Can dogs eat chicken?

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Can dogs eat chicken?

Like humans, a dog needs a balanced diet to keep them healthy. Dogs have specific nutritional requirements that need to be met daily to maintain and support bodily functions. This usually changes depending on the dog’s age, breed, size, and level of activity. Suffice it to say that one diet or recipe can’t be used on all types of dogs, hence the variety in commercial dog food available on the market. Chicken is a common ingredient used in dog food and is often fed as a special treat at home. But is this safe? Keep reading to find out.

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Moving Away from Commercial Dog Food Diets

For the most part, age and breed-appropriate commercial dog food diets are enough to fulfill a dog’s nutritional needs. However, a growing number of pet owners have become skeptical towards commercial dog food diets and have chosen to provide their pets with home-cooked meals.

Relying on home-cooked diets to provide nutrition to dogs is complicated as it’s not often clear if home-cooked recipes are enough to fulfill a dog’s nutritional needs. But over the years, giving a well-balanced home-cooked meal for pets has increasingly become easier as recipes and resources have become easily accessible.

An often-popular ingredient choice in a home-cooked dog diet is chicken meat. It’s a high-quality protein that’s rich in other nutrients such as fatty acids which easily covers a dog’s protein requirement. However, giving dogs chicken as part of their diet is not always ideal, and there have been reported negative effects of a chicken-based or pure chicken diet in dogs.

As pet owners, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks that go with feeding your dog chicken.

Chicken Meat is a Good Protein Source for Dogs

Chicken meat is a very good protein source and is a common ingredient in most commercial dog food diets and home-cooked recipes. Its high digestibility makes it one of the best sources of essential amino acids for dogs. Giving your dog home-cooked chicken is a great way to sustain bodily functions and meet dietary protein requirements. For underweight and malnourished dogs, chicken meat is a fast and safe way to help them gain weight and improve muscle mass.

Aside from protein, chicken meat is also rich in the following nutrients that help the body in different ways:

  • Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids: Omega fatty acids help support skin health and maintain a shiny coat. Omega fatty acids also help modulate inflammatory processes and help in managing osteoarthritis in dogs.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Help maintain proper joint health and are extremely helpful in managing conditions like joint disease or osteoarthritis.

While chicken is undoubtedly a good source of protein and nutrients beneficial for a dog’s health, there also risks that go with feeding a chicken-based diet to dogs.

Hypersensitivity or Allergic Reaction to Chicken

The most common problem associated with giving a chicken diet to dogs is food allergy. This happens when the body recognizes substances that a dog eats as something foreign and they mount an immune response against it.

Signs of food allergy typically include hives, excessive scratching, ear infection, and loss of fur. In worse cases, swelling of airways leading to breathing problems may occur. The most common culprit in food allergies is the protein component of the diet, with chicken or poultry protein being one of the top protein allergens.

Dogs that are allergic to chicken protein will show signs of food allergy with even the smallest amount of chicken meat ingested. And most of the time, the signs persist even after taking away the chicken from the diet. This can be especially frustrating to treat and may take weeks before signs completely resolve.

If your dog has a history of showing food allergy signs when eating chicken or any chicken-based diet, then it’s best to steer clear of chicken for the rest of the dog’s life.

Raw diet feeding in dogs has grown popular over the past few years and is often recommended by pet owners that are highly skeptical of traditional dog food diets, be it commercial or home-cooked. Though arguments can be made about the health benefits of a raw diet, the consensus among veterinarians and animal nutritionists stands against the idea of giving a raw diet to dogs.

Raw meat is highly susceptible to contamination which can cause various gastrointestinal problems. Raw chicken, in particular, may cause salmonellosis (salmonella) in dogs which causes severe diarrhea and gastritis. Giving raw chicken can also cause worm infestation in dogs, as raw chicken meat can carry worm eggs that hatch inside the intestinal system of the dog when ingested.

The Problem with Only Feeding Your Dog Chicken Meat

Some pet owners choose to keep their dogs on a pure chicken meat diet, usually boiled or grilled. And while chicken meat is a great source of protein that can sustain a dog’s growth, it lacks several nutrients that are essential to keep a dog healthy and strong.

Chicken doesn’t contain many essential vitamins and minerals and putting a dog on a strict chicken meat diet can cause nutrient deficiencies in the long run. Additionally, relying on chicken meat alone for a dog’s diet means providing high amounts of fat and protein which, if not digested properly, can cause problems like pancreatitis or diarrhea.

Hazards of Other Chicken Parts

While chicken meat is considered a great protein source, other parts of the chicken can be a hazard to your dog’s health. Chicken skin is very high in fat. When ingested in large amounts, chicken skin may trigger pancreatitis. The bones, when chewed, can have pointed ends which may cause obstruction or perforation along the intestinal tract.

When is it safe to feed your dog chicken?

It’s best to discuss with your vet if a chicken-based diet is appropriate for your dog before attempting to transition your dog to it. While chicken meat is indeed a great source of protein and essential amino acids, it also leaves your dog susceptible to different health hazards that you should be aware of.

Read more:

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog

Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

What foods are toxic to dogs?

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Published: 7/2/2021
Last updated: 7/30/2021

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