If you’re eating pizza, chances are, your dog is right there watching your every bite. Many of us can’t resist slipping a bit of the pizza crust or even a whole slice. But before we share any more stuff-crust with extra cheese with our pets, it’s best to ask ourselves if our dogs can or should be allowed to eat pizza.
A lot more goes into a pizza than meets the eye. Some ingredients may even appear harmless but are quite dangerous.
Some of it we already give to our dogs. We use a bit of cheese to mask a pill or garlic oil to ward off ticks. But did you know that while a little cheese is fine, too much cheese can be bad for dogs? Or that garlic and onions can be toxic?
Even the pizza crust is not the best option for a canine snack. But let’s break down exactly why dogs can’t eat pizza.
So, What Exactly Is So Bad About Pizza?
Pizza is made up of a ton of different ingredients. Some are harmless on their own, but altogether, they can cause chaos for your dog’s digestive tract and overall health.
However, some components are relatively harmless, especially in small amounts.
For instance, tomato sauce contains tomatoes—obviously—but tomatoes contain tomatine. A substance that is highly toxic to dogs. Of course, most tomatine is found in the rest of the tomato plant, not the actual tomatoes, making a bit of tomato sauce relatively safe.
We say “relatively” because the high salt and sugar content in tomato sauce isn’t great for your pup. Neither are the additives and flavorings that can cause all kinds of digestive upset if your dog has a sensitive stomach.
But if tomato sauce is okay in small amounts for most dogs, what about pizza’s other ingredients? And how do they work together to make pizza a hard “no” for your dog?
Ingredients in pizza to avoid:
Onions and Garlic
Garlic and onions are common ingredients on pizza that give it that extra zest and yumminess.
Unfortunately, too much garlic, leek, or onion can be poisonous to dogs.
Poisoning by plants in the garlic family is known as Allium Toxicosis because garlic, onions, chives, shallots, and leeks belong to the Allium genus. Too much allium causes the breakdown of a dog’s red blood cells.
At best, this causes a tummy ache. At worst, it causes hemolytic anemia, which may be fatal.
Signs of garlic or onion poisoning typically only start after a few days. However, they may begin as early as within the first 24 hours. The first symptoms include vomiting, refusing to eat or drink, and abdominal pain.
Later, the dog may also have pale mucous membranes, have difficulty breathing, or appear apathetic. It could also have blood in its urine and pale gums.
If a dog eats more than 0.5% of its body weight in alliums, it could be toxic. This means a 7-pound Chihuahua could be poisoned by about half an ounce of or onion.
Some Japanese breeds like Akitas or Shiba Inus are particularly vulnerable to Allium Toxicosis.
The Garlic Controversary
But wait! What about all the blogs and naturalists who swear by garlic in their dog’s diet? Are they all poisoning their dogs?
The truth is not so cut and dry.
There is some argument about exactly how toxic garlic is for dogs and whether they can eat it.
On the one hand, the Pet Poison Helpline, the AKC, and various other sites condemn it as poison. But others argue that the reasons for this rely on a study single study that doesn’t acknowledge how much less toxic garlic is than onions for the canine body.
Many use garlic as tick and flea prevention—although your vet should be consulted on this matter—and for liver and digestive health.
But the science is not conclusive over this. Some research reports that garlic has a positive tick repellent quality, and one paper does point to possible health benefits for canines.
So what’s the verdict? Well, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, garlic is less toxic than onions, so a little garlic for your pup is not the end of the world. More research on the topic is needed, so it’s best to keep any garlic your dog eats to a minimum until we have more information.
Pizzas, like most processed foods, are quite heavy in salt. In fact, a survey found that out of 1267 pizzas tested, about half had more than 6 grams (0,2 ounces) of salt.
There are almost three tablespoons of salt in both Dominos hotdog stuffed-crust pepperoni passion and Papa John’s stuffed-crust sausage and pepperoni!
It’s not news that too much salt is bad for dogs, just like it is for humans, but how much salt can your dog really handle?
Well, some salt is necessary for your dog’s health. The rule of thumb is between 0.009 and 0.005 ounces of salt per every 0.04 ounces of dog food. Or 0.25 – 1.5 g per 100 grams of food.
This puts high-salt snacks, like pizza, way above the healthy range for a dog.
Ingesting too much salt can cause dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. It can also create lesions in the gut, such as ulcers.
A pizza isn’t pizza without the cheese, and a little bit of cheese here and there is generally safe for dogs. In fact, it has some benefits, such as vitamin A, calcium, and protein. But there are a few things to remember about why moderation is essential.
