As dog owners we all know the feeling of being watched whilst we enjoy a snack, especially a lip-smacking one like pork rinds. If you’re completely honest, you probably share a few bites of your snacks with your dog from time to time too. After all, they are master manipulators – we all do it!
But are pork rinds safe for dogs to eat? This includes store bought pork skins, pork scratchings and pork crackling; they are all very similar. I decided to find out if they were okay by speaking to vets, doing some research, and even looking at the calories and ingredients – let’s take a closer look with the very short answer first.
Can dogs eat pork rinds? You should not let your dog eat pork rinds, pork scratchings, pork skin, or crackling. Whilst dogs can eat pork, the way rinds is not okay for dogs. They are prepared can includes lots of salt, spices, and frying techniques, all of which are bad for your dog’s health.
But please don’t panic.
If your dog eats pork rinds as a one-off, or perhaps as an accident, it’s unlikely to cause any long-term health issues. You probably won’t need to rush to an emergency vet.
The main focus of this guide to dogs eating pork rinds is this; it’s really not okay if you start making it a regular thing and part of their diet. It’s bad for them.
Having said that, all dogs are different.
Your dog could react badly just to one store bought spicy or fried pork rind. Keep an eye on them as they might experience digestive upset or an allergic reaction. Most times this will improve in a short period, but if your dog has digestive upset for more than 24 hours after eating pork rinds, you should seek veterinary treatment.
Are pork rinds safe for dogs to eat?
Even though pork rinds are not toxic and poisonous, they are not a food that you should choose to intentionally feed your dog, especially on a regular basis.
Pork rinds, pork skin, scratchings and crackling can all contribute to an unhealthy weight, digestive upset, and dehydration if fed consistently or long term – there’s so much salt and fat in these things it’s incredible.
But more about the ingredients in a moment.
Can dogs eat raw pork rind?
This is another no-no. Dogs should not eat raw pork rind as if not cooked thoroughly, pork can contain a parasite called trichinella spiralis larvae. This is said to cause a parasitic infection called trichinosis.
You can read more about trichinosis on the Mayo Clinic website. Here’s a quick quote from them:
“Trichinosis is a type of roundworm infection. Roundworm parasites use a host body to live and reproduce. Infection occurs primarily among meat-eating animals. The infection is acquired by eating roundworm larvae in raw or undercooked meat.”
The bottom line is this; raw pork rinds are not safe for your dog to eat, due to a risk of infection transmitted by uncooked pork meat. It can occur when a dog eats the muscles of an animals that has been infected with trichinella parasites.
Can dogs eat fried pork rinds?
I don’t recommend your dog eats store bought pork rinds of any type, but fried ones are particularly bad.
Any food that is overly fatty, such as fried pork rinds, is going to basically toxic to your dog. If your dog eats lots of fried foods, there’s a danger of pancreatitis. This can be a fatal disease if left untreated.
Can dogs eat spicy pork rinds?
I’ve blogged before about the dangers of feeding spicy foods to your dog. You might have read my popular post about dogs eat Takis, or why I don’t recommend tamales. It’s not a good idea, and it’s the same with spicy pork rinds.
Spicy pork rinds are not safe for your dog to eat. Spicy foods have been known to cause very adverse reactions in dogs including diarrhoea, gas, and abdominal pain. Hot spices can also make your dog very thirsty, leading to vomiting.
The dietary dangers of pork rinds
But why is it ok for dogs to eat cooked pork, but not pork skins and rinds; including all the offshoots such as crackling and scratchings?
It’s all about how the pork rinds are prepared, what goes on them, and how they are then cooked. It’s a calorific and ingredients nightmare for canines.
Pork rinds are fried, fatty, salty, and often times spicy too.
Fried and fatty foods are unhealthy for dogs and often cause digestive upset and contribute towards canine obesity. This creates a poor quality of life and shortens a dog’s lifespan, particularly when you consider diabetes.
