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Can Dogs Eat Deli Meat?

Can Dogs Eat Deli Meat?

Deli meat like turkey, pastrami, sausages, salami, and ham don’t just taste good, they also have a meaty, savory smell that dogs love.  It’s no surprise that just a whiff will get them running towards you for a taste.

You may have wondered can dogs eat deli meat?  This article will answer that question, explain the potential hazards of feeding deli meat to your dog, as well as provide an alternative recipe.

Can Dogs Eat Deli Meat?

Yes, dogs can eat deli meat in small quantities, but it’s not recommended.  Although deli meat is not toxic to dogs, the fat content, sodium content, flavoring and calories can long term be potentially hazardous for your dog’s health when fed too regularly. 

If you plan on feeding deli meat to your dog as an occasional treat, go for the lower sodium options like turkey breast or chicken breast.

Potential Hazards of Feeding Your Dog Deli Meat

Like bacon, deli meats are typically high in fat, preservatives, and other ingredients that should not be a regular part of any dog’s diet. In particular, these are your most crucial concerns about giving your dog deli meat: 


According to the AAFCO, the diet of a typical adult dog should contain at least 5.5% of fat. Although that’s a minimum, going way beyond this standard could cause serious health issues like obesity and heart disease.

Since some deli meats are higher in fat, dogs that frequently consume them could suffer in the long run.  Additionally, consuming too much fat can also lead to some more immediate health risks.

For example, your dog could suffer from pancreatitis, which is painful and could quickly become a chronic condition. A high-fat diet also makes dogs more prone to an emergency and potentially fatal condition called acute gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV).

Sodium & Nitrates

Sodium and nitrates are used both as preservatives and to give deli meats their salty and savory flavor. Healthy dogs can tolerate these in small quantities.

In fact, some dog food manufacturers use minuscule amounts of nitrates or sodium nitrite to guarantee freshness. However, this can cause serious problems for dogs in high doses.

As with humans, a high sodium diet puts your dog at a higher risk of hypertension, kidney failure, and heart disease. It can also lead to a condition called hypernatremia, which is a potentially life-threatening electrolyte imbalance.

Flavoring & Spices

Deli meat is usually blended with several flavorings and spices. In fact, many are made with ingredients that are toxic to dogs, including garlic and onions. Consumption of high enough doses could lead to gastrointestinal problems, anemia, and lethargy.


Treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calorie requirement.

According to the National Research Council, a healthy and active adult dog weighing about 70 pounds (like Labradors and German Shepherds) should consume approximately 1,740 calories per day. That means their daily calories from treats should be limited to 174.

The problem is that for a dog, deli meat can have more extra calories than they need to consume regularly depending on the size of your dog.  Of course, a larger dog will be able to safely consume more deli meat than a smaller dog.

For example, a breakfast sausage could contain 330 calories while a ham contains about 60 calories. Frequently treating your dog with these processed meats could quickly lead to unwanted weight gain.

Deli Meat Alternatives for Dogs

You can make meaty dog treats as a deli meat alternative that won’t pose the same health concerns as the human versions. Among your best options is beef jerky, which you can make in large batches and store for weeks.

Homemade Beef Jerky Dog Treat Recipe

This beef jerky is something you can easily make at home as long as you have an oven with a low-temperature setting (ideally around 130°F) or a dehydrator.


  • 1-pound Ground Beef – If your local butcher will oblige, you can use a mixture of lean beef, organ meats, and ground-up bones. Otherwise, the regular lean ground beef you can get from the grocery should be fine.

Cooking Instructions:

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the meat on the sheet and roll it out to approximately 1/8th of an inch thick.
  • Use a knife to score a grid pattern onto the flattened meat, so it’s easy to break off into smaller sizes later on.
  • Place the baking sheet of meat in the oven and dehydrate at 130°F (or the lowest possible setting on your oven). It could take up to 8 hours.
  • Pour out any rendered grease or drippings.
  • Break the sheet of meat into smaller pieces.
  • Place the pieces back on the baking sheet and place it back into the oven until completely dry. This step could take 4-5 hours.
  • Let the pieces cool completely away from your dog’s reach.


  • You can store these deli meat alternatives at room temperature for up to three weeks. Keep them in the fridge if you want to store them longer.
  • If you have more than one rack in your oven, you can double-up the recipe to make the most out of the baking time.
  • You can also make homemade beef jerky dog treats using a dehydrator. Just make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying up meat.

Final Thoughts

Although deli meat is not toxic and is not likely to pose any immediate danger in small portions, your dog is better off without it.

If you want to feed your dog deli meat, treat them in small amounts.  A small dog shouldn’t have more than one slice of deli meat once or twice a week and a larger dog shouldn’t have more than two slices once or twice a week.  Also make sure to go for the healthier options that are lower in sodium, calories, and fat.

Ultimately, it’s better for you to make a pet-friendly deli meat alternative or stick with equally tasty dog treats.

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