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Should My Dog Eat Beef Jerky? 11 Surprising Pros & Cons

You might be surprised to learn that adding jerky treats to your dog’s diet is okay. Sometimes. The trick is understanding that beef jerky is not all the same.

Visit any store and you’ll find a variety of beef jerky products. Of course, these are made for human consumption and often contain way too much sodium for dogs. In some cases, the high salt in these snacks is too much for anyone!

If you’re worried or wondering about whether your dog can safely eat this product, keep reading. We’re here to tell you about the pros and cons of jerky treats. Learn about potentially harmful ingredients to avoid and how to make your own homemade jerky.


Regular beef jerky is, essentially, dried meat. It was was originally designed as way to dehydrate food for people without the luxury of freezers and refrigerators. This method of food preservation is traced back to the Quechua tribe in South America. They would take meat, like venison, and cut out thin strips of muscle tissue. Salt was added and then the meat was hung up to try.

The other method used to extend the meat’s shelf life was to smoke it.

Today, beef jerky is mass produced and sold under a variety of brand names and flavors. This is where dog owners with the best of intentions may run into problems. Plain beef jerky is a better option for dogs because it doesn’t have a lot of spices, salt, sugar, and artificial flavorings.

There are, however, some good reasons to feed your dog high quality beef jerky.

can dogs eat beef jerky?

11 Pros of Feeding Beef Jerky to Your Dog

It’s not a good idea to overfeed your dog with any treat that isn’t part of a balanced healthy diet. However, in some situations, beef jerky can be beneficial in moderation. Here are 11 pros of feeding beef jerky to your dog:

Great Source of Protein

Plain jerky treats are a great source of protein for dogs. In fact, 1 ounce of beef jerky can contain up to 9.4 grams of protein. Puppies between 12 and 33 pounds should get 56 grams of protein per day.

High in Nutrients

Beef jerky is high in iron, magnesium, vitamin B12, and choline. Dogs can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet. So, even though there are nutrients in beef jerky, the amount of potential salt and sugar in human-grade food can outweigh any health benefits.

Satisfying for the Dog

Chewy delicious flavor is satisfying for your dog – and that makes pet parents happy. Remember, a small amount goes a long way

Requires Time to Chew (slow down eating)

Some dogs simply eat too fast. Beef jerky is one of those treats that takes a little time to chew. It might be one way to help your dog learn to slow down while eating.

Make Your Own Homemade Beef Jerky

There are countless recipes out there to make your own beef jerky which is a much healthier option for your dog. TIP:

Buy Dog-Safe Beef Jerky Treats

You can still feed your dog his/her favorite foods! Just make sure to buy snacks that are made for dogs.

Portable (good for travel, camping)

Beef jerky (whether plain beef jerky or dog snacks) are easy to bring along for a road trip, camping, hiking, etc. They don’t need refrigeration and are easy to pack.

High Shelf Life

Plain beef jerky has a long shelf life. This is the kind of thing you can keep in your cupboards for a long time without fear of it going bad.

May Help Clean Teeth

Beef jerky shouldn’t be the main source of teeth cleaning in dogs! However, if you’re looking for a reason to feed it to your dog, consider how it might scrape away build up plaque on your dog’s teeth.

Note: It’s important to have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned. Never use human-grade toothpaste when brushing your dog’s teeth at home.

Excellent Training Tool

Some dogs are more stubborn than others. If that sounds like your dog, using his favorite snack might be the best way to get him to comply.

Training isn’t always an easy process, but it can be more rewarding when using beef jerky.

Can be Shared (with humans)

Some people never share their food with dogs while others do. The choice is yours! If you love the idea of sharing snacks with your dog, there’s nothing wrong with feeding your dog a small amount of plain beef jerky.

11 Cons of Feeding Beef Jerky to Your Dog

Feeding human jerky to your dog can be tricky. The kind of beef jerky made for human consumption often has added ingredients that can seriously damage a dog’s health. We want the best for our furry friend, and one of the best things of owning a pet is being able to treat them.

Here are some important things to consider before feeding your dog beef jerky. Remember, we’re talking about the kind of beef jerky snacks that were intended to be used as human foods.

Onion Powder

Raw or cooked onions can be toxic for dogs. Unfortunately, this can extend to onion powder as well. Onions contain compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates that can cause red blood cells to burst.

Symptoms of this condition include vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of anemia. Anemia can cause a dog to become breathless and tired with pale gums.