According to the ASPCA, feeding of these types of food can also cause pancreatitis. The best way to prevent pancreatitis, digestive upset, obesity and poor quality of life is to feed your dog a reasonable serving of a good quality commercial diet or veterinarian approved home-made diet, avoiding table scraps as much as possible.
Salty foods pose the risk of salt poisoning. The ASPCA states that this condition is serious and may damage a dog’s kidneys (view source). If you suspect your dog has this condition, seek veterinary care without delay.
Spicy foods can also cause huge digestive problems. Whilst vomiting or diarrhoea for an evening may not sound like a big deal, it has the potential to cause real harm longer term.
Dogs have good bacteria in their digestive tracts just like we do, and if the balance is overturned by digestive upset, it can take weeks for them to recover, especially if they already have a sensitive stomach.
The dangerous ingredients in pork rinds that are not suitable for dogs
If we look at one of the most popular store-bought brands, Utz, here’s what their ingredients are listed as:
Ingredients: Fried pork skins, salt, maltodextrin (derived from corn), malic acid, vinegar powder, citric acid, sodium diacetate.
Do you see anything on there you would really want your dog to eat?
Salt is particularly bad for dogs, and according to WebMD.com:
“Eating too much salt can make your dog seriously thirsty. That means a lot of trips to the fire hydrant and it could lead to sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of too much salt include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, high temperature, and seizures. It may even cause death.”
The calories in pork rinds
Vets recommend dogs only eat 25 calories for each pound in weight they have. If you take 2 common breeds and find out their average adult weights, that means the following:
- An average French Bulldog of 25 pounds should eat no more than 625 calories daily.
- An average Labrador of 70 pounds should eat no more than 1,750 calories daily.
Based on this calculation, I then looked at the calories in some of the more common pork rind brands. It makes for sobering reading once I crunched the numbers:
- 30g Utz Pork Rinds (171 calories): 27% French Bulldog / 10% Labrador daily intake.
- 30g Microwave Pork Rinds (128 calories): 20% French Bulldog / 7% Labrador daily intake.
- 30g Mac’s Pork Crackling (107 calories): 17% French Bulldog / 6% Labrador daily intake.
- 30g Mac’s Pork Skins (171 calories): 27% French Bulldog / 10% Labrador daily intake.
As you can see, most pork rinds will take up a large proportion of your dog’s daily calories, particular small to medium sized breeds.
Can dogs eat pork skins?
Store bought pork skins are just the same as pork rinds and will have been made in ways that offer no health benefit to your dog. Just like rinds, pork skins will be fried and come coated in salt which is bad for your dog.
Can dogs eat pork scratchings?
Pork scratchings are how people in England and the UK describe this snack, so the same advice applies. Do not feed pork scratchings to your dog that you have bought at a shop.
Can dogs eat pork crackling?
The definition of pork crackling will often be different. Some people will cut it from the pork they cook at home, but bear in mind the oils, salts and other seasonings that can on it.
As well as being fatty which can cause pancreatitis, the skin will have been cooked in oil, and might even have dangerous ingredients such as garlic and onion on them – both of which are toxic to dogs.
What happens if a dog eats pork rinds?
If your dog eats pork rinds, scratching, cracking or the pork skins, in most cases nothing will happen. Whilst it is not good for them, it generally won’t constitute a medical emergency unless you know they have an allergy to pork – or it gets stuck in their throat.
However, as with any food not intended for dogs, please always consult with your vet if they do eat it. I personally think that a one-off tasting probably won’t harm your dog, but they are all different.
If they are not exhibiting serious symptoms, monitor their behavior and physical symptoms over the next 24 hours to determine if they need veterinary care.
Look for the following symptoms:
Your dog may experience digestive upset such as stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhoea. These conditions usually manifest the following physical reactions: difficulty walking, sensitivity to the touch, curling up or hunching over, and struggling to pass a bowel movement.
