advised to consume in moderation, how does that translate for our furry pals?
Simply put, the answer is a resounding no. Whether it's spicy jerky, pepperoni sticks, or a slice of pepperoni pizza, it's best to keep it away from your dog.
Remember, you don't need to share every bite with your four-legged friend. Instead, let's explore some healthier options to include your pet in the family mealtime!
What is Pepperoni?
Pepperoni is a variety of salami, a cured type of sausage, that originated in the U.S. We often use it as a popular topping for pizzas and various other dishes (Source: Dogtown Pizza).
Pepperoni is usually made from a blend of pork and beef, though some versions also include poultry. The meat is seasoned with spices such as paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper to add flavor and color. It is then cured through fermentation and drying. The curing process gives pepperoni its distinctive bold, spicy flavor and a chewy, soft texture.
The bright red color of pepperoni comes from the curing process and the use of nitrites, which also help preserve the meat. Nitrites and nitrates are added to processed meats like deli meats and hot dogs as a preservative against certain bacteria and to preserve color.
When dogs eat large amounts of nitrites and nitrates, we know that dogs can develop a disease called methemoglobinemia, but what about other diseases associated with an overabundance of nitrate intake?
Unfortunately, most summaries published by U.S. government agencies and WHO reference experiments conducted prior to 1990 that more than likely need to be updated. We attempted to find more recent published studies.
A study released in 1973 by Kelley et al. and colleagues noted that "Persistent intake of these sublethal nitrate amounts did not lead to chronic nitrate toxicosis marked by thyroid issues."
However, WHO's perspective seemed to diverge based on research with Wistar rats.
Given the increasing data in human health indicating the impact of nitrates and nitrites on the thyroid gland, it's our opinion that a more recent examination or assessment involving dogs is necessary.
De Laforcade et al. carried out a preliminary investigation to examine if dogs with chronic valvular disease (CVD) or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) showed higher nitric oxide levels compared to healthy specimens. They also sought to understand the relationship between nitric oxide levels and various factors like disease type, its intensity, medication, and serum markers like TNF and IL‐1.
Blood samples were drawn from 32 dogs diagnosed with DCM, 10 with CVD, and another 10 which were deemed healthy.
Dogs suffering from heart diseases displayed markedly elevated levels of nitrate and nitrite compared to the healthy group.
Interestingly, the elevated nitrate and nitrite levels in the cardiac-challenged dogs didn't show a direct correlation to the disease's type or intensity, the treatment regimen, or the TNF and IL‐1 concentrations.
The study's outcomes hint that while some cardiac-afflicted dogs have raised nitric oxide metabolites, the rise doesn't directly relate to disease intensity, immune marker cytokines (TNF and IL‐1), or medical interventions.
Contrastingly, a 1994 research project delved into understanding nitric oxide's role in managing oxygen consumption. The team opted for a particular nitric oxide synthesis suppressor, nitro-L-arginine (NLA). Post intravenous administration of NLA to alert dogs, the findings revealed:
- Oxygen utilization, extraction, and blood pressure were on the rise.
- A noticeable hike in total peripheral resistance (essentially, resistance to the flow of blood throughout the vascular systems, excluding the pulmonary).
- Body temperature saw an increase.
- Conversely, drops were observed in oxygen saturation, oxyhemoglobin levels, cardiac output, and heartbeat frequency.
Limited research has been conducted on the potential link between nitrates and nitrites and cancer in dogs, mirroring findings in human studies. However, we identified two noteworthy studies.
A 2012 research piece by Turkish experts observed that dogs with malignant mammary tumors had increased nitric oxide levels, a phenomenon not present in healthy dogs.
Similarly, a Brazilian study from 2015, focusing on mammary cancer, discovered notably elevated levels of nitrates and nitrites in dogs diagnosed with mammary carcinoma when contrasted with the unaffected control group.
