It’s often asked, especially around Christmas time, but can dogs eat turkey? (What, the whole country?) Jokes aside, turkey meat is very similar to chicken, which most dogs are barking mad about.
And given the enormity of some turkeys, there is usually enough leftovers to feed the family for days, so it’s easy to ponder whether it’s safe for your pooch can eat some as a treat.
Yes, dogs can eat turkey as long as it’s plain. Turkey meat is a great source of protein and other nutrients and it is a common ingredient in some dog foods, Turkey is a protein we use in some of our Pure recipes! If your dog is allergic to another meat, turkey is a super alternative to offer them.
They can eat the meat raw or cooked, but cooked is easier on the digestive system. plus you’re more likely to have leftover cooked turkey in the fridge. As long as your leftover turkey is plain meat without any seasonings or spices, you can feed a bit to your dog as a treat. You could also buy turkey meat or mince and cook it plain especially for your pooch, and cube it up to use as training treats.
Yes, dogs can eat raw turkey but it’s more likely to make them sick than cooked meat, especially if they aren’t used to eating raw. Raw turkey meat, like any raw meat, also has a small chance of carrying bacteria like E. Coli or Salmonella so you need to be careful of cross-contamination.
Raw meat is not advised for some dogs with health conditions, such as kidney problems or liver problems. You should check with your vet if raw meat is suitable for your individual dog before giving them any.
It’s uncommon, but some dogs can be allergic to turkey, which is why it’s im-paw-tent to introduce new food slowly in small pieces.
Turkey mince is super for dogs, just remember the usual rules about keeping it plain. You should also check the label to make sure there are no additives that could pup-set your pooch’s stomach. This could include nitrates used to preserve meat which is very salty and not good for your dog.
No, your dog shouldn’t eat turkey bones. The only exception is a raw turkey neck, which we will talk about below.
Turkey bones are generally small enough to swallow and they snap easily. This makes them a choking hazard, and their sharp broken parts can injure your dog’s mouth, throat, and digestive tract. Cooked bones are even worse as they are brittle and splinter very easily.
If your dog swallows a bone that injures their insides, they can suffer from internal bleeding there is a risk of infection and sepsis, which can endanger their life. So to be on the safe side, it’s always best not to feed your dog turkey bones.
Your dog can eat a turkey neck if it’s raw. Raw turkey necks count as raw meaty bones, which can help to naturally clean your dog’s teeth and give them a boost of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
However, not all dogs can handle raw turkey necks and if they’ve never eaten one before, a whole one might cause digestive upset. Like most things, suddenly eating a lot of new food or overeating can give them tummy trouble. If you have a small dog, you might need to cut the neck in half before giving it to them. Just make sure the pieces are bigger than their mouth so they still need to chew it.
Raw meat will always have a small risk of harbouring harmful bacteria. If your dog is sick after eating a turkey neck, contact your vet for advice.
The bones in the neck can pose a choking risk if your dog is a gulper and doesn’t chew them enough, so it is im-paw-tent you supervise your dog while they tuck into a turkey neck. Never feed your dog a cooked turkey neck because the bones become brittle and can cause internal injuries. If you do have a cooked turkey neck, feel free to debone it and offer the meat to your pooch.
Yes, dogs can eat turkey giblets. Giblets is a catch-all term for the organs or offal from a turkey and include things like the gizzards, heart and liver. Organ meats like this are all paw-fectly safe for dogs to eat and they are highly nutritious.
Your dog can eat giblets raw or cooked, but some dogs can be sick after eating raw meat either because they have a sensitive stomach or they’re just not used to eating them. As always, introduce any new foods slowly until you know your dog likes them and tolerates them. Plain, cooked giblets are paw-fectly fine too, just cook them by boiling, baking, or grilling them. As long as they’re not fried, they’re fine!
They are both paw-some sources of protein, but turkey does contain more protein than chicken pound for pound. Turkey is also leaner than chicken and so has less fat and calories.
Of course, fat from whole meat like poultry isn’t necessarily a bad thing for dogs, because it contains lots of im-paw-tent nutrients. The balance of micronutrients in chicken and turkey meat is also very similar, and both are good sources of B vitamins and magnesium.
Plain turkey meat is paw-fectly fine for your pooch to eat. It’s a paw-some source of protein that your dog uses to make the own proteins which are involved in all kinds of bodily functions from creating new DNA, repairing muscles, to growing healthy skin and fur.
When it comes to feeding turkey to dogs, the problem comes with all the extras we use to cook the meat and the bones left behind.
When we roast a turkey, we usually stuff it and baste it and rub it all over with fats, seasonings, and spices. Dogs are really sensitive to these extras and it can make them sick. All the extra butter and dripping can be far too rich and fatty for a dog and can give them some gastrointestinal trouble, or it could even cause pancreatitis. Turkey skin is also very fatty and eating too much can also cause pancreatitis.
Meanwhile, various extras like onion and garlic are toxic to dogs. If your pup accidentally eats a tiny bit of stuffing, they should hopefully be okay. But you shouldn’t feed them any deliberately, and if they eat a lot you must contact your vet.
That being said, not every dog can eat turkey just because some are allergic. Most canine allergies are caused by proteins, and you could find turkey just disagrees with them. This is why it’s im-paw-tent to introduce new food slowly to your pooch so you can monitor their reaction before offering them any more.
When left to their own devices, a dog would probably gobble up a whole turkey to themselves. There are plenty of stories about dogs who have scoffed a whole Christmas turkey and ended up very sick. Just like any food, eating too much turkey can leave your dog feeling unwell, gassy, bloated, and suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea.
You shouldn’t let your dog eat a whole turkey and if they somehow do, definitely call your vet. But how much turkey can your dog eat safely?
If your dog is only eating turkey as a treat, you’ll simply want to refer to the 10% rule. That means they can eat up to 10% of their daily calories in turkey, and the other 90% from healthy dog food. For example, if you have a pooch who can eat 600 calories a day, that means they can eat up to 60 calories worth of turkey, which is about 40g of turkey. That’s about the size of one generous slice of breast meat.
If your pup is eating turkey as the main protein in their diet, you might want to use something else for treats to give them balance and variety.
Yes, dogs can eat turkey as long as it’s plain. They can also eat other parts of a turkey that we humans might throw away, like the giblets. As with any new food, you should double-check with your vet that it’s suitable for your dog and their individual needs and always introduce new food slowly and under supervision.
Never feed your dog heavily seasoned or spiced turkey, turkey with stuffing, or turkey bones as these carry risks of sickness or injury. And if it’s swimming in cranberry sauce maybe give your dog a plainer piece instead.
A good idea is to feed turkey as your dog's main protein source as part of a complete, balanced meal. Protein is essential in a dog's diet, helping to repair muscles and keep your pup healthy all round and turkey is a great source. Pure creates personalised plans for your dog, and turkey is one of the main proteins we use to create your dog's recipes due to it's lean, healthy benefits. Tell us all about your dog and we'll give them a turkey recipe to tuck into now!
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.