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Can Dogs Eat Spoiled Meat?

Every dog owner has had the experience of discovering that their dog got into the trash while having no idea what they’ve eaten.

There were probably table scraps and leftover food in there that made a tasty treat for your four-legged buddy. But what if they ate spoiled meat?

Or what if you have some spoiled meat that you don’t want to go to waste?

Can dogs eat spoiled meat? No, dogs can’t eat spoiled meat. Though dogs’ stomachs are highly acidic, it is still possible for them to get food poisoning. If the meat is past the point where you would eat it, your dog shouldn’t eat it either. If your dog has eaten spoiled meat by accident, be sure to watch for signs of illness and contact your veterinarian right away.

Can Dogs Get Food Poisoning?

Can Dogs Get Food Poisoning

The first thing you may be wondering is how dogs can get food poisoning at all. After all, they were once wild animals, hunting and eating whatever they could find.

Thanks to millions of years of evolution, their digestive systems are designed to handle eating food that may not be the freshest.

Dog’s have a very acidic stomach that makes it hard for bacteria to survive. In addition, their digestive tract is short, meaning the time between eating and eliminating is only hours rather than days. This doesn’t give the bacteria that survive in the stomach much time to flourish.

However, despite this digestive advantage, it is still possible for dogs to get food poisoning. Bacteria can be persistent and, just as dogs have evolved to handle whatever nasty bugs might be living in their food, the bacteria have evolved to survive in even the harshest environments.

Though not as common as in humans, food poisoning in dogs can occur and can be very harmful.


Though rare, botulism can be deadly in dogs. Botulism is caused by the toxin Clostridium botulinum type C. The symptoms can start within hours of consuming the toxin, or they can take a day or two to show up.

Botulism causes weakness in the limbs, starting with the hind legs, and eventually leads to paralysis. If left untreated, the paralysis can spread to the respiratory system, causing death (source). 

Botulism is usually found in animal carcasses, but can also show up in raw and spoiled meat. Dogs will sometimes eat carrion if they come across it outside, especially if their dietary needs aren’t being met.

If botulism is suspected before the onset of symptoms, your vet can administer an anti-toxin that will prevent any further complications.

However, once symptoms occur, immediate supportive care is the only option. Getting your dog to the vet as soon as possible will increase the chances that it makes it through, with the average recovery taking a week or two (source).

Learn more about Botulism here:

Should I Feed Spoiled Meat to My Dog?

Food waste is a major problem, and many of us hate to throw out food. One way to use up food that may be a little past the point when we’d want to eat it is to feed it to our pets. But if meat has been in your fridge for a while, should you feed it to your dog?

Given your dog’s digestive system, meat that is only a day or two past its prime might be safe for it to eat, depending on who you ask.

However, it is not without risk, and you have to ask yourself if that risk is worth it. We recommend not ever feeding your dog spoiled meat.

Consider the discomfort your buddy may have to go through if they begin to vomit or have diarrhea. Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t feed it to your dog.

If you feel that it is worth the risk of digestive distress, you can still take measures to reduce the chances of your dog getting sick.

Any meat that has mold growing on it appears slimy, is greatly discolored, or has a strong odor should go straight to the trash.

If it looks and smells okay, but you just know it’s older than you’d want to eat, you are at least mitigating the risk, although you should not take the risk at all.

Dogs have specific dietary needs, and many breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers and Scottish Terriers, are known for having sensitive stomachs.

Just as with people, however, a sensitive digestive system can be a trait of any type of dog.

For this reason, a consistent diet of dog food is the safest, healthiest choice for your dog. The occasional table scrap may be fine, but “people food” can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system, even if it doesn’t cause food poisoning. 

What if My Dog Ate Spoiled Meat from the Trash?

What dog owner hasn’t walked into the kitchen to discover a mess of garbage all over the floor? Someone didn’t secure the trash can properly, and now your dog has had a field day digging through it for any morsel of tasty goodness it could find.

You know you threw out some spoiled meat recently, so there’s a good chance your dog has eaten it. Now what?

Prevention is always the best defense, so when throwing out spoiled food of any kind, it’s best to make sure your dog can’t get to it.

Placing the meat inside a sealed zip-top bag will help keep it out of your dog’s mouth, and it will help keep your dog from catching the scent of it as well.

You may want to consider taking spoiled meat directly to the outside trash, which will not only keep your dog away from it, it will keep the smell out of your house as well.

Teething puppies and dogs used to eat “people food” are the most likely to try to get into the trash, but any bored dog may find it too hard to resist.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercises and has lots of toys around when they are unsupervised. Also, make sure your trash can has a secure lid or is inside a cabinet or closet your dog can’t access (source).

After Your Dog has Eaten Spoiled Meat

If your dog has eaten spoiled meat, it’s important to watch for signs of illness. The most common symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting, which can begin within hours of eating spoiled meat. Lethargy, abdominal pain and swelling, and lack of appetite are other signs to look for.

If your dog begins showing symptoms of food poisoning, a trip to the vet is advised. The vet will do a full physical exam and may take blood and stool samples to determine the severity.

Collecting a stool sample to bring along is recommended. They may prescribe anti-diarrhea and anti-vomiting medication to get your dog through the next few days, but most dogs will make a complete recovery.

If your dog is showing signs of weakness in its legs or has trouble walking, get them to the vet immediately to test for botulism. If they are to recover, immediate treatment is required.

Can Dogs Tell if Meat is Spoiled?

Can Dogs Tell if Meat is Spoiled

When it comes to their sense of smell, dogs have people beat hands (or paws) down. Dogs explore the world through scent, and they can smell things much better, and from much farther away than people can.

Their talented noses are precisely why they are so often used in law enforcement and search and rescue operations, after all.

Given their history as hunters and scavengers, it would make sense that dogs would be able to smell if meat was spoiled and know to leave it alone. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best strategy when determining if you should feed your dog spoiled meat or not. 

While it is true that dogs will be able to detect the odor easier and more quickly than you can, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will think it smells bad or spoiled.

After all, a dead animal probably smells pretty bad, but many dogs have no problem digging in if they stumble across one. If you wouldn’t eat it, it’s best to send it to the trash rather than feeding it to your dog.

Final Thoughts

Though it is tempting to give spoiled meat to your dog rather than just throwing it in the trash, it isn’t worth the risk to your dog.

While it’s possible they would be fine, food poisoning can be very serious in dogs, causing diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and many other unpleasant symptoms. There is also the risk, albeit small, of botulism, which can be fatal.

If your dog has eaten spoiled meat, treat it similarly to how you’d treat it if they’d eaten something else they shouldn’t have, such as a child’s toy, carpet, or that old sock you left lying around.

Prevention is always the best strategy, but sometimes dogs get into something they shouldn’t have, even when we’re trying our best to stop it. Watch for signs of illness and contact your vet to make sure your pal recovers as quickly and painlessly as possible.


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