Hot dogs remind me of summer days at the fair, and a few frankfurters covered in mustard and onions is a summer tea-time treat I never grew out of. While we humans love hot dogs, our hounds often come hankering for their own treat from the BBQ. But can dogs eat hot dogs?
Yes and no. Many hot dogs usually won’t contain anything toxic to dogs and so they are safe to eat, but ingredients vary a lot between brands so always check the label to make sure there’s nothing inside that's harmful to your hound.
A little bit of hot dog as a special treat shouldn’t be a problem if your pup is pretty healthy. But, while dogs can eat hot dogs, it’s one of those foods that should be kept as a rare treat and definitely shouldn’t be a regular offering or staple food for your furry friend.
The answer to “can dogs eat hot dogs?” is very similar to whether dogs can eat sausages or not. Hot dogs are highly processed and high in salt and fat, so they aren’t a healthy food and definitely shouldn’t be used as your dog’s main protein source.
If your dog has an underlying health condition, hot dogs might not make an appropriate treat for them. For example, a pup with pancreatitis or obesity needs low-fat treats, while dogs with kidney or liver issues need lower salt foods. Hot dogs are high in fat and salt so should be avoided in these cases. You should always check with your vet to see what foods are safe for your dog based on their individual needs.
Dogs can eat hot dogs in brine because they aren’t necessarily toxic, but, they’re not healthy either. A little piece on occasion should be safe, but better not start offering your hound a hot dog every day.
Hot dogs in brine are usually high in salt and so should be avoided, as even a small piece can contain most of your dogs recommended daily allowance of salt.
Similar to hot dogs, sausages aren’t very healthy for dogs but they are “safe” to eat. Your dog can eat sausages, but they definitely shouldn’t eat a lot of them and shouldn’t eat them regularly.
A small bit of sausage as a special treat should be perfectly safe and can make a very high-value reward for your pooch when training.
When you eat your own hot dog, you probably slather it in ketchup or mustard. But can your dog eat hot dogs covered in sauces?
Ketchup isn’t toxic and so your dog having a dribble shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s another food to be mindful of because it is high in sugar and you’d need to check none of the additives or flavourings could be toxic to dogs.
Mustard, on the other hand, must be avoided because mustard seeds (which give the distinctive flavour) are toxic to dogs.
Whenever we have hot dogs, we usually cover them in fried onions. The problem is, your pooch should never eat onions. Onions are toxic to dogs, and eating a lot at once, or eating them regularly over time, can both lead to your dog becoming sick and anaemic.
As far as human foods go, bread is perfectly safe to eat but not the healthiest or most exciting treat you can offer your doggo.
Bread is not likely to cause them any harm unless your pup has a wheat or gluten sensitivity. It is pretty plain and while that makes it safe, it does mean it has limited nutritional value to a dog.
Bread doesn’t provide a lot other than carbohydrates and empty calories. Dogs don’t need a lot of carbohydrates or calories in their diet, and eating a lot of bread can lead to weight gain.
This is tricky because the ingredients and nutritional content of hot dogs varies a lot between brands. Plus, whether hot dogs are ok for your dog or not will vary on their individual sensitivities and needs.
Generally, a healthy adult dog can eat some hot dog and be perfectly fine. But, if they are eating hot dogs regularly, it can start to cause problems.
A medium dog of about 15kg shouldn’t eat more than 100mg (or 0.1g) of salt a day. Looking at a few popular brands of hot dogs and frankfurters, many contain 0.25-0.56g of salt for a single hot dog.
That means even half of the lowest salt hot dog contains all of your dog’s recommended daily allowance of salt, and that’s before they have eaten anything else including their dog food dinner. If your dog is even smaller, it means the excess salt is even greater.
Too much salt can make your dog dehydrated, and in the worst-case scenario, can lead to sodium poisoning. (This is very rare.) Plus, eating excess salt for an extended period of time can affect your dog’s blood pressure.
Hot dogs are also highly-processed and quite fatty. In the short term, this richness can upset a dog’s stomach causing vomiting and diarrhoea. If your pooch eats a lot at once, they could develop pancreatitis.
However eating hot dogs must be moderated because processed meats are also known carcinogens, which means they are known to cause cancer. As well as being highly processed, hot dogs also contain sodium nitrate which has also been linked to cancer.
This is only a problem if your pooch is eating lots of processed food regularly, so a little sausage treat on occasion alongside a healthy diet is perfectly fine.
All in all, it means you must moderate what your dog is eating and keep treats like hot dogs as just treats. A bit of hot dog every now and again shouldn’t cause your pup any lasting harm, just don’t give them whole hot dogs and definitely don’t give them hot dogs every day.
Less is more in this case, and a dog will be perfectly happy and healthy if they never get to taste a hot dog at all. Hot dogs are sometimes used as a very high-value treat or to hide medication inside, and as long as it’s cut up very small and your dog only has a few pieces, it should be absolutely fine. There’s no real rule of thumb other than keeping it small and infrequent.
Sometimes your furry friend can find a whole hot dog for themselves, whether they’ve snatched a sausage at a BBQ or stolen some food you or the kids have dropped. It happens! Your dog should be okay, but you should keep an eye on them for a few hours to make sure they don’t develop any symptoms of illness.
The rich, fatty, and salty hot dog meat might upset their stomach and they could vomit or have diarrhoea, but any symptoms shouldn’t last for longer than a few hours. If you’re worried about your pooch or their symptoms persist for more than a day, you should contact your vet.
So how many hot dogs can a dog eat? None or very little. And definitely don’t give them a whole hot dog.
Yes, a dog can eat hot dogs as they aren’t toxic. However, they are a highly-processed food full of fat and salt, so they’re not very good for dogs and shouldn’t be fed to them regularly or in large amounts. A little hot dog as an occasional treat should be safe though.
Hot dogs aren’t the best treat for Fido though, so instead, opt for a food that's jam-packed with goodness, such as Pure. Hot dogs are ultra-processed, which isn't great for our pooches, whereas Pure is totally natural, nutritious dog food.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.