My Dog Ate Beef Jerky. What do I do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Commercial beef jerky is usually high in salt and may contain other dangerous ingredients.
  • One ounce of store-bought beef jerky can have more than five times the daily sodium allowance for dogs.
  • When it comes to dogs eating beef jerky, the two main types of toxicities to watch out for are xylitol and sodium poisoning.

Jerky is a yummy and satisfying snack for many humans, but what about our four-footed friends? If your dog snarfs a piece or package of jerky, should you be concerned?

Whether you should be concerned for your pooch depends on the type of dehydrated meat treats he ate and the ingredients in the product. If your pup binges on a bag of commercially prepared jerky, or if you have a miniature breed dog, you should probably call your vet. Certain ingredients like garlic powder, sodium, and xylitol can be dangerous for your dog.

Let’s look at what happens when your dog eats jerky and what you should do about it. We’ll explain how your vet will treat your pooch if he consumes lots of high-salt dried meat.

So, let’s get started.

How Much Jerky Is Toxic to Dogs?

The amount of jerky your dog can safely eat depends on the source of and ingredients in the jerky. If you occasionally give your pooch some homemade jerky that has no added sugar, salt, or spices, it shouldn’t be a problem. 

On the other hand, many store-bought products include salt preservatives and seasonings that can irritate your dog’s gut or be downright dangerous. The sodium content in one ounce of Beef Jerky can have five times the daily sodium allowance for a medium-sized dog.

Some brands also use xylitol rather than sugar as a sweetener. Xylitol is extremely toxic to some dogs, so one piece of these products could be enough to poison your pooch.

If your dog ate commercial products that contain flavorings or seasonings, contact your vet and follow his instructions.    

The toxic dose of Beef Jerky for dogs depends on the type of jerky and its ingredients. A homemade product that doesn’t have added sugar, salt, or spices can be a safe, occasional treat. But some commercial brands include substances that can be poisonous to your dog.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Beef Jerky?

If you walk into the room and find an empty beef jerky package on the floor, you should check the area for any remaining pieces and remove them. Calmly approach your dog and look in his mouth for jerky. 

Once you have removed the product from your pet’s reach, determine how much he ate. Then call your vet. Let the doctor know about how much beef jerky your pup consumed and share the label information. Depending on the ingredients and amount of product, your vet may tell you to induce vomiting. You should observe your pooch for the next 24-48 hours and report any unusual signs to your vet.

In the case of homemade jerky, your dog may be fine if he eats a piece or two of the dried meat. Occasional, small amounts of jerky can be a tasty tidbit for your pooch. But if he consumes a pile of treats, he may have an upset stomach.

If your dog eats some store-bought jerky, remove any remaining pieces and check your dog’s mouth. Determine the quantity of meat your pup consumed and call your vet. Report the amount of product he ingested and the ingredients listed on the label. With homemade jerky, a few small pieces shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you see any concerning signs, call your vet.

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Been Poisoned by Beef Jerky

If your pooch ate some commercial jerky, and you think he may have been poisoned, restrict access to any more beef strips. Check the label ingredients and call your vet. If the product contains xylitol, your veterinarian may instruct you to induce vomiting before you bring your pooch in for treatment.

Most jerky has a high salt content and may contain other spices that can irritate your pooch. Watch your dog closely for the next few days If you notice any signs of distress or unresolved diarrhea, call your veterinarian. You may be dealing with salt toxicity.

The first thing to do if you suspect that your dog was poisoned by beef jerky is to restrict all access to any more product. Collect the package and call your vet to let him know what happened. The doctor’s recommendations will depend on the ingredients in the beef jerky. Continue to observe your pooch for a few days.

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Beef Jerky But Is Acting Normal?

If your dog ate a lot of beef jerky but seems normal, you should continue to observe your pup. Whether he ingested a commercial or homemade product, he may not be out of the woods yet. Most jerky products have a high salt content, and that can spell trouble for your pooch. It may take 12-24 hours before you notice signs of a salt overdose. Signs of too much sodium in the diet include: 

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Lethargy

Watch your pooch closely for signs of distress over the next few days. You should provide ample fresh water to help prevent dehydration. 

If your pooch gets an overdose of salt, he may show signs of sodium toxicity. Contact your veterinarian if you notice signs of salt poisoning.

Even if your dog seems fine after eating jerky, you should monitor him closely. Most dried beef products have a high salt content. Signs of salt poisoning can take several hours to a day to appear. Give your pooch plenty of water and watch for signs of extreme thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Signs of Salt Poisoning

When a dog ingests too much salt, he can suffer from salt poisoning. The signs of salt toxicity resemble the symptoms of xylitol poisoning. So, if you notice any of the below signs, contact your veterinarian.

