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Can Dogs Eat Turkey? Is It Bad For Dogs?

Are you trying to figure out if turkey is safe to feed your dog? Veterinarian Hannah Godfrey looks at the health benefits and risks of feeding dogs the different parts of the turkey and provides some tips to make the best decision when it comes to table scrap sharing this holiday season.

Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Last Updated: October 13, 2021 | 5 min read

Dog trying to eat Turkey off side of counter top

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not serve as a substitute for a discussion with a trained professional. If your dog ate turkey and is reacting adversely, contact your local veterinarian immediately.

During the Thanksgiving season, everyone will be looking forward to quality time spent with family and friends. Of course, it’s not just the promise of fun with our nearest and dearest that makes Thanksgiving so appealing; it’s also the lure of tasty food and drink.

So, what if you also have family members of the canine variety? Shouldn’t they be allowed to join in the indulgence of the holiday season? Read on to find out whether dogs can eat your leftover turkey.

Of all the meat options, turkey is one of the most suitable for dogs because it has a low-fat content. However, before you decide to share your Thanksgiving leftovers with your canine companion, there are a few rules you should keep in mind.

Is Turkey Good For Dogs?

Sliced Turkey
Turkey is a lean protein source and a source of vitamins and minerals, including iron (needed to make oxygen-carrying hemoglobin).

Turkey is an excellent source of protein, which your dog needs to build and maintain muscle and other tissues. It also contains very little fat, which means it’s a healthier alternative to fattier meats like pork and beef.

It also contains magnesium, which is needed for muscle contractions and sending nerve signals, and sodium and potassium, which help your dog’s body maintain the proper water content. Turkey also contains the essential mineral selenium, which helps keep your dog’s metabolism and thyroid function and includes antioxidants.

What Are The Risks Of Feeding Turkey To Your Dog?

There are situations where feeding your dog turkey is not a good idea and could risk their health. For example, offering your dog raw turkey, like any uncooked meat, could give them an upset stomach or a nasty infection with Salmonella or Campylobacter. These causes of food poisoning in humans could cause similar symptoms in your dog and could even spread to vulnerable members of your family.

Another risk of feeding your dog turkey is if it was cooked in oil or other cooking fat. This is because fatty foods are more likely to cause your dog vomiting and diarrhea and might even give your dog a painful bout of pancreatitis. Excessive salt could lead to salt poisoning; however, other seasonings are more likely to irritate their guts.

When Thanksgiving is over, you might use the leftover turkey to make another dish, like chili or stew. Feeding your dog a meal containing turkey is far riskier than turkey alone. Additional ingredients like garlic and onions are toxic to dogs and could make them unwell.

Does Turkey Make Dogs Sick?

Small amounts of plain, cooked turkey breast shouldn’t make your dog unwell. However, any dog can be sensitive or intolerant to any food. Therefore, introducing any new food to your dog should be done slowly and with tiny amounts at first. If you give your dog a large amount of turkey out of the blue, they might develop vomiting or diarrhea. You might notice a rash or swelling if they are sensitive or allergic, although severe allergic reactions are rare.

What Parts Of A Turkey Are Safe For Dogs?

Dog Eating Turkey Bone
Whether raw or cooked, bones pose a considerable risk when fed to your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Breast?

Turkey is a lean meat with very little fat. This makes it a good protein option for dogs. Small amounts of plain, cooked turkey breast should be safe to feed to your dog. However, it can still pose a risk to your dog depending on the method of cooking and any additional seasoning or sauces used. Therefore, it’s essential that any turkey that you offer your dog is plain, unseasoned, and grilled or boiled rather than cooked in oil or fat.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?

In addition to being cooked, the turkey must be bone free. Sadly, it’s very common for dogs who eat bones to end up in the operating room to remove them and repair the damage. Let’s learn more about the risks associated with bones and why your dog should avoid them.

Bones often cause damage to a dog’s mouth or throat and can get lodged in the esophagus or cause choking. If chewed, bones often splinter, leaving sharp fragments that could perforate the esophagus, stomach, or guts.

On the other hand, larger pieces of bone can block the intestines completely. If the bits of bone make it as far as the large bowel or rectum, they can cause your dog painful constipation, and sometimes they might even need an enema to remove the blockage.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Skin?

Although turkey is relatively lean meat, it does contain some fat, primarily in the skin. Since the skin also contacts cooking fats and seasoning, it’s best to avoid giving your dog turkey skin.

A small amount of skinless turkey breast without bones or condiments is the safest way to give your dog a Thanksgiving treat.

What To Do If Your Dog Eats Turkey Accidentally

Dog Eating Turkey at Thanksgiving Table
Some dogs are very food-orientated and likely to sneak turkey from the countertop or table.

Firstly, if the turkey was cooked and plain, with minimal seasoning and no bones, it’s unlikely to do your dog any harm. If that’s the case, you can keep a close eye on them just in case, but they shouldn’t need to see a veterinarian.

If the meat they ate was part of a dish containing onions, garlic, or other toxic foods, you should contact your veterinarian right away. The veterinarian may need to make them sick to stop their bodies from absorbing the poisonous ingredients, and they may need some additional treatment.

If your dog may have eaten a turkey bone, it’s worth speaking to your veterinarian for advice. Depending on the bone size, whether it was cooked or chewed, the veterinarian may decide to examine your dog. However, instead, they may ask you to monitor them closely for any signs of concern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dog eating Turkey Leg off a plate with apples
 In general, turkey is much more suitable for your dog when it is cooked rather than raw.

Will Cooked Turkey Hurt My Dog?

It’s important not to give your dog turkey that has been cooked in fat or oil and avoid seasoning. Remember that other ingredients within a turkey dish might not suit your dog, especially garlic and onions, which are poisonous and can cause your dog to become anemic.

What Do I Do If My Dog Ate Turkey?

Try not to panic. If you know how much turkey your dog ate, whether it was cooked and any additional seasonings, sauces, or ingredients included, you can decide what to do.

If your dog is acting sick after eating turkey, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. However, if the meat was cooked and contained no bones or toxic ingredients, it is unlikely to become ill. If your dog has eaten a turkey bone or a potentially hazardous ingredient, or if they have symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain, you should call your veterinary clinic ASAP for advice.

Final Thoughts

If you want to feed your dog some turkey, it should always be cooked and contain no bones. Ideally, it should be boiled or grilled rather than fried in fat or oil, and you should leave off any seasonings. Remember, you can avoid most of the seasoning and extra fat by removing the skin first. Most importantly, if the turkey was cooked as part of another dish, make sure the other ingredients are also safe for your dog.

If you follow these rules and only offer small amounts, your furry family member can join in the celebrations with a bit of Thanksgiving turkey. But remember, too many tasty titbits could lead your dog to pile on the pounds. Obesity can lead to problems like painful joints, heart conditions, and diabetes. So, to keep your pooch in tip-top shape, you should only offer table scraps as an occasional treat, and what better time than the holiday season?

Health Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Food Safety Disclaimer: The information published on this website is for reference only. The only clear option for ensuring your pet’s health is to feed commercial-grade dog foods and treats only. Feeding human foods of any sort carries some degree of risk and is not under this website’s control.

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