If you’re on the road with your pup and want to share a yummy treat, you might be tempted to find your nearest McDonald’s drive-thru. It’s super convenient for us to pick up a meal on the go, but you might want to think twice about feeding it to your dog. Although some menu items are healthier than others, McDonald’s food isn’t the best choice in general.
Most fast food (including McDonald’s) tends to be high in fat, sodium, and seasonings that aren’t healthy for your dog, so it’s never a great food choice. However, if you’re in a pinch, there are some foods that are better than others.
Dangers and General Guidelines for McDonald’s Food
Dogs have very different nutritional needs than humans, and McDonald’s isn’t the healthiest. But if you do decide to feed your dog McDonald’s food, there are some dangers to keep in mind.
One of the most common and dangerous foods found at McDonald’s is onion. Onions are highly toxic to dogs, and only a few grams can cause serious harm to your pup.1 That means if you order your dog a sandwich, definitely hold the onions.
You should also generally avoid other toppings, like pickles, mayo, or ketchup. These tend to be high in sodium—another nutrient dogs are much more sensitive to than humans. The high-sodium nature of McDonald’s food is one of the biggest drawbacks. Sodium poisoning can start at about 1,500 mg per pound of body weight or one teaspoon for every four pounds.2 Most McDonald’s meals will have too little sodium to cause poisoning, but it’s still best to stay away from higher-sodium meals.
The high fat and carb content in many McDonald’s meals is also a concern. Dogs do need fat and carbs in their diet, but not too much. Dogs can get some nutrition from carbs, but white bread isn’t the best nutritionally. It’s healthier to give your dog a sandwich minus the bun, but if your dog does eat a sandwich bun, it’s not likely to be a concern. And eating a higher-fat McDonald’s meal regularly isn’t the best for your pup’s health either.
What’s the Best McDonald’s Food for Your Dog?
McDonald’s foods are all prepared with humans in mind, so nothing on the menu is ideal for dogs. But if you’re in a pinch, a good choice is a McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich—but without any bun or toppings. Chicken is a healthy meat for most dogs and free of the breading that a McChicken or Chicken McNugget would have. The plain grilled chicken from McDonald’s is 120 calories, with 29 grams of protein and only 2 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat. It also contains 400 mg of sodium.
McDonald’s burgers are a common choice for pets, but they aren’t ideal. If you do decide to give your dog a McDonald’s burger, hold the toppings and the bun and stick with the patty. But even a 100% beef bun isn’t actually the healthiest choice. It’s 90 calories, with 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat. Giving your pup a meal that’s nearly 50% fat is a little overkill.
French fries won’t poison your dog, but they’re not healthy either. They’re mostly carbs and high in salt—both a problem for your pet.
McNuggets & McChicken
Chicken McNuggets and the McChicken are both breaded chicken products. The breading on the chicken puts it a step below grilled chicken, but they are unlikely to hurt your dog. However, some breaded chicken products are among the highest-sodium choices at McDonald’s, so it’s important to check the nutrition facts before you share.
Ice cream is likely to cause an upset stomach in dogs—most dogs can’t handle much dairy and the sugar in ice cream is terrible. You should also watch out for ice cream products with chocolate—one of the most common dog poisons.
What to Do if Your Dog Accidentally Eats McDonald’s
If your dog gets into a McDonald’s meal when you aren’t looking, it’s important to take stock. The most dangerous ingredient in McDonald’s meals is onion, in any quantity. If your dog ingests any onion, it’s important to watch for signs of toxicity. Smaller dogs eating huge meals may also be at risk of sodium poisoning.
Most of the time, however, even overeating McDonald’s food isn’t going to cause serious damage to your dog. It may cause an upset stomach, and regular McDonald’s isn’t healthy for your dog, but you don’t need to run to the vet.
Overall, McDonald’s isn’t the same as a properly balanced doggy meal, but there are some options that are okay in a pinch. A plain grilled chicken filet is the best choice, while the occasional burger patty won’t hurt. However, it’s important to check whatever you feed your dog for both nutrition and dangerous ingredients to keep your pet happy and healthy.