Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni? How Safe Is It For Dogs?

Can Dogs Eat Pepperoni? Photo of a dog looking to a tower of pepperoni.

We’ve all had that moment where we’re tempted to give in to the puppy dog pout staring us down from across the table as we eat our pizza. So, what’s the deal? Can dogs eat pepperoni? Here’s what you need to know!

Dogs can’t safely eat pepperoni. The main risks of pepperoni for your dog include the sodium content, the fat content, and the seasonings that are often used in pepperoni processing and flavoring. While a tiny piece of pepperoni snatched off your plate won’t hurt them, regular snacks of it can cause many health problems, including digestion issues, obesity, kidney damage, pancreatitis, salt poisoning, and/or seasoning toxicity.

Why is pepperoni bad for dogs?

To put it simply, there’s nothing good in pepperoni for dogs. Except for the taste, obviously. Pepperoni is bad for dogs, particularly for various very relevant reasons, as introduced above. In more detail, those are:

  • Sodium content
  • Fat content
  • The seasonings

Sodium content

Pepperoni is all sodium. To turn meat remnants into the tasty pizza topping, they’re drenched in salt to the point of petrification and then further processed through seasoning. If you’ve ever smelled slices of pepperoni in its form, the main smell catching your attention is salt.

It’s a lot of sodium in one food choice, even for humans. Dogs have a low tolerance for sodium compared to humans. This, combined with their smaller size, means that it takes much less for them to negatively react to the salt content. Even a small amount of pepperoni can cause severe health complications.

Salt poisoning is when your dog’s body is overloaded with salt, which shocks their body. This can be fatal and is very serious, even in its mildest forms. We’ll talk more about the symptoms to watch for below. In combination with the fat, sodium can also lead to pancreatitis.

Fat content

There’s a belief that pepperoni is just all meat parts blended. In reality, it’s mostly fat disguised as meat parts. The fat content is, as a result, very high. Dogs require lean protein and low healthy fat content in their diet.

The protein in pepperoni is very high-fat, and the actual fat itself is of horrible quality. The combination of high amounts of poor-quality, unhealthy fat makes it a horrible choice!

The high-fat content will cause serious digestion problems with your dog, which can lead to total disruption in their digestive systems. As a result, your dog’s appetite will be off, which can impact their nutrition in the short term! 

As mentioned above, pancreatitis is possible when you blend the sodium’s inflammation with the oily and greasy fat from the pepperoni. This is when your dog’s pancreas starts to digest itself mistakenly. In mild cases, with treatment, your dog can recover. However, moderate to severe cases can be fatal.

The seasonings

There are a lot of seasonings in pepperoni, despite what most of us think! These include black pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, mustard seeds, etc. Garlic and onion are toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.

The amount in one piece of pepperoni, which you would have no way of measuring for its potential for toxic seasonings, could be enough to create a toxic reaction in your dog.

Just like salt poisoning, the reaction from eating a toxic seasoning can be fatal very quickly in your dog. The seasonings in the pepperoni aren’t just dusted on top, either. They’re cooked and processed with them. Your dog isn’t able to eat pepperoni without also eating those seasonings.

Pepperoni is just plain bad for dogs, no matter which point of view you use to look at it as a justifiable snack for your dog!

Can dogs have small amounts of pepperoni?

Technically, your dog can have a small amount of pepperoni very rarely. Emphasis on the “very” part of that, of course. They shouldn’t get a slice every time you are preparing a meal or a round of it from each pizza slice. Keep in mind that smaller and unhealthy dogs should have even less than that!

How much pepperoni can dogs eat?

This is an important question to ask when keeping your dog in good health! Experts agree that one piece of pepperoni (sliced thin) is an okay treat for your dog every few months. That pepperoni should be free from any known toxic seasonings, as mentioned above, and as “healthy” as possible.

In this case, “healthy” would mean the deli pepperoni rather than the crispy pepperoni that most people get on pizza! That pepperoni should be given in as small amounts as possible (think, a crumb) and preferably avoided if you can.

