It’s nice to share food with your dog, especially when they’re looking up at you beside the dinner table with those big, hopeful eyes! But as good as it feels to treat our pooches to a tasty snack now and then, we need to be cautious about the hidden ingredients in certain foods and the unhealthy ways they might be prepared – especially a popular, but highly-processed snack food like pork rinds.
No, you should not let your dog eat pork rinds, and this also goes for pork crackling, scratchings, and any forms of fried pork skin. Pork meat itself is fine for dogs to eat, but it is the way pork rinds are produced that can cause problems. Rinds are often heavily fried in oils and prepared with a heavy dose of salt and spices – none of which is good for your dog’s digestive system or their overall health.
Don’t panic if you have fed your dog pork rinds in the past as a rare treat. Our main point here is that pork rinds should not be a regular part of your dog’s diet, as long-term health issues will inevitably arise from serving them frequent portions of the stuff. We’ve looked into some queries related to better ways of cooking and preparing pork rinds, how it affects your dog’s health, and what the alternatives are.
Pork Rinds Ingredients and Nutrients
Pork rinds are made from pig skin which is cut into bite-size pellets before being oven-baked to strip them of as much moisture as possible, before they’re finally fried in vegetable oil, lard, or sometimes in peanut oil.
On their own, pork rinds are naturally high in fat and sodium, but the bagged store-bought variety of pork rinds adds a list of other unhealthy ingredients into the mix, such as extra salt, fat, sugar, and even e-numbers (food additives used to enhance the flavor or color of the pork rinds).
As you can imagine, the above doesn’t hold many health benefits for dogs, but pork rinds are viewed favorably in the human trend of ‘Keto’ dieting which favors food with high fat but low-carb content, and Keto dog diets are known to provide some of the same health advantages.
So pork rinds are good for dogs in the sense that they contain zero carbs and a typical serving contains around 17 grams of protein. However, they could only be considered ‘good’ snacks as one’s eaten in moderation due to their high levels of sodium and the fact they offer as much nutritional value as a Big Mac.
Are Pork Rinds Harmful to Dogs?
Though they are not toxic to dogs, pork rinds are harmful in the sense that they are junk food, so over-indulging in them will lead to health issues. Consider the fact that just one serving of pork rinds contains almost half the amount of a dog’s recommended daily intake of sodium and you can conclude this is more harmful than healthy for your pooch.
The higher the levels of sodium in your dog’s diet, the more likely they will be to gain weight and have high blood pressure, which in turn contributes to their risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death. If you’re concerned that your dog is overly fond of salty snacks like pork rinds, try making the switch to a low-sodium diet.
Can Dogs Eat Plain Pork Rinds?
Even before pork rinds have the seasoning added into the cooking process, they have a naturally high-fat and sodium content, so we would still advise caution against serving plain pork rinds as a regular snack.
Also, when it comes to serving up plain, unprocessed pork rinds in their natural form, it’s vital to note that they should never be served to your dog raw, as uncooked pork can contain roundworm parasites that risk infecting your dog and causing serious illness or even death.
Can Dogs Have Fried Pork Rinds?
Dogs don’t respond well to fried foods in general, so refrain from feeding them fried pork rinds. Even in moderation, fried foods can cause diarrhea in some dogs, and in excess, fried foods like pork rinds and meat scraps have been linked to causing pancreatitis in dogs – a condition that causes inflammation of the pancreas. If your dog exhibits any signs of pancreatitis, consult your vet as soon as possible.
Can Dogs Have BBQ Pork Rinds?
Either on the barbecue at home or from a bag of store-bought BBQ-flavored pork rinds, this is a no-go for your dog.
In the BBQ process, pork rinds are usually coated in various kinds of seasoning and sauces to improve the taste like onion, garlic, or mustard powder – and these can be extremely harmful to dogs. Because you can never be sure about the ingredients in store-bought BBQ pork rinds, it’s important to be wary of the safe and toxic forms of seasoning for dogs.
Miami-based Holistic veterinarian Dr. Josie Beug warns dog owners against the use of garlic and onion powder in particular due to the “increased concentration and potency” in powder form. “Onion powder should be avoided in any form”, Dr. Beug warns, “as it contains a compound called Thiosulphate which causes Hemolytic Anemia in dogs – a condition causing the red blood cells to burst.”
How to Cook Pork Rinds for Dogs?
If you ever feed your dog pork rinds, serve them in moderation and preferably cook and prepare the rinds yourself to reduce the fat content and minimize the risk from food additives and seasoning as we’ve discussed.
When cooking pork rinds for your dog, there are a few ways to turn this high-fat snack into a slightly healthier treat:
- Source your pig skin locally – if you can find the pork skin from a local source like a butcher’s or a farm then it’s less likely to be processed or bursting with food additives.
- Oven-bake the rinds instead of frying – the healthiest choice you can make in cooking your own pork rinds is to sidestep the drying pan in favor of baking them in the oven. Roasting the rind strips on a baking sheet in the oven uses significantly less oil and still results in light and crispy rinds your dog will love.
- Use oil sparingly – cooking them yourself means you get to control the amount of oil used before baking so a light brush of vegetable oil will do on each of the rinds.
- Remove excess fat and oil – Use paper towels to scrape off as much excess fat and cooking oil off the rinds as you can after baking. This will keep them extra crisp and crunchy.
- Serve the baked rinds alongside other foods – Instead of letting your dog simply snack on an entire helping of rinds, try serving them up as a crunchy topping over a portion of vegetables or alongside one of their regular balanced meals.
What Happens If Dogs Eat Pork Rinds?
The effects will not be obvious if you feed your dog pork rinds as a rare, one-off treat, but if they are eaten on a regular basis, the high-fat and sodium content may cause your dog to experience an upset stomach and digestive issues – most commonly diarrhea.
However, a sharp uptake of salt and fat in their diet as a result of frequently snacking on pork rinds could lead to your dog experiencing some of the following:
- High blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart disease
Alternatives to Pork Rinds
Thankfully, there are many great alternatives to pork rinds that can provide the same crispy texture and great flavor for your dog without the health risks. These include:
Pork chomps are chew sticks of naturally baked pork skin. They often appear curled or twisted like actual pork rinds but are oven-roasted to retain the flavor and protein with none of the high fat and salt content. The curled bone shapes make them a fun treat for your dog to chew on and are easy to digest once they’re all chewed up!
Beef Bully Sticks
Like pork chomps, these are a part-bone part-meaty treat. Beef bully sticks are easily digestible chew treats made from the single ingredient of beef muscle and come in many shapes and sizes to suit every dog breed. They’re not only high in protein but a great teeth-cleaning chew for your dog. They also provide benefits for your dog’s coat, brain, and body thanks to the amino acids.
Crunchy Fruit and Vegetables
Perhaps the best of all alternative snacks to pork rinds are some wholesome fruit and veggies with a bit of crunch! While they don’t have the long-lasting chew factor of a pork chomp or bully stick, crunchy foods such as carrot sticks, apple slices, and green beans make great snacks for your dog. Plus, frozen carrot sticks can be a great summer treat for your pooch on those sizzling hot days!
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