Should a Dog Be Fed Corned Beef?

Scruffy may be of Irish descent, but you may want to limit how much of your St. Patrick's Day feast he shares.
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As you prepare to enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage feast or a corned beef sandwich from the local deli, you're undoubtedly going to consider sharing with your furry best friend -- because if he's there, he wants some. After all it’s beef, and dogs love meat. Corned beef in particular makes some dogs go berzerk. But you want to consider what makes it “corned” and its impact on Scruffy's health before feeding it to him.

Corned Beef

Corned beef is a beef brisket placed in brine for up to a week and then simmered in a seasoned liquid. The brine is made of salt, sugar, vinegar, pickling spices, water and garlic; the simmering liquid contains water, spices and garlic. According to The Food Lab on the Serious Eats website, the term “corned” comes from Old English term for a kernel, and the coarse salt used to brine the beef was called a “corn” of salt. Corned beef is essentially cured meat, similar to bacon, ham and luncheon meats.

Sodium in Corned Beef

Corned beef is high in sodium because of the brining process. While we humans are advised to maintain low sodium levels in our diets, dogs without heart or kidney problems don’t necessarily need to avoid sodium to the same extent. Salty foods can make dogs thirstier than usual, which may result in more trips outside. According to the ASPCA, too much salt can cause sodium ion poisoning, which can be fatal.

Dogs and Garlic

Garlic sometimes is an ingredient in both brine and simmering liquid used to make corned beef, and some people boil onions and other vegetables with the corned beef. According to the ASCPA, garlic and onions can cause stomach upset, and in large quantities can damage red blood cells. Corned beef probably doesn’t have enough garlic in it once cooked to cause problems for most healthy dogs, so a small piece minus onions is okay.

Dogs With Heart and Kidney Problems

If Scruffy has high blood pressure or kidney or heart issues, you should avoid feeding him foods high in sodium. Salty foods can increase water retention, which taxes the kidneys and the heart as well as increases the risk of fluid in the lungs.

Corned Beef as a Treat

As with any “people” food you give Scruffy, it is always recommended to give it in moderation and to remove any visible fat on meat. New foods can cause stomach upset in some dogs, so a small sample is advised. Also, be aware of the calories and fat in corned beef so you can adjust Scruffy’s regular food accordingly. Most dogs gain weight easily, especially small dogs, and many are prone to pancreatitis, a painful and sometimes deadly inflammation of the pancreas that can be caused by ingestion of fatty foods.