  • Weakness
  • Ataxia/incoordination
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Muscle tremors/seizures
  • Coma or death

In addition to these common symptoms, dogs with salt poisoning may also show other signs.

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Swollen tongue
  • Respiratory distress

An overdose of sodium can trigger salt poisoning in your dog. Watch for signs like weakness, ataxia, tremors, or seizures. Call your veterinarian if you see symptoms of salt poisoning.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Beef Jerky?

While dogs love the meaty taste of Beef Jerky, it usually contains ingredients that aren’t safe for your pooch. The most concerning ingredients are sodium and xylitol. Both of these can be toxic to your pooch. However other spices, flavorings, and sugar can also irritate your pup’s gastrointestinal lining and cause vomiting or diarrhea. 

If dogs eat jerky that contains xylitol or is high in sodium, they may have symptoms of toxicity. Other spices, flavorings, and sugar in some brands may irritate the gut and cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Why Is Some Beef Jerky Toxic to Dogs?

Beef Jerky that contains xylitol or high sodium levels can be toxic to dogs. 

Xylitol is a wood alcohol that’s often used as a natural sweetener. Dogs can’t metabolize the substance, so it’s rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin, and this causes a rapid drop in blood glucose levels. Sudden hypoglycemia can cause ataxia and confusion, and it can also lead to liver damage.

When a dog ingests excessive salt, the elevated sodium levels in the blood draw fluids from the cells. This causes cellular dehydration and rupture. When brain and nerve cells break apart, intracranial hemorrhage can occur that interferes with normal functions. This can cause coma or death.

Usually, beef jerky will contain high levels of sodium, and it may be sweetened with xylitol. Both of these substances can be toxic to dogs. Xylitol triggers a cascade of events that lead to sudden hypoglycemia. Too much sodium in the blood draws fluid out of the cells so that they rupture.

How Will My Vet Treat Xylitol or Sodium Poisoning?

Xylitol and sodium toxicity can both be life-threatening situations. You need to get your pooch into the vet as soon as you notice signs that suggest poisoning.

If your pooch shows signs of xylitol toxicity, time is of the essence. The doctor will check your dog’s blood glucose levels. If the glucose levels are ok and your dog ate the jerky in the past 6 hours, he may induce vomiting. Your vet will probably hospitalize your pooch for at least 24 hours so he can monitor blood glucose and liver enzymes every few hours. Treatment will depend on the test results and may include IV dextrose, liver-protecting medications, and other supportive care.

Dogs with sodium poisoning also require aggressive care and hospitalization. Your pup may need IV fluids, electrolytes, and oxygen to help manage dehydration. To prevent heart attack or brain swelling, your vet will gradually reduce elevated blood sodium levels. If your dog already has brain swelling, the doctor will administer a medication such as dexamethasone to reduce inflammation.

Both xylitol and sodium poisoning require aggressive veterinary care and hospitalization. For xylitol toxicity, vets will monitor blood glucose and liver enzymes and administer IV dextrose, liver-protecting medications, and supportive care depending on the lab results. Dogs with sodium toxicity may get IV fluids, electrolytes, oxygen, and an anti-inflammatory drug to manage symptoms.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover from X Poisoning?

When dogs with xylitol poisoning receive early treatment and only have simple hypoglycemia, they can recover in 24 hours or more. When there are signs of liver damage or insufficiency, the prognosis is guarded at best, and recovery is more protracted.

Dogs with sodium poisoning likewise have a better prognosis and quicker recovery phase if they are treated early. However, it will take several days to lower your pal’s blood sodium levels to a safe range. Additionally, when a dog suffers from salt poisoning once, they’re more likely to get it again. Your veterinarian will probably recommend a low-sodium diet going forward. The prognosis is good as long as there were no signs of brain, liver, or heart damage. 

Early treatment is key for both types of poisoning. For xylitol toxicity, pups that have simple hypoglycemia may recover in a day or more. Dogs with liver involvement take longer and have a poorer prognosis. Canines with salt toxicity require several days to recover but will probably need a low-sodium diet going forward. 

The Final Woof

Beef jerky may taste yummy, but the preservatives and flavorings used in many commercial products are generally not safe for dogs. First, dried meat treats tend to be extremely high in sodium and can cause salt poisoning. In many cases, just one ounce of beef jerky may contain more than five times the daily sodium limit for a medium-sized dog. Additionally, some products use xylitol to sweeten the jerky, and this substance is extremely toxic to some dogs.

If your dog eats jerky, you should remove access to any more and observe your pooch. If your furbaby ate a lot of product, or if the ingredients include xylitol, you should call your vet immediately. Otherwise, watch your pal for signs of salt or xylitol poisoning. The vet will treat your pooch depending on the symptoms and blood work results. With both types of toxicity, early treatment usually means quicker recovery and a better prognosis.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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