Written by Alicia Boemi, Dogly Wellness Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
Ground beef is a high-protein, nutritious option to boost your dog’s diet by adding some to your pup’s regular dog food as an additional topper or even using it as part of a bland diet as a home remedy for an upset stomach. When your dog has a random bout of diarrhea or vomiting, cooked, low-fat, lean ground beef along with a starchy carbohydrate like rice can be used to reset and settle your dog’s digestive system. We’ll discuss using ground beef as part of a bland diet later. And if you’re wondering about feeding your dog raw ground beef, we’ll cover that too. We’ll talk about the ways you can feed fido ground beef, whether cooked or raw meat, how to use it in a bland diet, the nutritional benefits, and how to add some to your dog’s food, whether kibble or freeze-dried.
Beneficial Nutrients in Ground Beef
The nutritional value of 100g of 90% lean 10% fat, cooked, pan-browned ground beef is 28.5g of protein. It contains many essential amino acids, including histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, and more. Essential amino acids are required in a dog’s diet because dogs cannot create them within their body, so the food must supply the amino acids. While not a complete food on its own, ground beef is still a nutritious lean-meat protein source for dogs that can be used to create balanced cooked or raw dog food diets.
A Balanced Diet is Important for Your Dog.
Of course, it's best to make sure your dog’s diet is complete and balanced with the help of your veterinarian or canine nutritionist. Cooked ground beef also contains many vitamins and minerals, including B6, B12, B3, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, iron, and potassium. There are five different types of ground beef based on their fat percentage - we will talk more about fatty acids and fat percentages below. Remember that the nutritional value for 100g of ground beef at different fat percentages will alter the nutritional value.
Ground Beef - Good Source of Omega 3 for Dogs
Ground beef also contains multiple fatty acids that benefit overall skin health and the immune system. Your dog needs essential fatty acids from both omega-6 and omega-3 sources, and ground beef does provide both but not necessarily in the amount to meet the minimum fatty acid nutrient requirement most dogs require. However, ground beef can contribute to the overall requirements for omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids by adding additional sources of both fatty acids to meet fatty acid nutrient requirements and balance between both fatty acids.
Fatty Acids in Ground Beef for Dogs
Ground beef contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including linoleic acid (LA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and a few long-chain fatty acids, including arachidonic acid. If you want to make sure your dog is getting the proper amount of fatty acids in their diet, consider Native Pet's Omega Oil, which is packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and fur.
Fat Content in Ground Beef
The fat content of ground beef varies by product and is sold as 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, and 30% fat. The fat percentage of the ground beef also means the content of fatty acids will vary based on the specific percentage you choose to feed your dog. Ground beef is known in the human food world as high in saturated fat content, but that depends on the fat percentage you are consuming. The higher the fat percentage of the ground beef, the more saturated fat. However, the way saturated fat affects humans is not the same as dogs. Healthy dogs do not get heart disease from saturated fat as humans do.
Choosing the correct fat percentage of ground beef to feed your puppy depends on a few factors and the individual dog. Below are a few scenarios:
What is the goal of feeding the ground beef?
- For example, for a healthy young athletic dog, if feeding ground beef as an additional energy source on top of the dog’s diet of kibble or freeze-dried dog food, then a higher fat ground beef might be the best choice as long as the dog can tolerate more fat.
Does your dog have an intolerance to fat pancreatitis, or is your dog overweight or in the obese range?
- If your dog has any of these conditions, you’ll want to stick to ground beef that is 5% fat, 10% at the most.
Is your dog having an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting? Do you want to use ground beef as part of a temporary bland diet?
- For stomach issues and using ground beef, it’s best to choose 5-10% fat ground beef and always cook it. The lower the fat for digestive problems, the better.
Feeding Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Beef for Your Dog
Often, dog owners want to know if grass-fed beef is better than beef from cattle fed a diet of grains. The short answer is that grass-fed meat has many advantages over grain-fed beef. Studies have shown that cattle fed an exclusively grass-fed diet are associated with a healthier fatty acid profile and higher antioxidants because of the lush greens they consume. Grass-fed beef is also typically lower in overall fat content while having twice the omega-3 fatty acids as conventional grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is also higher in Vitamin A and E precursors, such as beta-carotene. While dogs can mainly use Vitamin A in the form of retinol, they can use beta-carotene as an antioxidant and free radical fighter, which is beneficial for immune system health.
Feeding Raw Ground Beef to Dogs
From a nutritional standpoint, the nutrient values of raw ground beef will differ from cooked ground beef, which also depends on the percentage of fat in the ground beef. Contrary to popular belief, it is a myth that cooking ground beef or other foods destroys nutrients. It does not destroy them; it just changes them. Raw meat fed to dogs has its pros and cons, and you, as the dog owner, need to decide what is best for your dog.
