If you are a fast-food enthusiast who enjoys excellent juicy hamburgers, you have probably considered sharing your meal with your best friend. However, as any responsible dog parent, you might be unsure whether hamburgers are a dog-friendly meal choice.
Dogs can eat hamburgers as long as they are prepared and served in a dog-friendly way – without condiments and spices. In other words, your dog can eat plain and cooked hamburger meat. Occasionally dogs can also enjoy them in a nice hamburger bun.
In this article, we will talk about the safety of hamburgers for dogs – the potentially risky ingredients and their consequences. We will also go through the possible scenarios following a hamburger overeating situation and provide some safe feeding guidelines.
DOGS AND THE DIFFERENT HAMBURGER PARTS
When someone says, hamburger, the meat, and the bun are the first things that come to mind. However, a nice piece of hamburger includes several other ingredients. We will classify those ingredients into three groups and review their level of dog-friendliness.
Hamburger ingredients dogs can eat in general
Unseasoned meat is, in fact, the foundation of the modern dog’s nutrition. Meat is a lean protein source, and dogs need protein for various reasons – from building muscle to vital body functions.
Ideally, the meat should be plain and well-cooked as raw meat is a topic that can spark up some heavy debates in the dog parenting community.
Finally, in addition to giving your dog a substantial protein boost, meat has a fantastic taste and will keep your dog’s palate satisfied.
A hamburger bun, simply put, is a unique form of bread, and bread is generally a dog-friendly food. The bun is high in carbs which dogs need as a primary energy source.
Depending on the type of grain flour used to make the bun, this ingredient can contain various amounts of several healthy vitamins and minerals.
While on the topic of the bun, it is worth mentioning that buns are safe, but bread dough is extremely dangerous and toxic to dogs.
Lettuce is an umbrella term covering various lettuce types like iceberg, Romaine, and arugula. However, made of over 90% water, all lettuce forms are safe for dogs.
Despite making your dog pee more frequently, there is only one caveat of feeding them lettuce – its cleanliness.
Namely, commercially grown lettuce is prone to heavy pesticide treatment and is exposed to different contamination forms.
Luckily, putting the lettuce in a strainer and giving it a thorough wash will eliminate the contaminants.
Sesame seeds are a non-toxic and dog-friendly human food. Interestingly, sesame seeds are rich in various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
However, the slight pinch of sesame seeds on top of the hamburger is insufficient to exert the health benefits associated with these healthy nutrients.
In fact, it is the small number of sesame seeds on hamburgers that makes them safe for dogs since overeating sesame seeds can cause constipation.
It is also worth mentioning that, unlike in people, sesame seeds allergies in dogs are infrequent.
Hamburger ingredients dogs can eat in moderation
Dogs can safely eat ripe tomatoes lacking any green parts of the plant – stems and leaves. As members of the nightshade family, tomatoes, or better said, their green parts contain a toxic compound – solanine.
A dog with solanine poisoning will experience gastrointestinal issues, cardiac abnormalities (heart rate changes), and lethargy, thus requiring veterinary attention.
Once the green parts are removed, the good news is that the ripe and bright red tomato parts are safe and healthy for dogs as they are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, lycopene, and fiber.
All dogs agree that bacon tastes terrific – it is crunchy and savory. However, it is also fatty, salty, and loaded with empty calories.
Overeating on fatty bacon can upset the dog’s sensitive tummy or, in more severe cases, trigger pancreatitis. The salt component is also hazardous as salt can cause salt poisoning.
Last but not least, the empty calories factor means that bacon is rich in calories but poor in healthy and essential nutrients.
Bottom line, it is safe to say that healthy dogs can eat small bacon chunks every now and then.
Cucumber pickles are safe for dogs when served in moderation and pickled without added seasonings and not-dog-friendly herbs.
Dogs should not overeat pickles, or any other fermented food is because, depending on the pickling process, they are either too high in salt or vinegar.
On the other hand, pickles are rich in probiotics, thus promoting a healthy and properly functioning digestive system.
All in all, when it comes to pickles for dogs, moderation is the key to safety.
Cheese for dogs is a hot topic. On the one hand, dogs love cheese (who doesn’t?), and on the other hand, most dogs are lactose intolerant. In other words, dogs cannot digest lactose – the primary milk sugar thus developing diarrhea and gassiness.
