If you’ve ever even had a little contact with canines, you will know one fact to be undeniably true.
Dogs will eat everything in sight.
Even puppies will inhale anything you put in front of their noses.
Every dog owner has caught their furry friend rummaging in the trash for the last scrap of food. This issue leaves you with the possibility that the dog has eaten rotten meat. But can dogs eat rotten meat and still be safe?
The Simple Answer- No.
Dogs cannot eat spoiled or rotten meat, as it can make them very sick. Although dogs’ stomachs are high in acid, there is still a chance for them to contract food poisoning from eating spoiled food.
If the food is no longer healthy enough for a human to eat, a dog should not ingest it either.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten rotten meat by accident, look out for the signs of sickness such as reduced appetite and diarrhea, and immediately reach out to your vet.
Can Dogs Get Food Poisoning?
Through many years of evolution, dogs’ digestive systems are built to handle all types of food that may not be fresh.
Dogs’ stomachs are very acidic, which makes it difficult for bacteria to live and survive. The canine digestive tract is short, which means dogs can eliminate the food they eat within hours, rather than days. Bacteria will not have much time to develop in this short time.
Despite this unique digestive system, dogs can still get food poisoning. Much like dogs evolve to withstand nasty foods, bacteria also evolve and live in the most severe environments.
Although it is not as common to occur in dogs, food poisoning is possible and can be very damaging to your dog’s health.
Symptoms of food poisoning always include some combination of vomiting, reduced appetite, or diarrhea. Dehydration and lethargy are also common.
If the food poisoning is severe enough, dogs could also exhibit neurological issues such as tremors, lack of coordination, and even seizures. Depending on how much rotten food your dog ate and the sensitivity of its stomach, the symptoms and severity of food poisoning will differ.
So, is it safe for me to feed rotten meat to my dog?
None of us like to waste food and throw it away. It is easy for us to feed it to our pets to avoid food waste.
But can dogs eat rotten meat if it has been sitting in your refrigerator for a while?
Due to your dog’s unique digestive system, you could get away with feeding it food that is a couple of days past its expiration date.
Health professionals will provide you different opinions here, but it does not come without some risk. Our recommendation is never to feed your dog rotten meat in order to minimize any health complications in the near or distant future.
You should always think about the potential pain your furry friend may endure if they happen to get diarrhea or proceed to vomit. If you would not eat it yourself, neither should your dog.
There are a couple of ways you can minimize the possibility of your dog getting sick. If you see any meat that contains mold, feels slimy or is discolored or smelly, it should most likely just go into the trash can.
How well your dog tolerates stale and expired food may depend on the type of dog that it is. Many breeds, such as the Scottish Terrier, have sensitive stomachs and specific diet needs that mean extra care must be taken.
Just like with humans, a sensitive stomach can be a common trait of your furry friend. Because of this reason, a consistent nutrition plan is the healthiest, safest option for your dog.
You can feed it scraps here and there and be fine, but rotten “human food” can negatively impact your dog.
What to Do After Your Dog Eats Rotten Meat?
If you suspect that your dog has eaten rotten meat, it is vital to look for signs of illness.
The typical symptoms of illness are vomiting and diarrhea, which can happen within an hour or two eating the spoiled meat. Other signs include abdominal swelling and pain, lethargy, and an absence of appetite.
If your dog starts vomiting, PetMD suggests to put it on a 24-hour fast to let the body reset and heal.
Food poisoning signs also warrant a prompt visit to the vet, especially if your dog keeps vomiting after 24 hours has past.
The doctor will do a detailed physical examination, including collecting stool and blood samples to monitor the severity.
Most vets will prescribe an anti-vomiting or anti-diarrhea medication to accommodate your dog throughout the next week, but many dogs will successfully recover before then.
However, there is something much worse that could happen if your dog happens to eat raw, rotten meat. It may be in danger of contracting a serious, potentially fatal disease called botulism.
The Dangers of Botulism
Botulism is a deadly illness that can show up in dogs after they eat rotten meat. The toxin Clostridium botulinum type C is what causes botulism, and symptoms can arise within a couple of hours or days of ingesting it.
Botulism can cause weakness in the legs and other limbs, which eventually creates paralysis. If you do not treat botulism, the disease can carry over to the respiratory system and cause death.
It is usually found in the carcasses of animals, but it is also known to be present in rotten meat. If a dog’s nutritional needs are not satisfied (and sometimes even if they are), it could ingest the meat if it encounters the remains of a carcass outside.
If you get ahead of botulism, your vet can give your dog a Type C antitoxin that will eliminate further complications. But once symptoms arise, you will need to provide supportive care, which means a swift trip to the vet.
Treatment will differ depending on how severe the case is. If it is a relatively mild case, your dog may be hospitalized for a short amount of time and treated with IV feeding. However if it is a serious case, your dog will need to be placed in an intensive care unit and closely monitored.
This recovery process and treatment will reduce the chance of death, and the typical recovery time from botulism infection is 1 to 3 weeks.
Are Dogs Able to Tell if Meat is Spoiled?
Dogs’ sense of smell are far more powerful than humans. Canines explore their environments through scent, and they can pick up odors much more effectively. They can also track a smell from much further away.
They can even tell time using their noses- in their own unique way!
Their powerful noses always make them a prime candidate for search and rescue projects and law enforcement.
You might think that dogs would be able to sniff out rotten meat with their hunter’s noses. However, this is not always the best way to find out if rotten meat is safe for them to eat.
Dogs can detect smells quicker than humans can, but they cannot tell the difference if a piece of meat smells spoiled or rotten. In fact, even if it is rotten, dogs may like it just as much as if it was fresh!
Therefore, it’s up to their humans to make sure that their dogs don’t get the opportunity to dig into any rotten, raw meat that they might find.
Make sure that you only ever give your dog food that you would eat as well. This will ensure that it never eats something off that would make it sick!
It is not safe for dogs to eat rotten meat. Even though they have strong stomachs due to high acidity levels, some bacteria and viruses can and will find ways to survive.
This may cause your dog to get sick and experience food poisoning, which can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite.
The worst case scenario is that your dog can contract a toxin called botulism, which causes weakness in the limbs, paralysis, and eventually death if left untreated. Serious instances of botulism will require a hospital stay and perhaps even a visit to the ICU.
All in all, the risk is not worth it to let your dog eat the rotting meat that it finds outside or in the rubbish bin. The next time your dog acts on scavenger instinct- pull it away!
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.