Can Dogs Eat Corned Beef?

Photo by Frank Hebbert on Flickr

Corned beef is an easy solution when you don’t have much time to cook, and it does taste yummy, but can you share this type of quick meal with your dog? 

Many people would assume that it’s OK since it’s basically meat. However, when you have a closer look at the ingredients in a can of corned beef you’ll realize it’s not such a healthy meal, for you or your dog. 

In this article we’ll have a look at the main ingredients in corned beef and examine the health risks they pose.

What is corned beef?

 The first surprising thing about corned beef is that this product doesn’t have anything to do with corn. In this case, the term corn refers to the large grains of salt, also known as rock salt, used to process the meat.

The meat used to make corned beef is usually brisket, or the lower part of a cow’s udder. That cut of meat is rather tough and fatty, and in itself wouldn’t be such a treat.

To become that tender piece of pink meat we call corned beef it has to be brined or marinated.

Food manufacturers might also use various spices like coriander, peppercorn, bay leaf or mustard seeds to make it more flavorful.

What is the nutritional value of corned beef?

If there’s one thing to be said about corned beef is that it is highly-calorific, which explains why this product is a staple in many households. It tastes good and it fills your belly.

A 100 g serving of corned beef provides 250 calories, which might be a bit too much for your dog, especially if it’s a smaller breed.

For instance, a 20 lbs adult dog needs around 500 calories per day to stay in optimal shape, so that small serving of corned beef would account for half the recommended daily calorie intake.

You can use this tool to determine the calories your dog needs per day.

What are the main ingredients in corn beef?

Let us now open that can of corned beef and see what’s inside.

Beef

Is brisket good for dogs? Served raw as an occasional treat it might not be that bad, although you need to keep in mind that it is full of fats.

A 100 g serving of corned beef provides 19% of the recommended daily allowance of fats. That’s for an average human being with a 2000 calories diet, which is four times as much the calorie intake for a 20 lbs dog. If you do the math, it’s obvious that it’s way too much fat for your pet.

What’s worse is that this same serving accounts for 31% of the RDA for saturated fat for a human. Saturated fat is the nasty kind of fat responsible for cholesterol buildup in your arteries, and can lead to coronary disease.

Feeding your dog corned beef on a regular basis might cause long term heart problems.

At the same time, too much fat in a dog’s diet can cause pancreatitis, which is a very serious condition for dogs. 

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, and it’s main symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased appetite

The good part about corned beef is that this type of food contains no carbs. A regular serving provides around 27 g of protein and is an excellent source of iron (12% RDA for humans) and potassium (3% RDA)..

If you want to keep your pet in good health, his diet should not contain more than 10-15% fats.

Salt

Rock salt is formed when salt water from a sea or lake evaporates, leaving behind sodium chloride crystals. Some types of rock salt, like Himalaya salt, are touted as being very good for human health.

Not for dogs though. Dogs don’t need much salt in their diet and it can cause them a lot of health issues.

A regular serving of corned beef provides 39% of the RDA for the average adult. If you have a small dog, you might just as well shove a spoonful of salt down his throat.

Just a small dash of salt in your dog’s homemade meal is generally OK, but 897 mg of salt in a corned beef serving is way too much. It’s not enough to be lethal, it won’t kill your dog if he eats the whole can, but it can lead to salt poisoning if he is allowed to eat this product every day.

Here are the main symptoms of salt poisoning in dogs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling caused by fluid accumulation
  • Excessive thirst
  • Tremors and seizures

If a dog drinks a lot of water after a meal that’s the first sign it was too salty and you should avoid it in the future.

Sodium nitrite

Sodium nitrite is a preservative widely used in the food industry as it prevents bacteria growth and maintains freshness. It is also used to make processed meats more appealing.

When it comes to corned beef, sodium nitrite is what gives the meat that bright pink color. Homemade corned beef prepared with regular pickling salt is a not very appetizing sort of gray.

One of the main reasons doctors warn against processed meats is that they contain too many nitrites and nitrates, which can be harmful in large amounts.

Cooking corned beef is especially dangerous as the protein (or amino acids) in meat and the nitrites combine to form nitrosamine, and this compound has been found to cause various types of cancer.

Most Western countries have laws limiting the amount of nitrites food manufacturers can use in a product precisely because they can transform into nitrosamine.

Corned beef poisoning in dogs. What can you do?

If you open a can of corned beef and leave it on the counter, don’t be surprised if your pet polishes it in a few gulps. It has a very enticing aroma and tastes just as good to them as it does to us.

If it’s a big can, your dog might get sick. The most common symptom is vomiting, but you might also have to deal with diarrhea as well.

While the poor dog might be quite miserable, there is no need to panic.

Best thing you can do, let him starve for 12 hours, but make sure to provide plenty of water, as vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous, particularly for puppies.

After 12 hours of starvation, feed your dog a bland meal of plain boiled rice and boneless chicken breast in small servings. This should do the trick for an upset tummy. However, if the dog is not better after 24 hours, give your vet a call.

What’s the difference between corned beef and silverside?

The two products are quite similar, which is why sometimes the two terms are used as synonyms.

However, silverside is usually prepared with a different meat cut than corned beef. Silverside is made with meat from the hindquarter just above the leg, and it contains less fat than a cut of brisket.

That’s better for the dog, but if we’re talking about canned silverside, it still has more salt than a dog needs, so it is to be avoided.

What is the healthiest meat for dogs?

Meat should account for the greater part of your dog’s diet as it provides him with much needed protein, as well as other essential nutrients.

However, not all meats are created equal and you should try to feed your dog lean meat, like chicken and turkey.

As for beef, it is one of the most affordable meats and is relatively healthy, as it provides adequate amounts of protein, iron, zinc, selenium, as well as vitamins B12, B3 and B6.

If you’re making meatloaf for dinner, you can prepare some for your dog, too, only leave out the onion and the garlic, as they are both considered toxic for dogs. Also, go easy on the salt.

Ground beef is generally safe for dogs, if you grind it yourself and trim the fatty parts. Store-bought hamburgers are not made with the best meat cuts, so they probably contain too much fat.

Contrary to what some might think, dogs love a bit of variety in their food. Even if your dog usually eats kibble, you can use any leftover pieces of lean steak, cut them into pieces and mix them with your pet’s regular food.

So, can I feed my dog corned beef?

Preferably not! Corned beef does provide plenty of protein, iron and some vitamins, but this type of food can be dangerous to a dog. First of all, the meat in corned beef is brisket, which has a high fat content. At the same time, corned beef is made by brining the meat, and it will absorb a very high amount of salt in the process. Too much salt is toxic for dogs.

If your dog accidentally eats your corned beef, don’t worry, it won’t kill him. It might give him an upset stomach, but he should be fine.

Can you give him corned beef as an occasional treat? Probably yes, but what’s the point of giving him just a taste of something he shouldn’t have and then have him beg for more?