If these symptoms go away after 24 hours, just stick to regular dog food and avoid table scraps for the next week to help the dog’s tummy recover. If these symptoms are violent and constantly occurring, or blood is present, or the symptoms persist past 24 hours, the care of a veterinarian is needed.
Be sure to keep fresh water available, limit exposure to extreme temperatures, and limit physical activity to minimize the severity of your dog’s dehydration from the fluid loss associated with their digestive upset.
If your dog eats an entire bag of pork rinds, the biggest concern after vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration becomes salt poisoning. Keep in mind that a dog would have to consume a significant amount of salt to be poisoned by it, but the smaller the dog, the less they would have to consume to reach a fatal level of consumption.
Excessive consumption of salt is problematic for dogs because it causes their bodily fluids to become imbalanced. According to the AKC, a dog’s body will react to significant salt ingestion by releasing water from the body’s cells in an effort to regain the proper balance of bodily fluid.
This physical response causes seizures, tremors, weakness, depression, frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, a high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Symptoms become much more serious in a dog who may have salt poisoning, as this causes them to lose even more fluids.
Salt poisoning is very serious and has the potential to result in death; if you are unsure if your dog is experiencing this condition be sure to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
If the digestive upset continues for a few days but is not severe enough to require veterinary treatment, there are a few things that you can do to help your dog recover, such as:
- Seek the advice of your dog’s veterinarian.
- Provide fresh, clean water at all times.
- Limit exposure to extreme temperatures.
- Minimize physical activity.
- Feed a bland diet of plain baked chicken and plain white rice for two days.
- Avoid feeding your dog any table scraps or human foods and stick to a strict diet consisting of only their commercial dog food, water, and bland dog treats.
- Research probiotics for dogs to help reset the bacteria in their digestive tract. Purina Fortiflora (view on Amazon) is often recommended by veterinarians for this purpose.
Is your dog really missing out by not eating pork crackling products?
This information might make you feel less guilty about not sharing your pork scratching and pork skins with your dog; according to Hills Pet:
“Dogs have approximately 1,700 taste buds, while humans have approximately 9,000 taste buds! This means that dogs may not be able to taste some of the flavors that you crave, so they are not missing out by eating dog food that seems boring to humans.”
Keep in mind that in addition to not being able to fully enjoy the flavor, most dogs suffer digestive upset after eating pork rinds, so you are really only doing your dog a favor when you withhold this salty snack.
Alternatives to pork skins
One of the benefits of being a modern dog owner is the variety of dog products available in today’s market. There are lots of pork dog snacks that your dog could enjoy while you eat pork rinds, such as:
What about homemade pork rinds for your dog?
The bottom line is this; dogs love crisp pork skin. What owner would not want to let their dog have something prepared at home as a treat.
The benefit to preparing your own at home is that it won’t come with the fats and preservatives common on store bought pork rinds. You also have the opportunity to completely leave out the salt.
However, do it in moderation and only a small amount; my vet says the 90/10 rule should always apply. That means each day your dog eats 90% proper healthy food, and perhaps 10% can be a snack – and that’s how I view pork scratchings and crackling.
Ultimately even if you home make your pork skins, there’s still fat in there, and there’s no real nutritional value either.
Unfortunately, not all human foods are safe for dogs, so we all have a responsibility to be discerning before sharing our snacks.
Most dogs will be attracted to pork rinds, skin, and crackling due of the smell, but this really should be a time to practice self-control. Even though it is tempting to share a pork rind with your dog, it is best you don’t.
Whilst dogs are okay with cooked pork, pork skins are all the things that are not okay for dogs such as salt, spices, fried, and fatty. Dogs who eat snacks like this regularly (or even once) will most likely experience digestive upset.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet and the advice in this guide is based on my own common sense and what I have researched. Please always consult with your own vet on all matters regarding canine diet.
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This guide is the latest in a series of what you can and can’t feed your dog. Some of the more popular blog posts published include: