Picture the scene. You’ve treated yourself to takeout pizza. You’ve ordered some tasty sides too. But it turns out your appetite wasn’t quite as big as you thought. Your dog, on the other hand, is eyeing your leftovers, tongue hanging out! So is it safe to share them? In short – can dogs eat pizza?
We’re going to find the answer to that question! Step this way to find everything you need to know about what happens when Man’s Best Friend meets Man’s Best Takeout.
What’s in a pizza?
You might think that to know whether it’s safe for a dog to eat pizza, you need to know what’s in it. And of course, that’s true – up to a point.
The individual toppings on your pizza can make a difference. They may, for a start, be more or less palatable to your dog. We’ll look at some of the most common toppings in a moment.
But there’s a lot that all pizzas have in common. A standard crust made of dough. Tomato sauce. And in most cases, cheese. So let’s begin by looking at how those interact with your dog’s digestive system.
Pizza crust and your dog
Let’s begin by breaking down that pizza crust into its component parts.
Pizza bases are made of dough that’s baked in the oven to give it its satisfying crispy texture. That dough is made from flour, yeast, eggs, olive oil, salt and water.
Take out the salt and water, and there’s nothing here that your pooch would find in the wild. Dogs are carnivores, and their bodies are designed to eat meat. They’re not designed to eat pizza crusts – however much they might enjoy them!
The good news is that a small piece of pizza crust won’t do any real harm either. If your dog likes the taste, there’s no problem with giving them a bite.
But the key – just as with human diets – is moderation. Pizza crusts contain a whole pile of empty calories. That means that if your dog snaffles too much, they’ll gain weight. And that opens the door to a whole range of health issues.
The carbohydrate-heavy nature of pizza crust also means your dog may feel lethargic after eating them. And the salt content can give him or her an upset tum too.
Bear in mind, too, that dogs aren’t great at impulse control! If you feed your pet your own food, they’ll expect it every time. So even a small piece can start to create a problem.
Don’t give your dog more than the crust from a small slice of pizza. And by far the better option is to resist letting them eat it all together.
Training your dog to eat their own food, not yours, will give them the best possible nutritionally balanced diet. And that will maximize their health and wellbeing, giving you more happy years together.
Once you’ve got rid of those crusts, every other part of your pizza will be covered in pizza sauce. So how does this interact with your dog’s tum?
Well, most pizza sauces are a mixture of tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. The salt content isn’t healthy for dogs. And the other ingredients can also be difficult for them to digest. All in all, pizza sauce and dogs aren’t a great mix.
Lots of pizza sauces also contain onion and garlic. Since those are common toppings too, let’s take a look at those separately.
Onion and garlic
Onions and garlic are staple parts of Italian cuisine, adding a rich flavor to pizza. But what tastes great to humans can actually be highly toxic to our canine friends.
Both vegetables can give dogs anemia. That means their red blood cells can no longer carry as much oxygen around their bodies. Symptoms include lethargy, panting, dark-colored urine, weakness and jaundice.
The culprits are the toxins N-propyl disulfide and thiosulfate. They can also cause gastrointestinal problems, with dogs suffering vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Garlic and onion powder are often included in pizzas and pizza sauce. And the bad news is that these are even worse than the vegetables, since the toxins are more highly concentrated.
A surprisingly small amount of onions can lead to harmful effects in dogs. Just 3.5 ounces of onion per 44 pounds of your dog’s body weight can cause serious problems. That’s about the same as one medium to large onion. And onion poisoning can actually be fatal to your pet.
With garlic, the effect is less concentrated. A dog weighing 44 pounds would have to eat between 10.5 and 21 ounces of garlic to experience toxic effects. But some dogs have greater sensitivity to garlic than this. It’s best to keep them away from it altogether.
Most dogs love cheese just as much as humans do! But unfortunately, cheese doesn’t always love them back.
Some dogs, like some people, are lactose intolerant. Although cheese doesn’t contain as much lactose as whole milk, dogs with intolerances can have an adverse reaction. And that can be the case even if they consume only small amounts.
Cheese can also be high in fat. Lower fat varieties, like mozzarella, are less problematic, although dogs should still only eat them in small quantities. The good news is that they contain beneficial nutrients too – protein, calcium, essential fatty acids, vitamin A and B-complex vitamins.
It’s for that reason that cheese can be used as an effective reward when you’re training your puppy. If you choose to do this, don’t overdo the quantity. And keep an eye on your pup when they first eat it to check there are no unwanted side effects.
But when it comes to pizza, it’s best to steer clear. The bits of pizza with cheese on will almost certainly have pizza sauce too. And as we’ve seen, that’s no good for your dog.
As we all know, dogs are carnivores – so surely it’s okay for them to eat the meat on your pizza? Well, unfortunately here again the answer is usually “no”.
If you’ve got a pizza with a roast chicken topping, picking off a bit for your pooch won’t be a problem. But most pizzas use meat that’s been highly processed. And that’s a different matter altogether.
Meats like salami, pepperoni and bacon are cured with salt, and are usually high in fat too. Both fat and salt can interfere with your pet’s digestive system. Too much in one go can make your dog sick. And too much over time will lead to weight gain, with all the health problems that go alongside that.
Pizza eaters the world over are divided into two camps when it comes to the Hawaiian pizza. There are those that think it’s delicious, and those that think it’s a crime against pizza!
But if you love a pineapple topping, can you share it with your dog?
Well, it depends on the kind of pineapple.
Raw pineapple is actually a perfectly healthy treat for most dogs, when eaten in moderation. It contains beneficial nutrients like manganese, iron and potassium. And it has smaller amounts of calcium, zinc and phosphorous too.
Just don’t overdo it. The natural sugars and fiber can upset your dog’s tum if they eat more than a couple of small pieces at a time.
Most pineapple you’ll find on your average Hawaiian pizza, however, isn’t raw. It’s the stuff that comes in syrup. Its sweet and tasty – but all those sugars are bad for your dog. They can cause an upset stomach. And the calories can lead to weight gain too.
So – can dogs eat pizza?
As we’ve seen, some parts of your leftover pizza are okay for dogs to eat.
A small piece of pizza crust or cheese won’t do any harm. And if you’re lucky enough to get real chicken on your pizza, picking some off for your pooch is fine too.
But if you share any part of your pizza, make sure the quantities are very small. If your dog hasn’t had any of them before, monitor them carefully afterward in case of any adverse reactions. And if you have any concerns, seek the advice of a vet immediately.
Most importantly, make sure your pet stays away from pizza sauce and other toppings – especially onions.
And remember that by encouraging your pet to think of human food as dog food, you’re storing up problems. Dogs will be happier and healthier with a diet designed specifically for their needs.
Of course, sometimes accidents happen!
If your dog has sneakily managed to get its paws on some pizza, watch it carefully. In most cases, the worst outcome from a one-off pizza-eating incident will be a case of diarrhea or sickness. But if your dog shows signs of distress, contact your vet straight away.
So to sum up…
Pizza isn’t great for dogs! The base has empty calories, and the sauce and some toppings can be downright toxic.
By far the best option is to distract your pooch with a tasty dog-friendly treat. A piece of lean meat will go down every bit as well as that pizza. And it will be much healthier for them too.