NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be OK for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.
Summer is the season of get-togethers and grilling—and who can resist the begging face of an adorable pup at these gatherings? But is it OK if someone sneaks your dog a hot dog or if Fido steals one off the picnic table? Can dogs eat hot dogs safely?
Although no ingredients in hot dogs are inherently dangerous to dogs, there are good reasons they shouldn’t be fed to your pup.
Are Hot Dogs Bad for Dogs?
Hot dogs don’t generally contain anything that is toxic for dogs, but they also don’t have much that’s good for them, either. Most hot dogs are quite high in fat and may contain ingredients that aren’t good for your dog, such as:
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Sodium nitrate (which has been linked to cancer)
To make matters worse, wieners are typically extremely high in salt, with some brands containing more than 500 mg per hot dog. For reference, a 33-pound dog only needs to consume about 200 mg of salt in an entire day, so a single hot dog is more than twice their daily needs.
And then there’s the size of the hot dog to consider. Some dogs will try to gulp down a hot dog whole, which can lead to choking.
Should You Use Hot Dogs as Training Treats?
Some people like to use hot dogs as training aids, and there is something to be said for a high-value treat like this during a training session. However, there are a few guidelines to follow if you’re going to reward your pup with hot dogs.
1. Keep It Plain
Only use cooked hot dogs with no added flavorings. Do not feed your dog raw hot dogs, as they are known to harbor bacteria in high numbers, which can make your dog sick.
Select a hot dog with only natural ingredients and with a minimum of preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors. And be sure to skip the “extras,” like the bun and condiments!
2. Cut It Up
Cut the hot dog into bite-sized pieces prior to the training session, (about ¼-inch thick) and don’t give your dog too many pieces during the training session.
On average, it’s likely safe to feed one ¼-inch thick slice of hot dog per 15 pounds of dog. So, a 60-pound dog could have a total of 1 inch of cooked hot dog, cut into tiny pieces.
3. Make It an Occasional Treat
Using hot dogs should be reserved only for the occasional training session—not done daily! If you are looking for something special to use for training, consider pieces of cooked, unseasoned chicken breast or small pieces of cooked beef or pork.
Many commercial companies make special treats designed for training, too.
My Dog Ate a Hot Dog. What Do I Do?
If your pup snuck a hot dog off your plate, you might be wondering what to do now. It’s important to watch your dog closely for any signs of gastrointestinal discomfort such as vomiting, diarrhea, excess gas, or abdominal cramping. If your dog seems particularly distressed, or if the problem lasts more than 12–24 hours, contact your veterinarian for advice and treatment.
Additionally, if your dog shows any signs of choking—such as pawing at the mouth, having trouble breathing, and salivating heavily—seek immediate emergency care.
A healthy dog that steals a single hot dog is not likely to have any major problems, unless they ate multiple hot dogs. If your pet has any underlying health concerns (like if they’re prone to pancreatitis), contact your veterinarian right away.
What To Feed Your Dog Instead of Hot Dogs
So, if you find that puppy face totally irresistible at the family picnic, what can you feed your dog instead of hot dogs? Consider bringing along something to grill just for Fido, such as a portion of chicken breast or lean beef. Just keep the portion size small and look for cuts that are low in fat.
These treats should never be fried, but could be grilled, baked, or boiled and broken in tiny pieces and given as snacks—but be sure they are cooled before serving! Many dogs also like vegetables off the grill as well.
And if you don’t feel like cooking for Fido, purchasing a special bag of meaty, freeze-dried treats to take along might fit the bill, too! Many healthier options than hot dogs exist that your dog will thank you for.
Featured Image: iStock/fotyma
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