Smoked brisket is a classic barbecue dish that many dog owners may be tempted to share with their furry friend. Brisket comes from the breast or lower chest area of a cow and contains a lot of connective tissue, making it tough and requiring slow cooking to become tender and tasty.
When brisket is smoked it takes on delicious smoky flavors, but also often contains toxic seasonings like garlic and onion powder.
Why Smoked Brisket is Bad for Dogs
There are several reasons why smoked brisket should be kept far away from your dog’s food bowl:
High Fat Content
Smoked brisket is a very fatty cut of meat. The fat is part of what makes it taste so delicious after hours of slow smoking. However, too much fat is unhealthy for dogs and can lead to a number of problems:
- Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas that causes nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
- Obesity – overweight dogs are more prone to joint issues, diabetes, and heart disease
- Diarrhea – greasy foods may cause loose stools or diarrhea
- Vomiting – too much fat can upset your dog’s stomach
Key Takeaway: The high fat content of smoked brisket makes it an unhealthy choice for dogs. Leaner meats like chicken or turkey are safer options.
Smoked brisket typically contains seasonings that should never be fed to dogs:
- Onion and garlic – these contain compounds that damage red blood cells and cause anemia
- Paprika – may irritate your dog’s stomach and intestines
- Chili powder – can burn your dog’s mouth and throat
- Salt – while small amounts are okay, too much salt leads to sodium poisoning
Onion and garlic are by far the most dangerous ingredients found in brisket seasoning. They contain toxic compounds that destroy red blood cells, leading to anemia and even death in severe cases. Just 1 teaspoon of onion or garlic powder can cause problems in a 20 pound dog.
Key Takeaway: Onion, garlic, and other pungent spices in smoked brisket seasonings are toxic for dogs.
Bone-in smoked brisket should never be given to dogs. Cooked bones tend to splinter and can:
- Puncture or cut your dog’s mouth and throat
- Cause choking as shards get caught in the esophagus
- Lead to constipation or serious injury if swallowed
Raw bones are safer but still carry risks. Supervise your dog anytime bones are given as toys. Bones should be larger than your dog’s mouth and not small enough to swallow.
The rubs, marinades, and sauces used to flavor smoked brisket often contain very high amounts of sodium. While a small lick of barbecue sauce likely won’t harm your dog, eating a big chunk of smoked brisket can cause salt poisoning:
- Excessive thirst and urination
Key Takeaway: High sodium levels in smoked brisket rubs and sauces make it a dangerous choice for pups. A small taste of brisket may cause diarrhea, but a large amount can be deadly.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Smoked Brisket
If your dog manages to grab some leftover smoked brisket, take the following steps:
- Don’t panic – a small amount likely won’t cause serious issues. But monitor for symptoms.
- Check for bones – make sure your dog hasn’t eaten any bones, which pose a choking hazard.
- Call your vet – they can determine if your dog needs intervention based on symptoms and amount ingested.
- Induce vomiting – if your vet advises it, give hydrogen peroxide to make your dog vomit up the brisket.
- Visit the vet – they may give IV fluids, pain medication, anti-nausea meds, or antibiotics if needed.
Signs of trouble include:
- Repeated vomiting
- Diarrhea lasting over 24 hours
- Abdominal pain – whimpering, tender belly
- Lethargy and weakness
- Pale gums
- Rapid breathing
Onion or garlic poisoning can take several days to show up so monitor your dog closely for up to a week after eating smoked brisket containing these ingredients. Call your vet immediately if you notice symptoms of anemia like pale gums, rapid breathing, dark urine, or lethargy.
Can Dogs Eat Unsmoked Brisket?
Plain brisket without bones is safer for dogs than smoked brisket with seasonings. However, it should still be fed in strict moderation. Here are some tips on feeding brisket to dogs:
- Choose very lean cuts with fat trimmed off
- Avoid corned beef and pastrami which contain lots of sodium
- Cook until fork-tender – remove any bones
- Shred or chop brisket into bite-sized pieces
- Limit to a few small pieces 1-2 times per week
- Never season brisket for your dog with onion, garlic, salt, etc.
Chewy cuts of brisket can also pose a choking risk for dogs. Make sure meat fed to your dog is tenderized through slow cooking.
For puppies, seniors, or dogs with sensitive stomachs, plain brisket may still cause:
So start with tiny portions to see if your dog tolerates brisket.
Healthier Meat Choices for Dogs
While an occasional small, plain, boneless, lean piece of brisket likely won’t harm your dog, there are much healthier meat choices to feed regularly:
- Chicken breast – cook boneless breasts without seasoning for easy protein
- Turkey – ground turkey can be added to kibble a few times a week
- Fish – salmon, sardines and cod provide omega-3s
- Beef liver – provides iron and vitamins in moderation
- Beef – ground beef can be added to meals occasionally
Avoid fatty cuts of beef like prime rib and heavily seasoned meats. Also steer clear of processed meats containing sodium nitrites or nitrates like bacon, hot dogs, deli meat and sausages.
When changing your dog’s diet or adding new foods:
- Transition slowly over 4-7 days
- Watch for signs of food intolerance like diarrhea
- Stop feeding if symptoms occur and call your vet
Can puppies eat brisket?
No, brisket should not be fed to puppies under 1 year old. Their digestive systems are even more sensitive to rich meats. Wait until your puppy is fully grown before offering small pieces of plain brisket on rare occasions.
Is smoked brisket bad for senior dogs?
Yes, smoked brisket should be avoided for senior dogs. The fat content is too high, and seasonings like onion and garlic are toxic. Even plain brisket may be hard for seniors to digest. Stick to easily digestible foods.
What about dry rubbed brisket without sauce?
Dry rub often still contains onion and garlic powder. These destroy red blood cells and cause anemia. It’s safest to avoid all brisket seasoned for human consumption and only feed plain brisket to dogs occasionally.
Smoked brisket may smell enticing to dogs, but it poses many dangers and should never be fed. The high fat can lead to obesity or pancreatitis.
Toxic onion and garlic in the seasoning causes anemia. Excess sodium leads to salt poisoning. While plain brisket in strict moderation may be safe, there are far healthier meat choices to feed your dog.
Stick with plain chicken, ground turkey, fish, and the occasional organ meat instead.