Can Dogs Eat Meatballs?

Can dogs have meatballs? They do look delicious ¹

Meatballs are universal.

This simple dish defies time and space.

No one knows who made the first meatball, but we should thank them nevertheless for their yummilicious invention.

Ancient Chinese ate meatballs, and so did the Romans and the Greeks.

The reason behind their popularity lies in a very practical fact – some cuts of meat are less appealing than others.

Grounding them and mixing the meat with various spices was and is a very good way of putting to good use almost all parts of an animal.

In ancient times, when people lived off the animals they raised in their own yard that made perfect sense.

Come to think of it, hamburgers are nothing but another sort of meatball, one that is grilled rather than fried, boiled or steamed.

The largest meatball ever was made in 2017 in South Carolina, by the cooks at the Italian-American Club on Hilton Hill Island and it weighed a whopping 1757 pounds. 

Since everybody loves meatballs can a dog have this type of food? Yes and no. It all depends on the ingredients you put inside.

If you want to make sure your dog will be safe you’d better cook his meatballs yourself.   

What are the ingredients in meatballs?

You can make meatballs out of basically any type of meat. If you can grind it, there’s no reason not to make some meatballs out of it. 

Pork meatballs are by far the most popular around the world. In the Middle East, where they don’t eat pork, meatballs are usually prepared with ground lamb or beef, mixed with various seasonings. In China, meatballs are usually fried and served with soy sauce, but they also have a smaller variety of meatballs boiled in soup. Chicken meatballs are also quite popular as a more healthy alternative, although pork-lovers swear they’re not as tasty. 

You can also make meatballs out of fish, but those are usually called fishballs.

The main ingredient is meat, but it’s the seasonings that make the difference. In most parts of the world, people add some chopped onion in the mix. Parsley and dill are also very popular as seasoning, but in various parts of the world they also throw in garlic, cloves or nutmeg. Breadcrumbs are also widely used, and, of course, eggs which serve to keep the ingredients together.  

Meatballs are usually served with mustard, ketchup or traditional sauces.

Are meatballs toxic to dogs?

If you think in terms of meat, then meatballs are perfectly safe for dogs. Sure, some types of meat have a higher fat content than other, but overall the meat won’t cause any trouble 

What you need to worry about are the seasonings.

Onion, for instance, is toxic to dogs. According to experts, onions contain a compound called N-propyl-disulfide, which leads to a breakdown of the red cells. If your dog eats onions regularly this can lead to anemia.  All parts of the onion plant are toxic to dogs. This includes onion powder which can be found in a wide variety of processed foods, so you should always check out the ingredients list before serving your dog any food you haven’t cooked yourself.

Garlic is also toxic to dogs and for the same reasons, so avoid feeding it to your dog, Plus, dogs are not in the habit of brushing their teeth and their breath will stink!

Can dogs eat Subway meatballs?

The Marinara meatballs at Subway are famous across the world. Millions of such meatballs are eaten every day. When you take your dog out for a walk could you stop for a quick treat? Could you share a Footlong Marinara Meatball?

First of all, you need to know that such a meatball provides 906 calories. Half of it would be huge for a small dog or even a mid-sized one. The worst part is that 33% of those calories come from fat. Another 49% comes from carbohydrates? And protein? That’s just 18%. That’s already an unbalanced meal for a dog who needs a diet based mostly on protein.

Let’s have a look at the ingredients now:

The meatball itself is made from beef, which is quite nutritious for a dog. How much meat is there in a Subway meatball? Not much if the product only has a small amount of protein. 

Water is listed second on the ingredients list which is quite telling. Yes, dogs need water, but the water at home is definitely cheaper. Bread crumbs are next on the list. Probably lots of bread in those meatballs considering the high amount of carbs. But, at least, bread is not dangerous for dogs. 

Besides meat, these meatballs contain textured soy protein concentrate. Some people love soy, but when it comes to feeding your precious pooch you should ask yourself whether it’s genetically-modified soy. That might be dangerous for your pet

Romano cheese is not toxic to dogs and presumably it provides a bit of calcium which is good for your dog’s bones.

