Dogs and cats are natural carnivores, which is why proteins from high-quality animal-based sources are a fundamental part of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. One of the protein-rich foods that you can give them is pork, particularly from pastured, humanely raised sources.1 Pork can be a nutritious component of a homemade diet, in conjunction with other ingredients that comprise a nutritionally complete meal. Read this article to learn more about the nutrients your pet can obtain from this food.
Pasture-Raised Pork Is Safer and Richer in Healthy Fats
When buying pork for your pet, always choose those that come from pasture-raised pigs. These pigs are safer, as they’re neither supplemented with GMO feeds nor fed antibiotics and other chemicals. Research also shows that they contain higher amounts of nutrients, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, compared to pork that comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).2,3
A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that a 19.1-gram serving of pork from pasture-raised sources contains 419 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. Meanwhile, the same amount of pork from CAFOs only contains 360 milligrams of omega-3 fats.4,5
Benefits of Omega-3 Fats for Pets
Some of the omega-3 fatty acids found in pork include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaneoic acid (EPA),6 all of which may improve your dog’s health by helping to:
- Fight inflammation7
- Reduce anxiety8
- Improve cardiovascular health9
- Promote healthy kidney function10
- Lower the risk for osteoarthritis11
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicines also found that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of canine T-zone lymphoma (TZL), a type of cancer commonly seen in older dogs, particularly in golden retrievers.12
Other Minerals Found in Pork May Provide Benefits
Additionally, pork contains several health-promoting minerals. A 100-gram serving of lean pork provides 399 milligrams of potassium,13,14 which plays an important role in muscle and nerve function.15
Pork also has 1.89 milligrams of zinc,16 which is vital for your dog’s immune health and thyroid function.17 Getting adequate amounts of zinc from healthy food sources like this can also support healthy skin formation in pets.
This Novel Protein Can Be Used for Elimination Diets
Year-round allergies can be triggered by consuming the same type of meat sources found in processed pet food for a long period of time. This is why beef and chicken are some the most common food allergens in animal companions.18 One way to provide your pet relief is through an elimination diet, wherein you’ll replace common animal-based protein sources with meat that your pet hasn’t eaten before.
Pork is one of the novel protein sources that you can use in an elimination diet,19 along with rabbit, goat, bison and quail. Pork offers 20.95 grams of protein per 100-gram serving.20 It contains the essential amino acids that are necessary for building your pet’s cells, tissues and organs, as well as for maintaining proper physiological functions.21
If you’re planning to use pork as the primary protein for your pet’s homemade meal, remember to combine it with other fresh ingredients and follow a recipe that has been formulated to match this meat source. You can also give pork as a treat, which can constitute up to 10% of your pet’s daily caloric intake.
Safety Reminders When Feeding Pork to Pets
One of the common concerns about feeding pork to pets is a possible risk for trichinosis,22 a parasitical disease that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and muscle pain.23 You can address these concerns and keep your pet safe by simply following the necessary treatment guidelines for preparing pork. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, you can eliminate Trichinella within seconds by heating pork to a minimum internal temperature of 144 degrees Fahrenheit.24
If you’re thinking of feeding raw pork to your pet, you need to freeze it prior to feeding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends freezing pork cuts that are less than 6 inches thick at 5 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 days to kill any disease-causing parasites.25
Take note that processed pork products are not recommended for pets because they contain too much salt, nitrates and highly processed fats that can harm their health.26
More Tips for Preparing Pork for Your Pet’s Meals
Whether you’re feeding pork to your pet as an entire meal or as a health “extra” to their nutritionally balanced homemade diet, it’s important to prepare it correctly. Do not add spices, seasonings and condiments, since these ingredients can upset your pet’s stomach. Pets can be fed meat treats that are raw, dehydrated, freeze dried or cooked.
If you’re planning to give your pet cooked pork, be sure to remove any cooked bones, as they can be a choking and obstruction hazard.27 It’s ideal to serve pork with other fresh meats and vegetables to ensure that you’re meeting your pet’s nutritional requirements.
Have You Tried Giving Your Pet a Healthy Pork Treat?
Swap your pet’s commercial pet treats with this homemade Grain-Free Pork Pull Apart recipe. This healthy treat is perfect for pets with tender mouth or dental issues, or for animal companions who simply prefer moist and chewy treats to crunchy varieties. Healthy treats and snacks like this can make up 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake.