Can dogs eat turkey?

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Can dogs eat turkey?

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without roasted turkey. Once the feast is over, the leftovers become turkey sandwiches, turkey casseroles, and other delicious dishes. With all that turkey, it’s tempting to give some to your canine buddy, but can dogs eat turkey? Is it safe for them? Keep reading to find out!

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Is turkey a safe treat for dogs?

The quick answer to this question is yes and no. The white meat of turkey sans the skin, seasonings, and spices make turkey a healthy food for your dog. Turkey is a rich source of protein, phosphorus, and riboflavin. It’s a highly digestible protein source for dogs and helps them build muscle.

Many quality commercial dog food products contain turkey as one of the ingredients. It’s sometimes listed as “turkey meal” on the list of ingredients. Turkey meal contains higher amounts of protein and less water (moisture) compared to fresh turkey.

There are also commercial treats that contain turkey. You can also make your own turkey treats for your dog’s training. Simply roast a slice of plain turkey breast and slice it up into bite-size pieces. These tasty morsels can add more excitement to your pet’s training regimen, making your pooch eager to work for a bite or two of those roasted turkey treats.

Leftover turkey can also be boiled to make turkey broth which can be frozen and given to your pet as cold treats during hot days. Just make sure it’s free from seasonings, salt, spices, etc.

Turkey in Hypoallergenic Diets

Turkey can be an alternative source of protein for dogs that are allergic to other types of meat, such as beef or chicken. It is one of the primary meat-based protein sources in many hypoallergenic diets and is often used in food elimination trials.

Turkey in Homemade Dog Food Diets

Turkey can also be part of a homemade dog food formula. It’s healthy for dogs if it’s cooked plain without the butter, oils, gravy, and herbs that are used to make roasted turkey a mouth-watering highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.

Safe Ways to Feed Your Dog Turkey

Turkey can be a healthy and nutritious food for your dog provided you follow certain precautionary measures.

Some dogs can be allergic to turkey meat. If it’s your pet’s first time eating turkey, it’s a good idea to introduce it slowly. If you notice any sign of a digestive issue, stop feeding turkey to your dog and consult with your vet.

If you’re going to share a few turkey slices with your dog, make it plain - no skin, seasonings, spices, gravy, etc. Remove the skin of the roasted turkey. The high-fat content can increase a dog’s risk of pancreatitis. This is also true with fried turkey.

Seasoned turkey is definitely a no-no to dogs. Some seasonings, like nutmeg, cocoa powder, nutmeg, salt, onion powder, sugar, and garlic powder, can be harmful or even toxic for dogs.

The ingredients that turkey stuffing is made of can be bad for dogs. Onions and garlic can enhance the flavor of the turkey but they can be toxic for dogs. Consuming small amounts could cause digestive upsets, while large quantities could lead to damage of red blood cells and life-threatening anemia.

Gravy is loaded with fat and butter. While it makes the turkey tasty, it can cause digestive upsets and even pancreatitis in dogs.

Processed turkey products, like turkey luncheon meat or turkey pastrami, are rich in preservatives that are known to be harmful to dogs.

Avoid giving turkey leg to your dog. It tends to be especially fatty.

Raw turkey should not be given to dogs because it may contain salmonella, which can make your dog sick.

Feed only small quantities of turkey. If your pet is on a complete and balanced diet, giving turkey regularly will only add to your pet’s calorie intake and it may upset the balance of your pet’s diet. The extra calories can also add up and eventually increase your pet’s risk for obesity.

Make sure that the bones have been removed before offering turkey meat to your dog.

Why Turkey Bones are Bad for Dogs

Like other types of poultry bones, turkey bones are brittle and can splinter easily, more so if they are cooked. Turkey bones are also small. Being small and brittle is a very dangerous combination for dogs as it can lead to the following problems, many of which can be life-threatening:

  • Injuries to the mouth, gums, and tongue
  • Choking
  • Get lodged and obstruct any part of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Bone fragments can injure the stomach and intestinal lining
  • Sharp bones can perforate into the abdomen which can mean serious life-threatening problems.
  • Constipation
  • Injury caused by sharp bone fragments are very painful and can lead to rectal bleeding

All these serious issues will require emergency medical attention and even expensive surgery to save your dog’s life.

Can turkey be given to dogs as part of a weight-loss diet?

Turkey is generally suitable as a once-or-twice-a-year treat for dogs. But if your dog is overweight and is on a weight loss program as advised by your vet, you should think twice about giving any human food, including turkey meat. When given to dogs, human food can be a source of extra calories which can jeopardize your pet’s weight loss journey and can bring him back to square one.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can deprive your canine buddy of such a tasty treat especially during the holidays. Since even a small amount of turkey can mean additional calories that your dog doesn’t need, help your dog burn the excess with an extra walk or by reducing their meal portion for the day.

Even if your dog’s weight is within the healthy range, turkey meat and other humans foods should still be given in moderation. While a small slice of roasted turkey during Thanksgiving dinner may be harmless, this shouldn’t become a regular practice. The cumulative effects will eventually be seen as weight gain and potential health issues for your dog.

Read more:

Can dogs eat bacon?

Can dogs eat tofu?

Is it safe for dogs to drink juice?

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s diet or another condition?

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Published: 9/9/2021

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