Plus, cheese contains a fair amount of fats, and they are not all the “good” types of fats. Eating fatty foods can upset the tummy and pancreas. Finally, casein (main milk protein) is addictive and causes cravings.
As a compromise, dogs that are not lactose intolerant can eat small amounts of low-fat cheese varieties such as ricotta and mozzarella.
Hamburger ingredients dogs must not eat
The riskiest hamburger ingredient for dogs is the onions. Like all Allium family members (garlic, leek, chives, shallots), onions are toxic to dogs.
Onions contain a compound called N-propyl disulfide. This compound causes irreversible damage to the red blood cells, resulting in their rupture and elimination from circulation. Simply put, onions cause anemia.
Dogs with onion intoxication are in life-threatening danger, thus requiring urgent and adequate veterinary attention.
Spices give food exceptional taste, but sadly dogs cannot enjoy the variety of flavors they offer. Simply put, the dog’s digestive system is not built for breaking down spices.
If eaten in more significant amounts, spices can irritate the sensitive lining of the digestive tract and cause bleeding ulcers.
In more severe cases, they can also cause acute inflammation of the pancreas, which in addition to being painful if left untreated, can be fatal.
The most popular hamburger-related condiments are ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. Sadly, all of them are a big no-no for dogs.
First, these condiments are usually enriched with herbs and spices that can be toxic to dogs even if eaten in small amounts.
Second, condiments are extremely rich in salt, and dogs cannot process large amounts of salt. In fact, if a dog overconsumes salt, it can develop life-threatening salt poisoning.
Finally, unless homemade, condiments are loaded with preservatives, and we all know they are not a very healthy addition to any food.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG EATS MY HAMBURGER?
If the hamburger is prepared using dog-friendly ingredients and served in moderate amounts, the only thing that it will cause is to make your dog delighted.
However, feeding your dog your hamburger scraps without paying attention to the ingredients you are offering can have consequences varying from transient and self-limiting gastrointestinal upset to life-threatening pancreatitis or intoxication.
CAN DOGS HAVE CHEESEBURGERS?
As already discussed, cheese is a potentially troublesome ingredient for dogs. However, if served in minimal amounts, cheese can be offered to otherwise healthy dogs.
If you are making the cheeseburgers at home, make sure you use a low-fat cheese option. That way, neither you nor your dog will feel guilty about enjoying fatty foods.
CAN DOGS EAT BURGER BUNS?
Yes, the hamburger buns are perfectly safe for dogs. Like any other bread type, they are a rich carbohydrate source and provide your dog with much-needed energy.
Anyway, if you ate the other hamburger parts and are considering sharing the leftover buns with your dog, make sure there are no condiment residuals.
CAN DOGS EAT RAW HAMBURGERS?
Raw meat for dogs is a controversial topic. Raw meat poses a health hazard as it is often contaminated with bacteria (E. coli and Salmonella) and parasites.
However, it has been suggested that the dog’s gastric juices are powerful enough to destroy these pathogens.
Since there is no strong evidence confirming these suggestions, it is advisable to err on the side of caution and avoid feeding your dog raw meat.
CAN DOGS EAT MCDONALD’S HAMBURGERS?
Large food chain companies’ hamburgers are undeniably tasty, but they are not ideal for dogs. The reason is simple – you cannot always control the ingredients and their quality.
All in all, instead of offering your dog a McDonald’s hamburger, put the apron on and prepare homemade hamburgers. They are a healthier alternative for both you and your dog.
HOW MUCH HAMBURGER CAN I FEED MY DOG?
The hamburger portion size for your dog depends on its size and overall health profile. Obviously, a large healthy Great Dane can eat a significantly more significant hamburger portion than a Yorkshire terrier with chronic pancreatitis.
Since hamburger is not a complete and balanced food for dogs, it cannot be used as a meal substitute.
Therefore, it is safe to give your dog a few bite-sized chunks of hamburger once a week or every two weeks.
Hamburgers are delicious, and luckily, if adequately prepared, you can let your dog enjoy their taste. By adequately prepared, we mean using only the above-reviewed dog-friendly ingredients.
For a safe hamburger-eating experience, there are two more caveats – the portion size and feeding frequency.
Bottom line, hamburgers are not part of the dog’s natural diet, but when adequately cooked, they are not harmful either and can be consumed occasionally and in reasonably small amounts.