For a more personalized approach to pepperoni types and your specific dog, your vet can help you understand what is safe and unsafe if you consider offering some pepperoni to your dog as a special treat.

Pros and cons of pepperoni for dogs

By now, you’re getting a sense that pepperoni really isn’t an excellent choice for your dog, as much as they seem to be coaxing you to give it to them. Here are the pros and cons, plain and simple.

PROS

  • It tastes good

CONS

  • Can cause health crises
  • Can lead to diabetes and obesity
  • Can cause kidney damage

No matter how much you may want to give it to your deserving dog, pepperoni’s cons can have drastic and potentially life-changing effects on your dog. When you consider that, that one lonely little pro doesn’t seem quite so relevant, right?

Can pepperoni kill a dog?

Yes, pepperoni can kill your dog in two ways: short-term consequences and long-term consequences.

Short-term consequences are those we’ve talked about already, such as sodium poisoning and seasoning toxicity. This can lead to a fatal reaction very quickly, within several hours. Pancreatitis would also fall into this category, though it can take longer to set in.

Long-term consequences include obesity, diabetes, a weak/sensitive stomach (and digestion), and chronic pancreatitis. While they won’t instantly kill your dog, they can shorten their lifespan and steal their quality of life.

Can dogs eat cold pepperoni?

Cold pepperoni is the same thing, health-wise, as hot pepperoni. It has the same fat content, salt, and seasonings as hot pepperoni. Whether cold pepperoni from a deli or in a stick form, such as pepperoni jerky or pepperoni sticks, they shouldn’t eat it.

If you are set on doing so, they can have a tiny part of jerky/stick once every few months. Eating an entire piece of pepperoni jerky or a stick can be enough to kill them.

Can dogs eat hot pepperoni?

Hot pepperoni in temperature is no better than cold pepperoni. Hot pepperoni might even burn their mouth since the grease and fat are hotter, still, and will burn as your dog chews on it.

Hot, spicy pepperoni is even worse. Dogs can’t handle even mildly spicy foods, so feeding your dog spiced pepperoni will cause severe digestive upset that can lead to dehydration — which is a severe medical emergency in dogs.

Can dogs eat turkey pepperoni?

Health-conscious snackers often prefer turkey pepperoni. Unfortunately, it’s no better for our dogs than classic pepperoni. It’s not the meat content that’s the problem; it’s the processing, added salt, etc.

What happens if a dog eats a slice of pepperoni pizza?

Accidents happen even when you are actively trying to make sure that you keep your dog away from the pepperoni. If your dog’s eaten a slice of pepperoni pizza, then you need to prepare yourself for a possible medical emergency.

Even in the best-case scenario for ingredients, cheese, pepperoni, and pizza sauce, the combination of those ingredients in the large portion of a pizza slice can cause a terrible digestive problem and possibly those crises we talked about above.

Symptoms to watch for if your dog ate pepperoni

Watching for complications means that you’ll be able to step in faster and get your dog to a vet if you need to. From all of the heath crises above, the list of symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • An incessant need to pee
  • Vomiting
  • An upset and sensitive stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking
  • Loss of coordination
  • Signs of distress

These can set in several minutes to several hours after eating the pizza. The more you notice, the faster you need to get them to the vet to be checked out. This will give your vet more time to intervene to counteract the toxicity or the poisoning.

Alternatives to pepperoni for dogs

One of the best things is to have a special pepperoni-shaped dog treat (from a pet store, for example) that looks like pepperoni. When you eat pepperoni, give him one of these special treats. He won’t know the difference, and you can enjoy the fact that you are giving him a tasty morsel that he deserves without putting his health at risk.

In general

Pepperoni is not a safe treat for dogs due to its sodium and fat content and the potential for toxic seasoning. They can have a tiny amount of it very rarely, assuming there are no toxic seasonings on it.

Ensure you know the symptoms to watch for in case your dog has an adverse and potentially fatal reaction!

Your dog’s health is going to be more important than a piece of pepperoni, especially when you read through all of those scary health conditions and crises!

Know someone prone to sharing this pizza topping? Consider letting them in on the facts by sharing this with them.

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.