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Ask the Vet: Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

Can dogs eat turkey? Is it OK to feed my dog turkey? If you type "dogs and turkey meat" in the Google’s search bar you will find a plethora of articles about the subject. Some articles state it is OK and some state it is not OK. So what's the final verdict? Well, the verdict depends on whether you refer to turkey meat cooked and prepared particularly for your dog, or leftovers from your thanksgiving turkey. In the first case the final verdict is yes – it is okay to feed your dog plain turkey meat. In the second case, the final verdict is no – it is not okay to feed your dog seasoned and fried turkey. So, generally speaking, turkey meat is safe for dogs. It is the way we like to prepare it that makes it unsafe for dogs.

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Benefits of Turkey for Dogs

If properly cooked and prepared, turkey is not just safe but also beneficial for dogs. Packed with plenty of high-quality and easily digestible protein, turkey provides essential amino acids necessary for maintaining healthy and lean muscle mass, keeping the immune system strong, transporting nutrients and performing vital chemical reactions.

Plus turkey meat is a good source of vitamins (such as B2, B6 and B12) and minerals (such as zinc, potassium, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus).

In fact, many commercially available kibble and canned foods contain turkey or turkey meals. Plus, many home-made diets are based primarily on turkey as a protein source. Plain and well-cooked turkey meat is the ideal choice for dogs suffering from chronic inflammation of the pancreas.

Can dogs eat turkey?

Can dogs eat turkey for Thanksgiving?

Can Dogs Eat Thanksgiving Turkey?

Dogs are voracious eaters and will eat just about anything. And if that anything happens to be a crispy and buttered Thanksgiving turkey with lots of seasoning, your dog will be more than happy to engage in eating. However, just because dogs love how Thanksgiving turkeys taste, it does not mean they should be allowed to eat them.

Eating Thanksgiving turkey once a year may cause a gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Eating fried or cooked and seasoned turkey on a regular basis will eventually cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). On the long run, the oils and butters used to prepare the turkey increase the risk of obesity.

There are several steps though that you can take to make the Thanksgiving turkey more dog friendly. Those steps are:

  1. Remove the skin – the turkey skin is quite fatty. A 3 ounce serving contains 33 grams of fat. This amount is sufficient to cause acute pancreatitis which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Plus, the skin is usually heavily spiced. Some spices (salt, pepper) can cause digestive upset while others (garlic, onion) may trigger a toxic reaction. Last but not least, the skin (even without the spices) is dangerous because it may contain accumulated toxins.
  2. Remove the bones – turkey bones pose a choking hazard for dogs. If a bone is swallowed, it can easily become stuck and cause gastrointestinal blockage. A gastrointestinal blockage is a life-threatening emergency that requires surgical treatment. If the bone is splintered, its sharp points can puncture or tear the walls of the digestive system. This is also considered a medical emergency.
  3. Remove the fats – the fat surrounding the meat should be trimmed away to decrease the risk of pancreatitis and obesity.
  4. Use only the white meat – when compared to dark meat, white meat is leaner, healthier and lower in calories while containing more protein. A portion of 3 ounces of roasted skinless turkey breasts provide protein (25.61 grams), calories (125) and fat (1.77 grams).
  5. Remove the stuffing/gravy – the stuffing’s main ingredients (onion, garlic, scallions, shallots) are toxic to dogs. The gravy is usually too greasy for dogs. Therefore, you need to make sure the meat parts you give to your dog have not been in contact with the stuffing and gravy.
  6. Use small portions – not everything agrees with your dog’s digestive system. If turkey meat is new for your dog, start with very small portions. Any new food, if consumed in large quantities, can easily cause gastrointestinal upset. Gastrointestinal upsets manifest with decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases manifest with anorexia, frequent bouts of vomiting, explosive and profuse diarrhea, stomach cramps and dehydration due to increased loss of fluids.

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Can Dogs Eat Raw Turkey?

Feeding your dog raw turkey meat puts it at risk of infections because raw meat contains many pathogens. The most common raw-meat related infection is caused by the bacteria Salmonella. This bacterial infection (called salmonellosis) causes gastrointestinal illness manifested with:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite or anorexia
  • High fever
  • Lethargy and depression.

Raw turkey, or better said, raw meat in general, is forbidden for young puppies, dogs with kidney and liver issues and for dogs suffering from cancer.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?

Bird bones are fragile and brittle and end to splinter easily. Bones can cause a series of complications such as:

  • Mouth and tongue injuries
  • Choking
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Piercing of the stomach or intestines
  • Constipation
  • Rectal bleeding

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A Word About Allergies

Poultry-based proteins are very likely to trigger allergic reactions in dogs. Allergies to turkey proteins in dogs are manifested with:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Hair loss
  • Scratching
  • Skin rashes
  • Paw biting.

Many dog products (such as toothpaste) and dog treats contain turkey. Therefore, if your dog is allergic to turkey, carefully read the label and make sure the product/treat is turkey-free.

So Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

All in all, turkey meat (de-boned and de-skinned) is safe for dogs if properly cooked, in moderate quantities and for dogs that are not allergic to turkey proteins. On the other hand, Thanksgiving turkey and raw turkey are not safe. The consequences of feeding your dog Thanksgiving and raw turkey vary from upset stomach and pancreatitis to choking and gastrointestinal obstruction to Salmonella infections and increased risk of obesity.

About the Author

ivana crnec

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

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