I can’t say that I have the greediest dog in the world but if my dog had his way, he will eat almost anything that he can get his chonky paws on, even if it has gone bad.
As dog owners, it isn’t uncommon to see our canine friends trying to dig through the trash looking for scraps. They will woof down what’s edible even to the point of eating spoiled meat.
Some dog owners claim that it is safe when dogs eat spoiled meat. But is it really? I would not recommend giving your dog spoiled meat even though its digestive system might be able to handle it. Spoiled meat contains harmful bacteria that can make our dogs very sick. Always ensure that your dog is eating fresh meat.
Let’s take a look at what constitutes ‘spoiled meat’ and the dangers your dogs face when eating rotten meat.
Can Dogs Eat Spoiled Meat?
Technically, a dog’s body is equipped with the right digestive system to handle meat that is spoilt or not too fresh.
Scientists have found that dogs were domesticated between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Dogs are said to have come from wolves as they say many DNA similarities and habits.
If you have a cat at home, I have to burst your bubble if you think that our little feisty have big cat DNA in them.
Domestic cats actually evolve from the African wildcat which is similar in size.
Wolves are pretty much the apex predators in their own territory.
Their main source of food comes from hunting other smaller animals. As wolves live in packs, they have the capability to chase and hunt down much larger prey like buffalos.
However, when food is scarce and finding a prey is hard to come by during the winter months, wolves are able to become scavengers and feast on the carcasses of animals that have recently died.
Wolves would prefer to not eat meat that has started to decompose or gone really bad.
It is a natural safety mechanism to prevent them from getting food poisoning. They will leave such meat alone and look for a fresher source.
Even if they did eat something that is really rancid, they might start eating grass to help them puke it out.
This type of scavenging differs from pure scavengers like vultures and hyenas that can safely eat rotten meat.
Does This Mean It Is Ok To Give My Dog Cooked Spoiled Meat?
For me, it definitely is not ok. If it is meat that I myself would not eat, I wouldn’t feed it to my dog either.
You might have a eureka moment and think that I can make spoilt meat safe again by cooking it.
If that can be safely done, our food will never have an expiration date. All we need to do is throw spoilt meat in the oven or microwave and viola!
Cooking meat at a temperature greater than 140 F (60 C) is sufficient to eliminate most bacteria.
However, once the meat has gone bad, these bacteria would have released toxins into the meat that even heat can eliminate.
Yes, I understand that our dogs evolve from wolves which can eat meat that has been sitting out for days.
But these wild animals have built up some form of natural immunity to food that isn’t all that fresh.
It is what nature has intended to keep them alive when food is scarce and they have to scavage.
The same applies to stray dogs who have been eating off the streets their whole lives.
How Does Meat Go Bad?
There are a couple of factors that can cause the meat to go bad but the main causes are usually bacteria and mold.
These microorganisms live in and on the surface of the meat that are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Over time, they can break down the fat and protein in meat which causes spoilage. Moisture is also a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive in.
You can increase the rate that the food goes bad by soaking your dog’s food in chicken broth or even plain water. This is something that you should be aware of.
These microorganisms can also multiply in such large numbers that eating the meat can make our dogs sick.
Once the animal has been butchered, the meat will slowly start to rot as there won’t be new cells to keep the meat fresh.
This is why living things don’t just start to decompose as we shed our dead cells.
How Do I Know If The Meat Is Spoiled?
Have you ever found some mystery meat in your fridge that made you gag and your eyes water when you smelt it?
I have, more than once.
That’s a good way to know that the meat has gone bad. But what if you found meat or food that you’re not too sure if it is safe for your dog to eat?
Here are some safety tests that you can run.
The meat might smell and look normal but how does it feel when you touch it? Does it feel slimy and sticky or even mushy? If it does, the meat has gone bad.
This is probably the best way to tell if the meat is spoilt. If it smells bad, rancid, weird or pungent, please do not eat it.
Meat that is still good should look pinkish or a nice red for meats like beef and lamb.
If the meat has turned, green, blue or any other color of a rainbow, you know it’s time to dump it.
As long as the meat meets any of the above criteria, it has gone bad and should not be eaten by your dog or anyone in the family.
