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Some dogs get sick after eating turkey, and some get sick enough to warrant a trip to the vet. Not many dog owners know this, but back in the days when I worked for an animal hospital, the day after Thanksgiving was often referred to as "Pancreatitis Friday."

And who can blame them, with a smorgasbord of enticing sights and mouth-watery smells, dogs are lured to Thanksgiving tables as if they were in an hypnotic trance.

 While turkey is often found as an ingredient in many dog foods and treats, there are cases where dogs may actually get sick from eating too much gobble-gobble meat.

 Of course, not all dogs get sick from eating turkey, but those who do have little to be thankful about when they develop symptoms of G.I problems.

A Matter of Fats

When it comes to giving dogs turkey there is turkey and turkey. Avoid giving dogs turkey that has been fried or cooked in lots of butter, warns veterinarian Dr. Gabby. 

 Also problematic may be turkey skin, trimmings and gravy. Just think that a 3 ounce serving of turkey skin contains 33 grams of fat, points out veterinarian Dr. Ivana.

 The problem is that fatty meals can trigger in dogs a bout of pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas which causes serious clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. 

Yorkies, miniature schnauzers and shetland sheepdogs are particularly vulnerable to this condition.

No Bones About It

Some dogs get sick from eating turkey because they raid the trash can, often gaining access to the turkey carcass and consuming turkey bones. 

The problem with cooked bones is that they can splinter, potentially puncturing the digestive tract, and risking a serious bacterial infection that's difficult to treat and that can even turn fatal. 

Bones can also cause choking, get stuck in the dog's esophagus, the bone fragments may cause vomiting and constipation, and sometimes, bones may cause a blockage when they get stuck in the dog's intestinal tract.

"Bird bones are fragile and brittle and tend to splinter easily," remarks veterinarian Dr. Ivana in the article: "Can dogs eat turkey?"

Salt is Harmful

Many dog owners are conscientious about not leaving turkey bones around their dog, but they often forget about turkey brine. Turkey brine is very salty and salt is harmful to dogs when consumed in high quantities. 

Not many people are aware that dogs can become victim of salt toxicosis, which causes increased thirst, increased urination, vomiting and diarrhea, warns the Pet Poison Helpline website. 

Excessive salt though can cause more than increased thirst and GI upset in affected dogs. Consider that dangerous electrolyte changes can also take place and dogs can develop brain swelling.

Stuff the turkey and not the dog!

Stuff the turkey and not the dog!

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Stuff the Turkey and Not the Dog!

Stuff the turkey and not the dog when it comes to stuffing. Yes, dogs love stuffing because it has a wonderful turkey taste and the bread is very fragrant, but even turkey stuffing can cause problems. 

Just consider that garlic and onion in dogs is rather risky because it may trigger a toxic reaction. On top of this, consider that raisins or currants in it may be posing risks for acute kidney problems. 

And don't' assume that giving a teeny amount is OK.  According to the Pet Poison Helpline, even a small amount of grapes, raisins, or currants can result in severe, acute kidney failure.

Watch the String

Many people use string to tie up the turkey to prevent the stuffing from coming out. This string is something else that you may want to keep out of reach as even an innocent piece of string can turn problematic. 

Dogs will readily gulp the string down as it smells and tastes like turkey and this can potentially cause what's called a "linear foreign body obstruction".

 Basically, what happens in this case, is that, the string may get caught around the intestine and cause a life-threatening abdominal infection called peritonitis, a perforated bowel in dogs. 

 Moderation is Key 

Turkey per se is not a food that's bad for dogs; indeed turkey is easy to digest and it's often fed along with plain white rice to dogs who are vomiting or have diarrhea, explains Dr. Gabby.

 As long as the turkey is baked or boiled and cooked without fat or any spices, it's fine to give. It's also not a bad idea to avoid the dark turkey meat and opt instead for a little bit of the lean, white meat.

When compared to dark meat, white meat is leaner, healthier and lower in calories while containing more protein, points our Dr. Ivana.

And of course, do not give it with any bones, greasy drippings and skin which as mentioned can be problematic.

The Bottom Line 

As seen, dogs get sick after eating turkey for many reasons. It's therefore best to avoid giving any foods that can turn problematic. 

If you want to feed some turkey, as with most things in life, moderation is key as any dietary changes can trigger digestive issues in dogs with sensitive tummies. 

So stuff the turkey and don't stuff the dog when the holidays are around the corner.

Did you know? We may assume that dogs, just like us, must feel the drowsy tryptophan effect after eating turkey; however, feeding turkey to your dog though will not promote calmness, claims Linda P. Case, a canine nutritionist, dog trainer, and science writer in her blog, "The Science Dog." Turkey does not contain a high level of tryptophan as one would think. 

However, a recent study conducted by DeNapoli in 2000, has shown that dietary supplementation of tryptophan may have promising effects on dog behavior turning helpful in reducing the level of a dog aggression. 


DeNapoli JS, Dodman NH, Shuster L, Rand WM, Gross KL. Effect of dietary protein content and tryptophan supplementation on dominance aggression, territorial aggression, and hyperactivity in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2000 Aug 15;217(4):504-8. doi: 10.2460/javma.2000.217.504. 

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