Written by Ella White
Though often left off the ingredients list in favor of beef, chicken, and even fish, turkey is actually a great source of nutrition that can be used in dog food. So why is turkey not hailed as a healthy meat for dogs compared to its counterparts?
In this blog we’ll look at why turkey is good for dogs, when it should be avoided, and how it should be served to avoid illness and even injury.
Us humans often eat turkey around the holidays, and you might have wondered while carving up your own helping, “can my dog eat turkey?” And the answer is yes… as long as you follow some simple rules about the preparation and serving of the meat. If overcooked it can be hard to digest, and if not carefully picked for bones it can cause a choking hazard.
Turkey meat is packed with benefits for dogs. It’s a lean meat which means it's healthier and easier to digest than fatty red meats. It’s also full of protein, low in fat, and rich in essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
These properties all make turkey a great protein choice for dogs looking to lose weight – and those maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also high in:
These minerals deliver benefits including:
An additional benefit of turkey is that it’s considered to be hypoallergenic, so the chances of your dog suffering an allergic reaction after eating turkey are incredibly low. This makes it a safer choice for dog owners who know their pets are prone to food allergies, particularly chicken or beef.
Though turkey contains plenty of beneficial and healthy nutrients that dogs need to thrive, feeding them this lean meat isn’t as simple as serving them up a portion from your own plate.
When preparing turkey for dogs, it’s important that it is left totally unseasoned and has not been rubbed with salt, oil, or ingredients that are toxic to dogs like onion or garlic. Similarly, the turkey skin can hold a lot of fat so should be removed.
Secondly, cooked turkey bones, like chicken bones, can splinter and cause injury to the throat and gastrointestinal tract. So it’s important that you ensure every bone is removed from your turkey before it’s cooked for your dog. For this reason, many dog owners prefer to purchase ground turkey or turkey mince to feed to their pets, to prevent any accidents.
It’s also important to make sure your turkey is thoroughly cooked through, as raw meat can contain bacteria that is harmful to your dog.
The best way to feed turkey to your dog is to pick a fresh bird from the butchers or grocery store. Processed meats can contain fatty and unhealthy additives, as well as potential allergens for dogs. So once you’ve picked the perfect turkey – or pack of turkey mince – you’ll want the parts of the turkey that pack the most health benefits for your pup.
There is debate around whether white or dark meat is best for dogs, but neither need to be avoided. While white meat is lean and low in calories, the darker meat is a good, healthy way to help underweight dogs intake more calories.
Another healthy part of the bird for dogs (though it doesn’t sound so appealing for human dinners) is the turkey neck. This area holds a lot of the beneficial nutrients that dogs need, so it is a great source of vitamins and minerals in their diet. Dried turkey neck is often found in the natural treat section of larger pet stores.
When prepared and served safely and correctly, turkey is not bad for dogs. However, if the meat is fed to a dog with any toxic seasonings, oil which is high in fat, or from a processed pack containing unknown fillers, it could be harmful to your dog's health.
For this reason, it’s important to only serve your dog totally plain, cooked, lean turkey meat with the bones and fatty areas removed. Turkey that’s seasoned with toxic ingredients could cause stomach upset and in some cases can even be fatal.
Similarly, cooking turkey in fatty oils or feeding your dog the fat and skin of the turkey can cause digestive issues that can lead to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Avoiding processed forms of turkey means that dogs should never be fed turkey lunch meat, turkey bacon, burgers, or sausages, turkey jerky, or smoked turkey. These all contain additives, seasonings, preservatives, sodium, fats, and oils that pose a risk to a dog’s health.
Though movies and cartoons would have you believe that dogs can chow down on a chicken or turkey leg with ease, the reality is very different. Bones are prone to splintering into shards – especially cooked, thin bones like those found in bird meat – so should be avoided at all costs.
If a dog eats a cooked turkey bone and it splinters, it can lacerate their throat or GI tract. Not only is this incredibly painful but it can cause serious damage and in some cases even lead to death.
But if you don’t want to waste the bones you’ve removed from your dog-safe turkey, there is a healthy way you can use them for your pup. Turning the bones into a broth which can be served on its own or on top of their regular food is a great way to offer them the health benefits of bones without the risks.