#2. High Sugar Content

Sugar is bad for your dog’s teeth and can easily cause unnecessary weight gain. Commercial beef jerky contains a lot of added honey, brown sugar, and spices. This is particularly true of flavored jerky including Teriyaki.

#3. Garlic Powder

Small amounts of garlic powder probably isn’t going to hurt your dog. However, you have to be careful because some dogs are more sensitive than others.

If your beef jerky contains garlic powder, it probably also contains other ingredients you don’t want your dog to eat.

#4. Additional Spices

Dogs don’t handle spicy foods like humans. Unfortunately, too much of the spicy stuff can cause gastrointestinal upset.

#5. Choking hazard potential

Something many people don’t think about is the choking potential of human foods. Beef jerky is usually cut in small strips. However, they can be a lot to handle for a smaller dog.

#6. High Sodium Levels

The average 33 pound dog only needs about 100 mg of sodium per day. Unfortunately, human beef jerky can contain a whopping 640mg in just one serving which is too much salt .

#7. Avoid Peppered Beef Jerky

Jerky labelled as “peppered” may sound safe, but they often contain a lot of soy. Soy sauce contains garlic which is toxic to ingredients. Peppery ingredients can also cause throat irritation.

#8. Weight Gain

Weight gain is particularly dangerous in dogs. Side effects of carrying too much weight around can include heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.

#9. Additives

Some additives in food are actually natural derivatives that are harmless in small amounts. Unfortunately, other chemically-based additives may contribute to things like cancer.

#10 Xylitol

Xylitol is used in many different products only fit for human consumption. In dogs, xylitol can be fatal. See the link at the end of this post for more information.

#11. Err on the Side of Caution

Sometimes it’s just better to err on the side of caution. If your dog has already eaten some tasty (and flavored) beef jerky, there’s likely nothing to worry about unless it contains xylitol.

If you would like to feed your dog delicious, naturally made beef jerky, look at some of the product options mentioned further in this post.

High calorie beef jerky can cause weight gain in dogs

Safe Dog Jerky Options

The following is a list of safe jerky snack options for dogs of all sizes. These were chosen based on their quality, because they were made in North America, and because they come from family-owned businesses who own and love dogs.

Beef Jerky & Cheese

This product is kind of like a cake mix but with all-natural ingredients including whole wheat flour, coconut flour, cheese, beef, carrots, beets, and guar gum.

These 100% natural snacks are easy to make (and you don’t need to buy a meat dehydrator!). Just add water, mix, cook, and feed!

Is Beef Jerky Safe for Dogs?
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Chicken Jerky with Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Carrots (Limited Edition!)

No cooking to do here. These bags of dehydrated raw chicken jerky are jam-packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If you haven’t shopped with TruDog yet, you should give them a try. They are a family-owned company determined to provide nothing but the best, most nutritious food, for all dogs.

Should dogs eat beef jerky?
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PureBites Air-Dried Beef Jerky Dog Treats

PureBites are made from pure Canadian sourced beef esophagus. The delicate air-drying process at low temperatures helps to preserve fresh RAW whole food.

These delicious dried beef jerky treats are a safe option for your dog. There are no added preservatives, they are easy to digest, and are very high in protein.

Should my dog eat beef jerky?
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Wild Meadow Farms Classic Beef Minis Jerky Dog Treats

This product is 100% made in the USA. Expect nothing but quality with this dog treat. ONLY 3 INGREDIENTS featuring 100% USA beef.

Have a small dog? This is the perfect option because of the soft texture and small bite-size portions. No refrigeration needed.

Can dogs eat beef jerky?

Is It Snack Time Yet?

Let’s face it; it’s fun feeding dogs. It’s especially great when they show how much they love those treats. Their eyes light up, the tails wag, and all is right in the world.

Unfortunately, too many snacks can lead to health problems including weight gain. Obesity is one of the contributing factors to heart disease and diabetes in dogs.

If your dog has swallowed some flavored beef jerky, there’s no cause for concern. There is one exception! Snacks made for humans sometimes contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. The most serious culprit is xylitol.

Read here for more information on the dangers: Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

Dogs have a tendency to get into things they shouldn’t. If your dog does happen to get into a snack made with sugars and added salt, he/she will most likely only suffer from gastrointestinal upset.

If your dog continues to vomiting and has diarrhea (especially puppies), consult a veterinarian for assistance.

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