Can Dogs Eat Turkey: All Science-Backed Pros and Cons Can Dogs Eat Turkey: All Science-Backed Pros and Cons
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Thanksgiving, for many, is about the chick. Hours spent on roasting and seasoning, and once the celebration is over, there are turkey subs and casseroles to prepare. In the middle of all of that extra turkey, the idea of slipping some scraps to your pet might be alluring.  And some even go farther than that. They will eat turkey dinners quite regularly, since this type of poultry known to be a good source of lean protein. And sometimes also will have some leftovers to share. But is it really a good idea?

So, can dogs have turkey?

Turkey is comparatively safe for your pooch to eat with several precautions taken. And it does give some nutrition benefits for dogs. The dark meat is the most healthy portion because it has more minerals and vitamins than the rest.  However, it also has extra calories and fats and calories, which is something to think of in case your canine is overweight and maintaining a healthy diet. But let’s jump into more in-depth details.

Is turkey bad for dogs? Can turkey upset a dog’s stomach?

The meat is okay for your pup to eat, but the rest of the turkey should be avoided, bones in particular.  Those will change into shards when a dog chews into them. These shards can hurt or get stuck the throat as they’re swallowed. They’re also especially threatening to the belly, guts and other internal organs.

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Also, keep the skin to yourself (or you actually will be better off along with your pup). Even though some find it delicious, it is very fatty, and that fat is threatening to dogs (or humans really). A dog’s pancreas isn’t meant to deal with the considerable fat load, so when it overwhelmed its sores. This swelling is identified as pancreatitis. And its not the most pleasant condition to have for your canine. As a consequence, your four-legged friend will suffer from vomiting, severe diarrhea, abdominal pains, lethargy, etc.

Overall turkey is not poisonous to dogs. It is a component in many mass-produced dog foods and is abundant with nutrients like riboflavin, protein,  and phosphorous. Thanksgiving turkeys or any other homemade turkey dinners are rarely prepared plain though. And there’s another source of the potential danger of giving a turkey to your pup. We cover our birds with butter and oils and shower them in salt, herbs, pepper,  and other spices. We fill them with dog-hazardous stuffing, garlic, onions, etc. To us, this is delightful. For our pups, it is a perfect formula for digestive disaster (if we are lucky) and pancreatitis as the worst case scenario.

Is turkey good for dogs? What are the benefits?

Like chicken, turkey is lean, white meat that promotes muscle building in dogs. It is also a source of a very digestible protein. Also, turkey-based pet foods may present an alternative choice for dogs with food allergies to beef or chicken-based meals. So it can be a quite useful addition to pup’s diet if cooked and served correctly.

Can dogs eat raw turkey?

No, never.  Even though from the nutrition perspective it seems good: according to Food Composition Database from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) 100g of raw turkey has 201 kcals, 13.29% of protein, 15.96% of fats (approximately third of it are saturated fats), 145 mg of Calcium, 1.61 mg of Iron, 13mg of Magnesium, 115 mg of Phosphorus, 173mg of Potassium, 2.9 mg of Zinc, 1.97 mg of Niacin, 0.26 mg Vitamin B6 and 95 mg of Cholesterol on the dark side.

However, we are all aware of parasites occurrence in poultry meat. I’ll go a step forward and share the precise number from recent research published in 2018 about the Prevalence of Pathogens in Poultry Meat.

According to this study, that was run by inspecting the random samples of poultry in various countries, in 43.1% of all the samples, microorganisms called S. aureus were found. And Campylobacter was spotted in 23% of the selection.

S. aureus (or Staphylococcus aureus) might not cause illness right away, but as soon as your pet becomes ill or injured, bacteria can cause an infection. Those most commonly involve the skin and soft tissues and can lead to skin infections and sores, although their battlefield might shift to the urinary tract, ears, eyes, and joints.

