Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can Dogs Eat Meatballs? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Beth Crane

By Beth Crane

meatballs in frying pan

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Meatballs are a multicultural dish that is served and cooked in various ways. They can be bought from the store or homemade and are made from several types of meat. Dogs can eat meatballs if homemade or made without potentially toxic ingredients, but many store-bought or canned meatballs contain ingredients toxic to dogs, such as onions.

Divider 5

Are Meatballs Healthy For Dogs?

Meatballs can be a nutritious snack for dogs if they’re made without extra salt, fat, or additional ingredients like onion or garlic. Meatballs made from lean meats such as chicken or lean beef are fine, and they can serve as a healthy source of protein.

However, some meatball recipes call for onions or garlic (or onion or garlic powder), which are highly toxic to dogs and should always be avoided. Additionally, too many meatballs may cause obesity since they’re loaded with fat and calories.

meatballs on brown bowl
Image Credit: zefirchik06, Shutterstock

What Meatballs Should Dogs Not Eat?

Dogs shouldn’t be given meatballs containing toxic ingredients, or if you’re unsure of the complete ingredient list. That is because meatballs that are store-bought or from a restaurant often contain ingredients that enhance their flavor but are harmful to dogs in certain quantities. Toxic ingredients often found in meatballs include:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Garlic and onion powder
  • High salt content
  • High levels of fat

Garlic and onion are both members of the allium family, along with scallions and chives. Unfortunately, they are toxic to dogs. Garlic and onions contain N-Propyl Disulfide, which when metabolized forms free radicals. Through a series of actions this results in the destruction of red blood cells and anemia. This prevents enough oxygen molecules from being transported around the body, leading potentially to organ failure and death in severe cases.

Onion and garlic powders are more concentrated forms of regular garlic and onion, so much less is needed to cause an adverse reaction. If your dog consumes two grams per pound of its body weight of garlic or more than 0.5% of their body weight in onions, the portion is toxic.

large fluffy bernese Mountain Dog with huge paws eating out of blue bowl
Image Credit: Kristesoro, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Eat Canned Meatballs?

No, dogs shouldn’t eat canned meatballs. Canned meatballs often contain lots of salt and sugar, and both the meatballs themselves and any sauce they’re in can contain harmful ingredients like onion and garlic salt.

What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Meatballs?

If you’ve made the meatballs and know they don’t have any hazardous ingredients, they are probably fine for your dog to eat if they’re cooked well. You should look out for any signs of gastrointestinal distress, and always take your dog to the vet if you think they’ve eaten garlic or onion. The signs of potential toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Listlessness
  • Tremors
  • Lack of muscle coordination

Taking your dog to the vet is crucial if you think they’ve eaten meatballs containing onion, garlic, or powdered forms. The signs of potential allium toxicity might not appear for a few hours or days after ingestion.

Black domestic dog are stoop body and vomit mucus
Image Credit: Mumemories, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meatballs?

Dogs can theoretically eat raw meatballs if they’ve been specially made for dogs. Store-bought meatballs could pose a risk of bacterial infection if eaten raw, as they’re not prepared in the same way as meatballs designed not to be cooked.

Meatballs made for dogs are possibly less likely to cause adverse side effects. Infections from salmonella can occur if raw meat isn’t carefully prepared and can cause significant gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration that needs veterinary treatment.

Divider 5


Dogs can eat cooked meatballs if they don’t contain any harmful ingredients, such as garlic or onion. Meatballs made with lean meats can be a particularly healthy treat, but they shouldn’t be eaten too often since they often contain high-fat levels. Homemade meatballs are best, but store-bought or restaurant meatballs are okay if owners can check the entire ingredients list beforehand. Canned meatballs shouldn’t be given to dogs since they contain high levels of salt, additives, and sugar.

Featured Image Credit: nelea33, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database