Who doesn’t love pizza night? If you’re like me, it happens at least once a week! But unfortunately, this isn’t a food we should be sharing with our dogs.
It may seem harmless to offer up a pepperoni off of your pizza, but it can actually make your dog sick or even poison them.
No matter which meat your pepperonis are made of, they aren’t safe for dogs to eat. This is because pepperonis are high in fat and salt, which can cause severe illness in dogs. Most pepperonis also contain toxic ingredients like garlic and onion powder.
Similar foods like salami are bad for dogs for the same reasons, as is pepperoni pizza (or any kind of pizza!).
In this article, we’ll talk about why dogs can’t eat pepperonis, what to do if your dog eats pepperoni, and alternative, healthy treats for dogs.
4 Reasons Pepperonis aren’t Safe for Dogs
- High Salt Content can Cause Salt Poisoning
Pepperonis are high in salt. Although dogs do need salt in their diet to stay hydrated and maintain healthy cell function, all the salt they need should be contained in their dog food. Excess salts aren’t good for dogs and can cause health problems, including salt poisoning.
Before speaking to my pets’ veterinarian, I honestly didn’t know salt poisoning in dogs was a thing! If you’re anything like me, here are the symptoms of salt poisoning so that you know what to look for:
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
As I said above, dogs do need sodium in their diet—so a little bit of salt from one pepperoni is very unlikely to hurt them. But if they get into a whole packet that you forgot to put in the fridge? That might be another story.
- High Fat Content can Lead to Pancreatitis
The high fat content in pepperonis can cause weight gain. In high amounts, it can also cause pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a life-threatening condition in dogs, which is typically caused by eating fatty foods. (Though it can also be caused by underlying illness like cancer or masses in the body, medications, genetics, and other factors.)
Symptoms of pancreatitis include fatigue, depression, decreased appetite, increased thirst, severe vomiting, diarrhea, and intense stomach pain.
Pancreatitis is an emergency condition, meaning your dog should be seen right away if they’re showing symptoms. Call your nearest emergency vet clinic for help.
Dogs can develop acute pancreatitis, meaning it happens once—usually as a result of getting into a fatty food like pepperonis. There’s also chronic pancreatitis, which is recurring.
- Your Dog Can Develop Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis can be caused by eating new or toxic foods, amongst other causes. When a dog has gastroenteritis, their stomach and intestines become inflamed, leading to symptoms like:
- Repeat vomiting (may contain foamy, yellow bile)
- Large amounts of diarrhea
- Dry heaving or gagging, especially after eating or drinking
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Decreased appetite
- Low-grade fever
To diagnose gastroenteritis, veterinarians typically rule out other causes first. This can include taking your pet’s history, bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, or ultrasound.
Gastroenteritis is another emergent condition. The sooner your dog is seen by a veterinarian, the less chances they have of becoming severely dehydrated and the quicker they can receive treatment.
- Contains Spices which can be Unhealthy or Toxic
In general, we don’t want to feed spicy foods to our dogs. They often cause stomach upset, or get even sicker if the spices are toxic.
Two toxic spices commonly found in pepperoni are garlic and onion powder.
Both garlic and onion break down a dog’s red blood cells, causing anemia. Consumption can also cause your dog stomach problems.
Symptoms of poisoning include:
- Bloody urine
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive panting
- Pale gums
- Inability to exercise
It can take quite a bit of garlic to poison a dog–15-30 g/kg of body weight, to be exact. However, this can build up in their system over days.
Onions are more dangerous, as only 5 g/kg of body weight can poison a dog. Garlic and onion powders are more concentrated than the whole foods, and thus can poison your dog in even smaller amounts.
Also keep in mind that when combined in a pepperoni, the garlic and onion can work together to poison your pup–meaning less of each may be required than if they were eating just one.
Small dogs are most at risk, as it takes smaller quantities to poison them. Dogs fed garlic or onion consistently, of course, tend to be more at risk than dogs who accidentally get into a small amount of pepperonis one time.
However, I always recommend calling a pet poison hotline or emergency veterinary clinic if your dog gets into something toxic.
Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni Pizza?
Dogs should never eat pepperoni or any other type of pizza. This is primarily because of the sauce, which commonly contains toxic seasonings like garlic, onion, and other toxic herbs.
Of course, as we discussed above, pepperoni can also contain these ingredients as well as excess salts and fats that aren’t good for your dog.
Raw pizza can be even more dangerous, as the dough can expand in your dog’s digestive system. This can lead to difficulty breathing, vomiting or failed attempts to vomit, distended abdomen, tissue tearing, bowel obstruction, pain or discomfort, restlessness, and even intoxication from ethanol produced by the yeast.
What to do if Your Dog Eats Pepperoni
The answer to this depends on many factors, including the size of your dog, how much they eat, and the ingredients in the pepperoni.
Usually, large dogs won’t have a problem with just a small piece of pepperoni, while larger amounts may require immediate veterinary attention. Smaller dogs are at increased risk due to their size.
If the pepperoni contains toxic ingredients, as most do, it’s worth a call to a pet poison hotline or emergency vet clinic even for small amounts.
If your dog eats large amounts of pepperoni, definitely call a veterinarian!
In the meantime, also monitor your dog for symptoms of poisoning or pancreatitis. If they show symptoms, call an emergency vet clinic for help.
Alternatives to Pepperoni for Dogs
Luckily, there are many alternatives to pepperonis for dogs. But, let’s get some popular, unsafe options you may be considering out of the way first.
Avoid feeding other parts of pizza, such as cheese or crust, as these are likely to contain toxic spices like garlic and onion.
Salami and other lunch meats should also be avoided, as they fall into the same category as pepperoni—often containing too much sodium, fat, and toxic seasonings.
Here’s what you can feed your dog instead of pepperoni:
- Low-fat cooked, unseasoned meats: Chicken breast is great for dogs, for instance!
- Homemade or store-bought dog treats: Plenty of store-bought treats are meant to mimic pepperoni while excluding the fat, salt, and seasonings that make human pepperonis so dangerous.
- Small amounts of cheese: So long as it doesn’t contain toxins and isn’t off your pizza, cheese can be a great, high-value treat! It should be fed in moderation, however, as dogs don’t digest dairy easily.