As a rule of thumb, I only keep raw meat in the fridge for 1-2 days and cooked meats for 3-4 days. Anything that I do not plan to use gets stored in the freezer.
Can Dogs Eat Old Raw Meat?
When it comes to your dog eating old raw meat, there are a few things that we have to consider here.
The most important factor is how has the raw meat been stored. Is your dog eating old raw meat that has been in the freezer for months or has the raw meat been left out for hours in the food bowl?
If the old raw meat is from the freezer, it is safe for your dog to eat as frozen meat can last to up a year. Just give the meat a quick visual and sniff test once it is thawed to make sure it is alright.
If you feed your dog a raw diet and the raw meat has been left out in the food bowl for more than 2 hours, I would strongly suggest giving your dog a new serving.
It is definitely a lot cheaper to give your dog a new serving than to foot a vet bill for food poisoning.
Raw meat that has been left out in the open can probably remain fresh for up to two hours. It might be even shorter if the weather is hot and humid.
There have been times when I have left out raw food for my dog for more than two hours due to my schedule and so far it has been fine.
However, I do try to feed him fresh raw meat as much as my schedule allows.
In general, eating a bit of old raw meat is fine for most dogs.
But if your dog has underlying health conditions of a compromised immune system, it would be best to not take the risk.
Can My Dog Get Sick From Eating Spoiled Meat?
It is very possible for your dog to fall sick from eating spoiled meat.
If you could see the number of nasty things that are growing on spoilt meat, you would be extra careful about how and what you feed your dog.
There are a number of dangerous bacteria in rotten meat that can harm your dog.
- E coli
- Clostridium botulinum
- Staphylococcus aureus
I’m not going to go into each individual microorganism but they can inflict a lot of pain and discomfort on your dog.
Your dog can experience symptoms like:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Loss of appetite
- Unable to walk properly
- Wanting to be left alone
- Abdominal pain
A close friend who works in a vet clinic told me that when dogs eat spoiled chicken, it can cause gastroenteritis or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
It usually causes diarrhea and flatulence in most dogs but in some very bad cases, the dog was just leaking blood from its anus.
Why Can Dogs Eat Rotten Food And Not Fall Sick?
On numerous occasions, I have seen my dog get away with a scratch from eating really dubious stuff.
This has also caused me quite a bit in emergency vet bills when I had to rush him to the vet just to be sure.
Truth be told, our dogs’ digestive systems are made to handle the consumption of spoiled food that can make us gag.
A dog’s stomach is like an active volcano that is filled with 100 times more hydrochloric acid than a human’s stomach.
This means that they are able to break down the ingested food at an alarming rate which could also explain their insatiable greed.
Not many bacteria can survive being burnt alive in our doggie’s inferno pit.
Even before that, your dog’s saliva contains enzymes that can help to get rid of as much bacteria before it reaches the stomach.
Dogs are also equipped with a very short digestive tract. This prevents the bacteria and pathogens from spending too much time in the dog’s body and making them sick.
In fact, to go from end to end take takes only about 8 hours which is the shortest for any living mammal.
In comparison, a human needs about 24-72 hours to fully digest a meal. Such a long digestive process gives bacteria enough time to wreak havoc on our digestive system.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Spoiled Meat?
If your dog has eaten dog food that has gone bad, don’t panic. Most of the time your dog will be fine unless the meat has really gone bad.
Monitor your dog closely for the next 24-48 hours to see if it shows any adverse side effects like nausea and diarrhea.
Regardless of what diet your dog is on, it would be best to keep it as simple and bland as possible for the next few days.
Boiled chicken meat mixed with some homemade chicken broth will allow your dog’s digestive system to settle before reverting back to its normal diet.
Feed smaller meals so as not to overwork your dog’s digestive system.
If your dog’s symptoms don’t let up, you will need to bring your dog to the vet for a check-up.
As robust and strong as our dog’s digestive system might seem, it isn’t invincible.
Dogs can get sick from food-borne illnesses. If your dog is fit and healthy, it might get away from eating spoiled meat from time to time.
But if you have an old, sick or very young dog, it might not have a strong enough immune system to fight off the bacteria in the spoiled meat even if you cooked it.