What Types of Meat are Good?
From a safety standpoint, it’s best to feed raw ground beef from a high-quality source such as a local farm or co-op. Grocery store ground beef is ok to provide but is not as high quality as a local farm. If the raw ground beef is grass-fed, that’s also a plus! Salmonella and other harmful bacteria can be present in raw meat, so high-quality beef is key to reducing bacterial risks.
Unfortunately, a raw meat diet is not as simple as putting raw ground beef, eggs, and bones for calcium in a dog bowl and feeding it. You need to make sure that you are meeting nutrient requirements for your dog using NRC or AAFCO standards, and a raw diet like the one listed above would considerably fall short in meeting nutrient requirements. Dog owners who want to feed a raw diet are best off feeding a commercial raw pet food product to meet nutrient requirements or working with a canine nutritionist for a complete and balanced recipe.
Using Raw Ground Beef as an Addition
You can still use raw ground beef to add to your dog’s regular dog food by topping some on their kibble or freeze-dried pet food. Just be sure to consider the fat content of the beef, so you avoid digestive upset. If your dog is prone to pancreatitis, it is best to work with a canine nutritionist or veterinarian before adding additional ingredients to your dog’s regular dog food.
While ground beef is boneless, you want to avoid feeding large, weight-bearing, raw beef bones (like the knuckle) to your dog. These weight-bearing bones can break teeth, splinter, or cause a blockage. They aren’t as safe to feed your dog as other raw meaty bones might be. Raw beef marrow bones can be a safe chew as long as you supervise your dog during this time. It’s also important to remember that you should never feed your dog cooked bones as those are very dangerous.
Feeding Ground Beef as Part of a Bland Diet
A bland, cooked diet is used for a short period to alleviate gastrointestinal upset a dog might be experiencing for many reasons. The bland diet temporarily replaces a dog’s regular dog food, whether kibble, freeze-dried or raw diet, to calm down a dog’s stomach and allow it a chance to heal. In the simplest explanation, your dog’s regular pet food will be replaced with bland foods consisting of a lean-meat protein source, starchy carbohydrate, with a bit of fiber. These bland foods are fed to your dog as a home remedy to stop vomiting or diarrhea so your dog can return to normal pet food with regular bowel movements. Raw food or any dog treats are not recommended for a bland diet.
Because ground beef is high in protein and can be low in fat while providing many nutrients, it can be an ideal lean meat to use in a temporary bland diet. It can also be soothing to the stomach if prepared correctly and, well, bland. A typical bland diet might include 90-96% lean cooked ground beef with overcooked oatmeal, mashed russet, or sweet potatoes. Fat can greatly upset your dog’s stomach even further, so we want to avoid that by using the leanest ground beef while feeding a bland diet.
When cooking ground beef for a bland diet, it is best not to add any oil or butter. On the stovetop, you can use water in the pan, and you can bake beef in the oven on parchment paper or tin foil without adding any extra fats to the mix. You can also boil the ground beef if that is easiest. Avoid feeding large amounts of bland diet right away, and you’ll want to make sure you’re working to transition your dog back to a regular diet safely and to avoid any other digestive flare-ups.
Refer to our Ultimate Guide on Bland Diets for Dogs here on choosing the right food for a bland diet, how to prepare them, how much to feed, and how to transition your dog back to their regular diet once their upset tummy is gone.
For more wellness advice, join my Community on Dogly. You can ask questions and get 24/7 access to certified experts across nutrition, training & behavior, and wellness to give you and your dog your best life together.
If your dog could use some digestion help and a healthier gut to absorb and access all the good nutrients you’re feeding, check out Native Pet’s Probiotic, carefully created by their team of nutritionists and veterinarians.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much ground beef should be given to the dog?
You should feed your dog around 1/3 pound of ground beef per day for each 20 pound of the dog's weight.
How should I cook ground beef for my dog?
The easiest way to cook ground beef is to break it and boil it until it is no longer pink. If your dog is overweight, you can drain off the fat before cooling it down and feed your dog.
Can my dog get ill if I feed it raw beef?
If the meat is raw and infected with salmonella or other bacteria, then your dog can suffer after consuming such raw beef.
Can I feed my dog ground beef every day?
Yes, you can feed your dog ground beef every day. But, if your dog is allergic or overweight then please consult a nutritionist before planning the daily diet with ground beef.
How can I use ground beef for dogs with an upset stomach?
If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach, you can use cooked, 5-10% fat ground beef.