As for Campylobacter – those guys cause Campylobacteriosis, and most common symptoms of it are fever, vomiting, various pains, loss of appetite, infections of the eyes, ears, skin, or respiratory system, etc.

And it’s not a joke, it’s really happening. One small study of client-owned dogs found that 80% of pups keeping the raw chicken diet were positive for Salmonella serovars, while none of the commercial dry foods were positive.

With that being said, most likely you won’t want your pup anywhere near raw or undercooked turkey.

How to cook a turkey for dogs?

Cooked turkey would be a better option for your four-legged friend. It carries pretty much similar nutritional value but less dangerous in terms of infections. 100g of cooked (roasted) turkey has 159 kcals, 29.06% of protein, 3.84% of fats (0.049g are bad trans fats and 1.13 mediocre saturated), 13 mg of Calcium, 1.03 mg of Iron, 29mg of Magnesium, 222 mg of Phosphorus, 239 mg of Potassium, 2.51 mg of Zinc, 9.5 mg of Niacin, 0.64mg Vitamin B6 , 0.94 µg Vitamin B12. And some bad things like 95 mg of Cholesterol and 101mg of sodium.

Since most raw poultry contains some nasty bacterias, proper cooking and storage are critical.  You must always keep an eye on the temperature. Bacteria reproduce at temperatures between 40 F and 140 F. In that “danger zone,” where their colony can double in size in 20 minutes. Use a food thermostat to guarantee that you’re retaining your raw dishes cold enough and that hot meals have been cooked thoroughly.

And follow the two-hour rule. Don’t let raw poultry stay in the danger temperature zone for more than two hours. If you do, they may create dangerous bacterias that won’t be killed by cooking.

And in spite of all precautions sometimes it’s hard to ensure that homecooked poultry is safe for dogs (and we are not talking about getting rid of bones, skins, and seasoning – it’s easy).  One old (from 1998) but quite an in-depth study found that the intake of homemade meals (compared to that of commercial foods) was significantly correlated to a higher rate of tumors and dysplasias.

So maybe it’s worth to save yourself some time, efforts and worries and think of pre-made turkey options.  In mass-produced pet food, you can see the name “turkey meal” on the ingredient label. This is an acceptable kind of protein that gives your dog plenty of benefits. It has more protein and less water than an actual turkey.

Our best suggestion of turkey based food would be this canned option by Wellness made with Turkey and potato.

The ingredients are great: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Potatoes, Carrageenan, and the recipe is fortified with some extra nutrients including Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E, Ground Flaxseed, Biotin, Vitamins A, D-3, B-12 Supplements, etc.

And it works even for pups with allergies. It’s about 482 kcal (min 8% crude protein, min 7% crude fat) per can of 354 g. And if fed alone the grown-up dog will require 3/4 – 1 1/4 cans per 15 lbs of body weight. No hassle, no allergies, no parasites – sounds like a deal worth looking into. If you are curious to read some reviews about the product check here.

If your pup is more into dry food, then the greatest turkey option we’ve found is this Turkey and Butternut Squash combo by Earthborn.

The turkey meal in this recipe comes from family-owned turkey farms in the Midwestern USA. It also has Butternut Squash, Chickpeas,  and this recipe as well significantly enhanced with nutrients, vitamins, and probiotics, including Choline, Biotin. Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Vitamin B12, etc. It’s just 340kcal per cup with 31% min crude protein and 13% crude fat. And some buyers went as far as calling this product a life savior. You can read more about it here.

Dogs and turkey. Summary

While cooked turkey is a protein-rich and healthy for your pup, raw turkey can put the pet at risk of bacterial infection.

Other than that, don’t be too stressed about sharing some turkey with your dog as long as you aren’t serving the fattiest or the sharpest parts (skins and bones). A bit of turkey meat won’t make your dog sick, but if you see any belly upset or differences in their behavior, go back to pup’s regular diet (or commercial dog food options with turkey if your dog had enough time to fall in love with the bird).


Credits: thanks for the cover photo to Canva.


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