Firstly, although cheese has less lactose than milk, dogs who are highly lactose intolerant can still get upset tummies from it.
Secondly, some cheeses are also high in fat and salt. Now cheeses like cottage cheese can be low in all three. And, the mozzarella on a pizza is generally better than cheddar. But it still contributes to the overall fat in a pizza.
The average pizza in the USA is reported to have between 10 and 25 grams of fat per slice!
Excessive fat in a dog’s diet is problematic for several reasons. It can cause obesity, which leads to health problems like arthritis. But a fatty diet can also cause severe issues like pancreatitis or stomach ulcers.
Like cheese, the spicy meats in pizza toppings can add to the excessive fat problem. Salami is about 30% fat, while pepperoni is up to 44%!
As discussed above, too much fat can lead to pancreas issues, stomach ulcers, and weight problems, amongst others.
But this is not the only issue with meat toppings. While the protein might sound healthy for dogs, these toppings are high in salt, especially processed meat.
Another issue is the spices. Some meats are spiced with onion or garlic powder. Salami and other meats also contain nutmeg, which can cause neurological damage to your puppy.
Other spices, such as chilies, found in the toppings might not be as dangerous but are still likely to upset your dog’s sensitive stomach. They may even aggravate any allergies your dog might have.
What About the Vegetables on Pizza?
Pineapple on pizza haters might cringe, but it may be one of the few ingredients that are fine for a dog to eat.
In general, pineapples, bell peppers, and mushrooms are all safe for dogs. But keep in mind, these toppings won’t come on their own in their pizza. They will likely be coated in grease, salt, and some of the other no-nos it’s best to avoid.
Can Dogs Eat Pizza Crust?
So, we’ve eliminated most of the pizza, and now we’re left with just the crust and a pair of sad puppy eyes. So, is the pizza crust safe for dogs?
To answer that, we need to look at the ingredients. Pizza dough is usually made from flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, and water. We can already note the problem of fat in the olive oil and the added salt.
On the other hand, yeast, particularly brewer’s yeast, can be quite good for dogs. It may even help with dry, flaky skin. But simple carbohydrates like the refined flour used to make pizza is not as great.
Most dogs can handle flour fine, although some may be allergic to it. In this case, there may be some digestive upset. If your dog is prone to ear or skin infections, it’s also best to avoid it since the extra carbs can trigger it.
Even if your dog has no allergy problems, processed grains have no real nutritional value for her. Eating the pizza crust will mostly be empty calories.
Keep your dog’s size in mind too. A giant 160-pound mastiff is unlikely to be affected by a pizza crust or two unless you are trying to control his weight. In that case, all needless calories should be avoided. On the other hand, a large pizza crust for a Teacup Min Pin might be entirely too much.
What To Do If My Dog Ate a Whole Pizza?
If your dog counter-surfed and scoffed down a whole onion and garlic pizza while you weren’t looking, it might be a good idea to call your vet. While a little bit will probably do no harm, too much can definitely be dangerous.
In most cases, your dog will likely start regurgitating on its own.
It not, and you can’t get to the vet, you can consider inducing vomiting.
The only relatively safe way to do this is to load up a syringe or turkey baster with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide from a fresh bottle. We say “fresh” because it should still be bubbly to be effective.
Hydrogen Peroxide’s suggested amount is about one teaspoon for every five pounds of dog’s weight, but a maximum dose of three tablespoons for dogs over 45 pounds.
Shoot the peroxide into the back of the dog’s throat while holding his head up to force him to swallow. After that, walk around the yard and wait for the peroxide to irritate the stomach enough to cause vomiting. When everything is out, give your dog some charcoal pills to soak up any remaining toxins.
Inducing vomiting should only be done in extreme circumstances. It is always best to first call your vet before you do it. But since it can be life-saving, always keep a fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some charcoal pills in your doggy first aid kit.
Keep in mind, dogs have something that is called “dietary indiscretion”. It merely means they will eat just about anything. Because of this, dogs make up 70 – 80 % of all reported poisoning cases amongst domestic animals.
In short, while a bit of pizza is probably fine for your dog, pizza contains more than one ingredient that is potentially harmful. It’s best to focus on a nutritious diet for your pup and make sure each calorie counts to ensure that they can lead a long and healthy life. Therefore, there’s no reason to load them up in junk food that’s high in salt, fats and other dangerous ingredients.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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