The real reason you shouldn’t take your dog to Subway is that these meatballs contain dehydrated onion and garlic. As already mentioned, both garlic and onions can be toxic to dogs, and their powdered form is the most dangerous one. And you can also find garlic and onions in the famous Marinara sauce. 

The lettuce and tomatoes the Footlong meatballs are served with are not dangerous, but they also give you slices of jumbo red onions with it. Not what your dog should have for lunch. 

Bottom line, keep your dog away from Subway!

Why should you not feed Ikea’s Swedish meatballs to your dog?

Maybe not as popular as the Subway ones, Ikea meatballs are also a great hit with the public. Early during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ikea released the recipe for their famous meatballs, so now we know exactly what they contain. 

Beef (1 pound) and pork (0.5 pound) are both Ok for your dog. The generous amount of breadcrumbs is also OK. Bread is not exactly what your dog should eat, but it’s not harmful in any way.

So far, so good. 

Next on the list are one garlic clove and one chopped onion. No need to go any further. That’s clearly too much onion for a medium size dog, so you shouldn’t feed your pet the famous Ikea delicacy. 

Are there dog friendly meatball recipes?

If you’d like to add some variety to your dog’s diet, you can prepare some meatballs just for him, using only safe ingredients. The important thing is that you don’t put any garlic or onion in the meatballs. Also, go very easy on the salt. Just a sprinkle is enough. Use parsley for seasoning. 

If you need some inspiration you can find it here, but the point is that you can use whatever healthy ingredients you can think of. Cooked rice or brown rice add consistency to the ground meat and make it easier to shape into meatballs. You can also throw in a bit of pumpkin puree, which is good for the dog’s digestion. Or you can hide a bit of broccoli or carrots in those meatballs. 

If you want to make Italian-style meatballs, you can add a little Parmesan cheese, but just a bit as it has a high salt content which is not exactly healthy for your dog.

You can fry the meatballs in butter or vegetable oil, but if you’re worried your dog has too much fat in his diet you can also boil the meatballs and serve them with a bit of homemade tomato sauce. 

Help! My dog ate a meatball with onion

If your dog ate a meatball with onion, there’s no reason to panic. There’s very little onion in a meatball, certainly not enough to harm your pet. How much onion is dangerous to a dog. Experts say that eating more than 0.5% of the dog’s weight is toxic, and this refers to both onions and garlic. To put it simply, for a 30 lbs dog eating 2.5 ounces of onion can lead to toxicity. Now, 2.5 oz is a rather large onion and it’s highly unlikely there’s so much onion in one regular meatball.  

However, you should always be mindful of the main symptoms of onion toxicity, such as

  • Low appetite
  • Vomiting
  • General weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Fainting
  • Reddish urine

Nothing bad will happen to your dog if he eats just one meatball, but you should keep an eye on him for the next 24 hours, just to be safe. If you see any alarming signs, take him to the vet right away. 

Can dogs eat frozen meatballs?

If they’re homemade, your dog could theoretically eat frozen meatballs. The problem is that a frozen round item is a major choking risk and you don’t want to put your dog in danger. If you prepare a large batch of meatballs for your dog, you can definitely store them in the freezer. Just make sure to take them out a few hours before mealtime and let them thaw so your dog can actually chew them.

Can dogs eat raw meatballs?

If your dog is on a raw diet, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have some raw meatballs. However, you need to be very careful with the meat. Raw meat can be contaminated with all kinds of bacteria or viruses. Only use meat that comes from a trusted source, like your local butcher. 

Closing Thoughts

Your dog can enjoy meatballs as an occasional treat, but only if they are homemade. If you want to keep your pet healthy make a batch of meatballs just for him, leaving out onion, garlic and salt. 

Yet, if your dog happens to steal a meatball off the table, don’t worry. Even if they contain onion or garlic, there’s probably too little of either to cause any real harm. 

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

Sarah Pulsen

Hello, I have been in love with dogs since I was a little girl. I became even more infatuated with them when I was told by my Mum that I couldn't own one. Since I left home there has rarely been a time in my life when I have lived without a dog. My current dog is a Collie Terrier cross, called Ian.