Can dogs and cats eat pork?
Pork is a meat that has gained a bad reputation when it comes to the diet of dogs and cats. The question is, can dogs and cats actually eat pork?
Pork in the diet of dogs and cats
Pork is meat that comes from pigs. Dogs and cats that are carnivores have a specific need for amino acids contained in animal protein, which is also sourced from pork.
Pork is a rich source of vitamins such as B vitamins, i.e. vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin A and E. In addition to vitamins, pork also contains minerals such as sodium, potassium, iron, and zinc. If pork is a meat rich in vitamins and minerals, should we give it up? Please also note that some pork products are relatively fatty meat, so when combined with other leaner meat, we can compose a medium-fat meal, which is desirable for dogs and cats. However, nowadays we can also find lean and light-fat pork products.
Pork is burdened with many myths saying that it should not be used because it may be a source of diseases and parasites. It is associated with diseases such as Aujeszky’s disease and trichinosis.
What is Aujeszky’s disease and what is the severity of the disease?
Aujeszky’s disease, or pseudorabies, is an infectious disease of farm and free-living animals. The main reservoir of this disease are pigs. This disease is caused by the SHV-1 virus. Pigs become infected intranasally and orally, among others. by skin damage. In turn, dogs and cats can become infected by eating raw pork infected with this virus.
Infection with Aujeszky’s disease in dogs and cats is a serious and often fatal condition. The main symptoms originate in the nervous system, which causes the infected dog or cat to suffer from paresis, paralysis, and severe itching, leading to the animal self-mutilating itself.
The virus itself is detected in dogs and cats by PCR and ELISA tests.
If there is such a threat, we immediately want to stop giving pork to our pets. However, we should ask ourselves what the scale of this problem is.
In Poland, there is a program to combat and monitor Aujeszky’s disease among the entire pig population. This program began in 2006 in the Lubuskie Voivodeship, and since 2008 it has been implemented throughout the country.
The program for combating and monitoring Aujeszky’s disease in pigs is carried out on the basis of the regulation of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of February 23, 2018, on the introduction of a program for combating and monitoring Aujeszky’s disease in pigs.
The effectiveness of this program is high, because in 2008, 12,659 pseudorabies outbreaks were detected throughout the country, and in 2016 there were only 40 outbreaks. 91 regions free from this disease have already been established in Poland. A list of Aujeszky’s disease-free regions can be found on the website Chief Veterinary Inspectorate.
In 2023, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/1071 was published, which contains information that from June 5, 2023, the territory of Poland is officially recognized by the European Commission as an area free from infection with Aujeszky’s disease virus (ADV).
Personally, I believe that if we choose pork from a source we know, we can safely use it in the diet of our dogs and cats, also in raw form, e.g. BARF diets. It’s potentially riskier to use raw pork offal, but we have exactly the same principle here. If someone is not convinced about the source of meat, there is no need to use pork, but it should not be said that it is prohibited in the diet of dogs and cats due to Aujeszky’s disease.
What is trichinosis and what is the scale of the disease?
Trichinosis, or trichinosis, is a parasitic disease caused by trichinella nematodes of the genus Trichinella Trichinella. After infection, the parasite larva resides deep in the tissues of its victim, and the adult resides in the digestive tract, where it reproduces. It can therefore be assumed that the predator becomes infected by consuming the prey along with the larvae, and the victim by eating the eggs excreted in the feces. However, u Trichihnella spiralis there is a certain difference because infection occurs when meat containing the larvae is eaten. Therefore, carnivores and omnivores are most at risk. Small adult forms are located between the villi of the intestines and the larvae curl and encyst in the striated muscles.
The clinical form of trichinosis in pets is characterized by damage to the intestinal mucosa caused by the existence of adult forms of the parasite and a specific reaction of the host to the invasion of the larvae in the muscles.
The occurring pathology of the muscular system caused by the penetration of larvae into muscle cells manifests itself in microcirculation disorders and metabolism disorders. There is also muscle pain, mainly around the neck, trunk, and limbs.
The life cycle of Trichinella (Trichinella spiralis)
The risk of infecting our pet with Trichinella seems to be sufficient evidence not to include raw pork in the diet of our dogs and cats. However, before we draw hasty conclusions, we should understand the scale of the problem.
For example, between 2010 and 2015, 120 cases of Trichinella infection were diagnosed in pigs in Poland. During these 5 years, a total of 439,524 pigs were examined for trichinosis. Therefore, the percentage of pigs infected with trichinosis is on average at 0,027%. Personally, I believe that such a low scale of the problem does not pose a threat to the health of our dogs and cats. Of course, you should always bear in mind that there is a minimal risk of trichinosis infection.