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Can Dogs Eat Hot Dogs? Are Hot Dogs Bad For Dogs?

Are you trying to figure out whether hot dogs are safe to feed your dog? What about grilled food in general? Our Veterinarian looks at the health risks that come with feeding this meat to your pup. She also explores what to do if your dog eats one.

Jo Woodnut Veterinarian Profile Image

Last Updated: December 7, 2022 | 7 min read

Dog licking mouth looking on pile of sausages on table ready for grilling

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not serve as a substitute for a discussion with a trained professional. If your dog ate this food and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Humans are known to enjoy a hot dog, often in a bun covered in ketchup and condiments – yum! But they’re considered only a treat for people because they’re fatty and it’s not healthy to eat too many. But what about hot dogs for dogs?

Dogs can share some foods that we enjoy. But other things we eat are not good and can even be harmful to our pups. Especially some of the toppings we add to hot dogs.

Since dogs are omnivores, they consume meat as well as plant-based foods. But is hot dog meat safe for them? What are the benefits or risks?

Can Dogs Eat Hot Dogs?

Ingredients for making homemade hot dogs. Sausages, fresh baked buns, mustard, ketchup, relish
Hot dogs are fatty, salty, and often contain seasonings that can cause an upset tummy.

Hot dogs are not an appropriate choice for dogs, even in small pieces, as a training treat. They’re not toxic, so if a dog ate a small piece by mistake, it might not cause any visible harm. But repeated feeding hot dogs can have serious side effects. For some dogs, even a little nibble could make them sick.

Some people believe hot dogs are an effective training treat because dogs seem to drool over them. But this isn’t the case. A good training treat is something your dog wants to work for, so you can reward the correct behavior, but it also needs to be healthy.

We, as owners, are fully responsible for our dog’s health and well-being. Dogs can’t make informed choices about their diet for themselves. So it is not fair to give them foods that could damage their health. It is our responsibility to give our dogs the best chance of a long and happy life. Feeding healthy meals and treats is one of the main ways to make them thrive.

Of course, your doggie’s nose might start twitching when you’re munching on a hot dog. We understand those big, beautiful eyes are hard to resist. But please remember, your dog appreciates the love that comes from fuss, attention, and games much more than a snack.

Why Are Hot Dogs Bad For Dogs?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with hotdog in mouth

Hot dogs are not ideal for dogs. So that’s why it’s best not to feed them to your dog at all.

Hot dogs are smoked sausages, made from finely-ground meat (usually beef, pork, and chicken) mixed with salt, seasonings, and preservatives – all of which can be harmful to dogs. They are considered processed meat (similar to corned beef) which means it’s been altered to enhance flavor.

Dogs can also choke on hot dogs – especially larger dogs that might be tempted to try to swallow them whole.

Why Is Too Much Salt Bad For My Dog?

Eating too much salt can put pressure on your dog’s kidneys. Kidneys are filters for the blood that work to get rid of extra salt and other things. If kidneys have too much to filter too often, they can become diseased and stop working properly. A salty diet can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause other unwanted side effects and might mean your dog needs life-long medication.

These effects happen in humans as well as dogs, but dogs need much less salt in their diets than we do. Foods that are salty for humans are far too salty for dogs and should not be given to our canine pals. If your dog requires a low-sodium diet, you might consider these healthier dog food options.

Why Is Too Much Fat Bad For My Dog?

Hot dogs are high in fat, which means lots of calories. Most dogs are a fraction of the size of us and don’t need to eat anywhere near as many calories as we do. Something high calorie or high fat to us is far too much for our dogs.

Eating high-fat foods, either regularly or as a one-off, may cause a severe illness or pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening.

Dogs with pancreatitis usually have severe tummy pain, are depressed, don’t eat, are sick, or have diarrhea. Treating dogs with pancreatitis often requires fluids and medication to be given by injections, so they need to stay at the vet’s office. Treating pancreatitis also causes dogs to feel pretty sluggish until your veterinarian can stabilize them, which can take days. A dog with pancreatitis can be very expensive to treat too.

Why Can Added Seasonings Be Bad For My Dog?

The seasonings in hot dogs can vary but often include spices. Spices can irritate a dog’s guts, causing the gut lining to swell. This causes tummy pain, cramping, and bloating, as well as diarrhea and sickness. You might not notice if your dog has tummy pain, as dogs don’t often cry out or groan, and they try to keep going with normal life even if they feel uncomfortable.

Symptoms of irritated guts range from mild to more severe. Your dog may need no treatment and feel better within 12-24 hours. Your veterinarian might recommend a special food or some treatment to be given at home. Or, in more serious cases, your dog may need to stay in the vet’s office and have treatment for pain and sickness or fluids from a drip for dehydration.

Some hot dog recipes might include toxic seasonings to dogs, like garlic and onion powder. These can damage your dog’s red blood cells and lead to anemia (low numbers of red blood cells in the blood). Red blood cells carry oxygen to cells around the body, like muscle cells and cells in vital organs. Even in milder cases, anemia can leave your dog feeling tired and dull because his blood is not carrying enough oxygen.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate A Hot Dog?

Jack Russell Terrier hungry dog with a sausage on the fork in mouth
While hot dogs are not suitable for dogs, a small bite is not likely to cause serious harm.

Some dogs can be sick after eating just a small piece of hot dog. They may not show signs right away, or until the following day, but it’s best to be cautious.

If your dog has eaten a hot dog, it’s best to follow these steps:

  • Find out how many hot dogs your dog has eaten
  • Check the ingredients on the packet for anything toxic to dogs, like onion or garlic powder
  • Check if it was just the hot dog sausage or whether your dog also ate sides or toppings, like fried onions which are toxic
  • Contact your veterinarian for advice

Your veterinarian may tell you just to watch over your pooch for a while and ask you to call back if they become sick, but it’s best to call anyway. There’s not usually a charge for advice, and your veterinarian is best placed to judge if your dog needs more urgent attention.

Whether your dog is likely to suffer ill effects are eating a hot dog depends on a few things:

  • Sensitivity – dogs that have regular tummy upsets are particularly likely to feel bad after stealing hot dogs.
  • Size – smaller dogs feel the effects of eating hot dogs more quickly than larger dogs. Small dogs need fewer calories and less salt in their diet. It takes less to make a small dog full, so over-indulging is more likely.
  • Breed – any dog can get pancreatitis, and a risk factor is eating fatty food like hot dogs. More cases of pancreatitis are seen in miniature schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, and Poodles – so if one of these breeds scrounges a fatty food, the risk of pancreatitis is higher.
  • Body Condition – overweight dogs are more likely to develop pancreatitis – which can be brought on by eating a fatty snack like a hot dog.
  • General Health – If your dog has diabetes mellitus, a liver or kidney problem, a heart problem, food allergies, or other health conditions, then eating something unusual like hot dog meat is more likely to cause a problem.

If your dog has any particular risk factors for feeling unwell after eating a hot dog, then it is more likely your veterinarian wants to examine him, even if he seems well to you.

Is It Safe To Share Grilled Foods With My Dog?

Fresh sausage and hot dogs grilling outdoors on a gas barbecue grill
Never feed your dog bones, kebabs on wooden skewers, processed meats like hot dogs, or anything with added sauce or seasonings.

It’s natural to want to share your happy experiences with your dog – they are part of the family after all. Always prioritize sharing attention and cuddles over food, but if you want to share a little yummy snack too, be sure you choose something healthy.

Cooled, plainly cooked, unprocessed meats, like chicken breast or steak, are usually okay for dogs. Some plain griddled vegetables are suitable choices too. Avoid onion, leek, and garlic which are toxic to dogs, and peppers that are too spicy. Always cut your dog’s snacks into bite-sized pieces.

Please remember treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s overall food intake – their main meal should be balanced and complete dog food. Any new food can cause a tummy upset, so only feed a tiny bit of anything your dog has not had before.

Frequently Asked Questions

My dog loves hot dogs. Can he just have a little bit every now and then?

No. While a little nibble is unlikely to cause harm that you notice, fatty, salty snacks cause health problems in the longer term. Plus, some dogs can get nasty tummy upsets from just a nibble of a hot dog, so it’s not worth the risk.

Can dogs eat hot dogs as training treats?

No. Hot dogs are not healthy for dogs, even if they like them. There are plenty of tasty, healthy, training treats available.

Are raw hot dogs dangerous for dogs?

They can be – as well as containing the high fat and salt, and rich seasonings of cooked hot dogs, raw hot dogs could contain harmful bacteria, which could cause your dog to be seriously ill.

My dog ate a hot dog in a bun with onions and sauce – what should I do?

Call your veterinarian – onions damage dogs’ red blood cells so your dog needs to see your veterinarian. The rest of the hot dog, sauce, and bun could also make him unwell.

Final Thoughts

While giving your dog a small nibble of an unseasoned, plain hot dog probably isn’t going to kill them, it’s not ideal either. It’s tempting to want to give your dog something he craves, but the risks from extra fat and salt are not worth it. There are plenty of other safer, healthier options to reward your dog. If your dog is truly loved, he’ll thank you and appreciate you looking out for his well-being instead of “spoiling” him (or harming his tummy). If you think your dog ate too much sausage or one that contains toxic ingredients, please call your vet right away.

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