A busy kitchen can be a real treat for a dog.
Not only is it a great place to spend time with their owner but by their very nature kitchens must fascinate dogs.
It is all those great sounds and smells that must drive them potty.
And if there is one smell which grabs their attention more than any other, it must be when some raw meat makes an appearance.
And there’s no better opportunity for a bit of a taster than when the BBQ is up and running.
It is all a bit chaotic.
People, alcohol and food- here, there and everywhere.
A perfect opportunity for a canine thief..
But can your dog eat raw hamburger and not become ill?
Well, that all depends…
Why are hamburgers called hamburgers?
This has always slightly confused and bemused me.
Why would something made out of beef be called a “hamburger”?
Well the answer is that the name ham is derived from the city of Hamburg in Germany where the idea of shredded (or ground) beef first became popular.
And burger just means ground beef.
And so a hamburger is also a beef pattie- a small flat cake of beef mince.
Can dogs eat raw hamburgers?
When thinking about how wholesome raw hamburger is for a dog, I have decided to split this section into two: shop bought hamburgers and homemade hamburgers.
What are the ingredients in a shop bought raw hamburger?
Now then, this all depends on what kind of raw hamburger that we are looking at.
And I presume that because you are particularly interested in “raw hamburger” that you aren’t looking to include the bun that goes around the burger?
A quick look online shows that shop bought beef patties in the US seem to contain 100% beef mince.
Now of course the quality of the beef mince can vary considerably between lean meat or more fatty meat or even if the patty contains superior mince such as angus beef.
In the UK, you can get the same difference in the quality of the beef within the hamburger- lean meat vs more fatty meat etc.
But, what’s surprising to me is that beef patties in the UK aren’t 100% beef.
For a start, most of them are seasoned with salt and pepper but lots of others contain binding agents to make sure that the beef doesn’t break apart.
This binding agent is normally starch of one sort or another.
A pattie that contains 100% beef will be more palatable to a dog than a patty that contains additives and seasoning- and I will look at what harm these might do for your dog a little later.
Ingredients in homemade burgers
Most of them add far more additives into them including ingredients such as eggs or breadcrumbs to help bind the burger together, or salt and pepper for seasoning and garlic and onions for taste.
And I will look at how some of these extra ingredients might affect your dog later on.
Now that we have looked in a little more detail about the ingredients used in shop bought or homemade made hamburgers, I want to discuss how each of these ingredients might affect your dog.
Raw vs cooked: what meat should dogs eat?
Is eating raw beef any more harmful to your dog than eating cooked beef?
I want to answer this looking very narrowly at a dog who might eat raw hamburger every now and then- as opposed to dogs who are on a raw food diet.
All raw meats have the potential to contain harmful bacteria.
With beef the culprits are salmonella, e- coli and staphylococcus aureus.
A USDA study in 2015 indicated that .9% of the beef that they sampled contained bacteria of one sort or another.
And so the chances of your raw hamburger containing any harmful bacteria are less than 1%.
But if you want to reduce the possibility of your dog being poisoned by bacteria in beef to zero, then you need to cook it until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F.
And making sure that you clean up thoroughly- including washing your hands and wiping all the surfaces.
This is a very different answer to the broader question about the merits of regularly feeding raw meat (a BARF diet) to a dog.
And that is a question that I’m going to avoid answering because the debate is very contentious and far too complex for the scope of this article!
Is raw beef safer than raw chicken or raw turkey?
For me, the next interesting question would be how safe would a raw chicken or turkey burger be?
Well in terms of chicken, I think that the answer is not very safe at all.
Not surprisingly, I don’t have any numbers that relate to dogs- my figures are only about people.
The bacteria found in chicken is salmonella and campylobacter.
Raw or undercooked chicken accounts for a quarter of all food poisonings in the US- which roughly equates to a million people per year.
In 2012, a survey carried out by the USDA found salmonella in 26.3% of all chicken parts.
There isn’t any separate and accurate data for turkey because it comes under the poultry umbrella.
How might hamburger additives affect my dog?
As I said at the start, shop bought hamburgers in the US seem to be 100% pure beef and so if your dog has eaten one of these, all you need to worry about is that it is not the 1% of infected beef.
If your dog doesn’t tend to eat any fresh meat then there might be a tiny chance of a touch of diarrhea because the meat is too rich for the stomach.
But, as I said this is unlikely because there is not much meat in a raw hamburger.
As far as the additives go, none of them are dog friendly and some of them are lethal.
But in the very small amounts that they are used in hamburgers, once again the greatest risk to your dog is diarrhea.
Garlic and onion
Let me qualify that “lethal” label.
Garlic and onion in large enough quantities are toxic to dogs.
They contain a chemical called thiosulphate which dogs can’t process.
Now isn’t the time to get into the nitty gritty of how much garlic or onion will it take to poison a dog- for that you are better off reading this article.
But my advice is to avoid using them in the recipe.
Salt and pepper
Although there is such a thing as sodium poisoning, your dog won’t get it from eating homemade hamburgers as the pinch or teaspoon of salt that the recipe demands is too small.
It is a similar story with pepper. The quantity of pepper used in these recipes is too low to be of any real concern.
Although pepper, as you might expect, has the potential to upset a dog’s stomach, your dog probably won’t be any the worse for wear because of it.
Eggs and breadcrumbs
When you are making homemade hamburgers it is normal to use an ingredient that helps to bind the whole mixture together.
And in the recipes that I looked at, the binding agent was either eggs or breadcrumbs.
My recommendation is to use breadcrumbs.
There is a small threat from eating raw eggs because they might contain salmonella (although the risk is very small) which as we will discuss in the next section, is a very nasty food poisoning for your dog to experience.
Whilst breadcrumbs are a long way from being nutritious as far as your dog is concerned they are pretty harmless.
And now onto the fun stuff.
No, I’m kidding.
This is an unsavoury section, where I explain a bit more about salmonella.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning
Salmonella poisoning is a pretty horrendous experience and for dogs it isn’t any easier.
The main symptoms include: fever, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.
If any of these symptoms then you should be phoning your vet as soon as possible.
This isn’t something that can be successfully treated with any home remedy.
What is the safest raw meat to feed a dog?
I’m afraid that there is no such thing as raw meat which can be guaranteed to be 100% bacteria and pathogen free.
No matter what meat we mention, it all carries a risk.
Pork has its own set of potentially nasty residents. These include tapeworms and trichinosis.
Even raw fish has a long list of “nasties”.
Salmonella makes yet another appearance as do tapeworms.
And it’s a first appearance in this article for listeria- which is why pregnant women shouldn’t touch raw fish.
And dogs can also catch listeria.
But after all my lists are complete and I have detailed the risks from most of the popular types of meat, raw beef might just be the safest raw meat that your dog could eat.
But I think that I have achieved the impossible and found a raw burger that is 100% safe for your dog to eat.
All will be revealed in the next section.
The safest raw burger that your dog can eat?
If you want to make a safe, dog friendly raw hamburger then, as you might have guessed, you are a bit limited.
And you are limited to veggie burgers- just don’t include any onions, garlic or tomatoes as you are making the patty itself.
Sweet potato, lentils or bean based burgers are some of my favourite veggie burgers to eat.
And all of these main ingredients are safe for your dog if he happens to get a taste of one raw!