Why Dogs Should Never Eat Pepperoni
Dogs must stay away from pepperoni and all pepperoni-based foods:
- Hot pepperoni
- Pepperoni jerky
- Pepperoni pizza
- Pepperoni slices
- Pepperoni sticks
- Turkey pepperoni
Although you might love this all-star pizza topping, pepperoni contains too much sodium and fat. Also, all those seasonings added before the curing process will only make matters worse for your dog's digestive system. Eating pepperoni can cause serious health problems, such as kidney damage and pancreatitis.
- Although you will find online sources touting a variety of nutrients associated with pepperoni (for example, protein, magnesium, and vitamins B6, B12, C, and D), no potential benefits outweigh the risks.
Pepperoni nutrition facts
Should Dogs Eat Pepperoni Pizza?
Pizza is still a no-go for dogs, even after removing the pepperoni!
You might have heard of dog owners feeding pizza bones (that is, the crust) to their dogs as a treat. However, unless you've baked the pizza yourself with dog-friendly ingredients, there's no telling what harmful chemicals you're feeding your pup. Also, your dog will not enjoy any nutritional benefits from the crust — too many risks for no reward!
What if My Dog Ate a Few Slices of Pepperoni?
The following symptoms will tell you whether your dog has had one too many pepperoni slices:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
Eating Pepperoni May Cause Salt Poisoning
Dehydration is one step away when feeding pepperoni to a dog.
The excessive amount of sodium chloride (salt) in pepperoni slices could upset your dog's digestive system balance, potentially causing sodium ion poisoning or salt toxicosis. You will notice symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Fortunately, proper hydration can undo the symptoms caused by too much salt — as long as your dog's sodium-regulating mechanisms are still intact (Source: Merck Veterinary Manual).
Pepperoni's High Fat Content May Lead to Pancreatitis
The high amounts of fat found in pepperoni (1 slice = 2.22g of fat), coupled with its spiciness, may cause a bout of pancreatitis in your dog (Source: Fat in Pepperoni).
Pancreatitis manifests itself as an inflammation of the pancreas caused by the premature activation of digestive enzymes found in the organ itself. Simply put, the pancreas starts digesting itself.
Without proper care, symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and severe dehydration, which are associated with pancreatitis, may become life-threatening.
The high concentration of saturated fats found in pepperoni may lead to other digestive problems, such as bloat and gastroenteritis (that is, the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), as well as weight gain, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer (Volhard and Brown, 29).
Pepperoni Has a High Caloric Content
A single slice of pepperoni, with 26 low-quality calories (Source: Calories in Pepperoni), can quickly lead to excessive caloric intake in dogs. Indulging in too many calorie-dense human foods is a proven way to an upset stomach and rapid weight gain.
Pepperoni is Seasoned With Too Many Spices
All the spices contributing to pepperoni's trademark taste, such as cayenne and black pepper, onion powder, paprika, and fennel seeds, will only irritate the GI tract, leading to digestive issues. No need for our furry friends to share in our spicy foods!
What if My Dog Eats Pepperoni?
The amount of ingested pepperoni will determine the right course of action.
One slice of pepperoni should not be a cause of serious concern — as long as your dog drinks enough fresh water to prevent sodium ion poisoning.
If, however, your dog gulps down a few slices of pepperoni, contact your vet immediately. They will assess your dog's health and recommend the safest course of action. worst case scenario, they will administer medication to treat food poisoning (Source: AZ Animals).
What Should I Feed My Dog Instead of Pepperoni?
If you truly want your four-legged friend to be a part of the 'Friday night pizza night' tradition, why not feed them dog-friendly treats instead of highly processed food?
Instead of pepperoni pizza, simply set aside a bit of cheese, some dog-friendly vegetables, or a few bits of meat — as long as you don't cook the meat in any oil or butter. These healthy treats are more than enough to include your dog in the family tradition without an upset stomach!
Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni? Final Answer: No!
Though it's hard to see our canine friends miss out on our culinary fun, your dog's health must always come first. So, keep your favorite pepperoni recipes to yourself and reward your pup with healthier treats. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!