Can Dogs Eat Turkey?
It’s Thanksgiving… and your dog is drooling as you pull the steamy, juicy, roasted turkey from the oven (or deep fryer).
Can you give him a little turkey meat? Sure, go ahead in small amounts.
Skin? Nope. Bones? Never. What about the giblets? Depends.
Cooked or raw? Bone broth? Gravy? Stuffing and cranberries? What about allergies? Antibiotics and hormones or organic? What about food energetics? Turkey bacon? Vegetable side dishes? We’ve got all the answers to your turkey questions.
The Ultimate Guide
This ultimate guide has everything you need to know about dogs and turkey eating!
Let’s start with cooked, whole turkeys.
Roasted Turkeys & Turkey Parts
Your dog is staring at you with wide eyes, asking for some turkey… What parts can he eat safely?
Skin is naturally high in fat. Eating too much fat can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal condition that can happen when this important digestive organ becomes overwhelmed. Dogs love the taste of fat, but be very careful – too much fat can be deadly.
Cooking a whole turkey typically involves smearing the skin with oil or butter, herbs and seasonings. Turkeys that are deep fried hold even more oil in the skin (and deep frying oil is typically poor quality vegetable oil, with more unhealthy qualities). Adding more fat increases the risk of dogs getting sick, and seasonings can irritate a dog’s stomach.
Don’t risk your dog’s health by giving him turkey skin.
White turkey meat contains a number of B vitamins and is a great source of protein. Both of these are an important part of good dog nutrition. A small bit of white meat with no bones is a great treat for your dog. It can also be used in home cooked dog food with the right combination of vegetables and added vitamins, minerals and healthy oils.
Go ahead and let your dog enjoy a small amount of boneless turkey meat.
Dark meat has more vitamins and fat than white meat, but it’s also higher in calories. So a small amount of dark meat with no bones is all right for dogs. If your dog is overweight, be mindful of the extra calories.
Say “NO” to turkey bones!
Whether raw or cooked, never give a dog turkey bones. Leg bones, breast bones and all turkey bones are porous, light and break easily. Broken bones get caught in the throat and can cause choking and death. If bone parts make it into the stomach and intestines, they can shred the gut, leading to bleeding and the need for emergency surgery. Turkey bones are deadly.
Although some people suggest dogs can eat turkey necks under careful supervision, we say don’t risk it. The necks still contain soft bones that are a choking risk and can block the airway. Neck bones are also not hard enough to clean a dog’s teeth (which is the main purpose of bones).
Just say no to all turkey bones, including necks.
Other than the neck, giblets are safe to feed dogs – in moderation.
Giblets include organs of the turkey such as the kidneys, liver and heart. Although small, these organs are very rich and nutritious. Start with half of one organ and see if your dog enjoys it. You can also fry them lightly in olive or coconut oil and add to their food as a treat. Although whole turkeys come with a nifty bag that has the neck and giblets in it, don’t give all organs at once – they are too rich and can cause diarrhea or pancreatitis.
Since organs like kidneys and liver filter toxins from the blood, we suggest only giving your dog organs from high quality organic, pasture-fed turkeys. This helps reduce the amount of hormones, antibiotics, toxic chemicals and bacteria seen in commercially raised animals.
Stuffing contains grains like bread, spices and seasonings and extra oil. Many dogs have food sensitivities to bread or grains, and seasonings can irritate the stomach. Some stuffings have raisins and other ingredients that are toxic. Add in the oil that stuffing absorbs from the bird fat, and this puts stuffing on the “Do Not Give” list for dogs.
Gravy is delicious because of the fat, salt, flour, salt and pepper that go into that glorious taste. You probably figured out by now though, that none of that is good for dogs. It’s not worth risking serious illnesses like pancreatitis, or even diarrhea. We also like to limit exposure to grains like wheat, especially in dogs with allergies of any kind.
If you’re preparing home made cranberry sauce and have fresh raw cranberries on hand, it’s ok to give one or two of these antioxidant- and nutrient-rich berries to your dog. But, once they’ve simmered in a pot full of sugar, limit the cranberry sauce to the people who sit at the dinner table! Sugar has no role in a dog’s diet.
Vegetable Side Dishes
Many vegetables are safe for dogs, but they should be finely diced or lightly steamed. Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, beets, celery and green beans are some favourites. Stay away from white potatoes, corn, asparagus and most mushrooms (some can be used therapeutically for some health conditions, but must be under the guidance of a Holistic Vet).
Check out our tips on the healthiest vegetables for dogs here.
Oh the healing properties of bone broth!
Simmer a turkey carcass with a little apple cider vinegar and a few other ingredients and you have a broth that pulls all sorts of healthy minerals and nutrients from the bones! The result provides a collagen-rich broth that is delicious and incredibly nutritious. We use bone broth to help heal a dog’s intestinal track, keep inflammation down and add extra collagen to sore joints. Make sure you start with an organic, pasture-raised turkey. Check out one of our favourite home made bone broth recipes.
It goes without saying that dogs who are allergic to turkey should not be eating turkey! Even small amounts can cause a serious allergic reaction or add to skin problems and other reactions. Highly processed poor quality turkey can be a root cause for skin problems and allergies. Consult a Holistic Vet to see if your dog should avoid turkey altogether.
Raw or Cooked?
Turkey meat is a mainstay ingredient in raw, cooked and processed dog foods. Raw food has the most vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Cooked turkey in homemade diets is still high in nutrients, but can be easier on the stomachs of older or ill dogs. Vitamin supplementation is often required for home cooked meals.
Processed turkey used in kibble often uses putrified turkey parts that are sanitized, cooked, dehydrated and coated with oil to make it more palatable for dogs. Synthetic vitamins are added to meet low quality standards.
Most fresh and frozen turkeys are commercially raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). Turkeys are crammed together with no room to graze or move freely. Such high stress leads to fights and injuries. Antibiotics, vaccinations and pharmaceutical drugs are freely used to manage widespread infections and sickness. In fact, 11% of all antibiotics used for livestock are given to turkeys. This practice has contributed to the problems with see in the medical field with antibiotic resistant infections.
In addition to the inhumane cruelty, the turkeys’ drinking water is contaminated with feces, bacteria and toxic runoffs from nearby industries. CAFO meats are filled with toxins, stress hormones, medications and are known for terrible abuses of animals. When processed, carcasses are injected with liquid to bloat the meat, and sodium nitrates to preserve it.
Ask your local butcher or organic farm where to buy organic, humanely raised turkeys.
Pasture-Raised Organic Turkeys
A growing number of conscientious people look for turkeys that are raised to roam freely on open pastures, and fed organic grains that are free of toxins and pesticides. Organic turkeys aren’t exposed to the filth and cruelty of CAFOs and are typically antibiotic free. Studies show that pasture-raised meats have more healthy omega-3 oils and fewer unhealthy fats than commercially grown meats.
Energetic Qualities of Turkey
Energy? In turkey meat? Yes!
Food is energy. Ancient medical traditions (like Traditional Chinese Medicine) know that certain foods help nourish the body and reduce illness through their energetic qualities. Cooling foods like duck, rabbit and fish can help dogs with “hot” conditions like allergies and inflammation. Warming foods like turkey, chicken and ham can support those who tend to have cool noses, like to snuggle in the warmth, seek the heat or have arthritis that is worsened with the cold temperatures.
If your dog suffers from allergies, hot spots or inflammation, it’s best to avoid turkey altogether.
Other Foods that Contain Turkey
When choosing food for your dog, remember that commercially raised turkey is usually a highly processed, lower quality meat. So as it gets even more processed (like turkey bacon), it’s probably not the best choice for your dog. Turkey wieners are another example of highly processed meats with added spices, nitrates, preservatives and casings that may not be the best food for your beautiful fur soul.
Can Dogs Get Sick Eating Turkey?
Here’s the bottom line on keeping your dog healthy during turkey season:
The following are fine in moderation:
- white and dark meat (no bones)
- giblets in moderation (liver, kidneys and heart only)
- whenever possible, choose organic, pasture-raised turkeys
- bone broth made from organic turkeys
- raw pasture-raised turkey (no bones, ground up in balanced commercial or home-prepared meals)
- 1-2 raw cranberries
- carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, beets, celery
Dogs can get sick eating the following things: Do not give:
- turkey bones or necks
- cranberry sauce
- white potatoes, corn, asparagus, mushrooms
- turkey bacon