Turkey is a fan favorite among humans, especially on Thanksgiving. But can your dog eat turkey? Yes! Turkey is not toxic to dogs, but there are certain safety precautions you should take before tossing your dog a turkey leg during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s what you need to know about feeding your pup turkey and other holiday favorite foods.
In general, turkey is good for dogs and can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet throughout the year. Similar to chicken and other meats, turkey is a common protein found in kibble and wet foods produced by major dog food companies. A few benefits of turkey meat include:2
- Protein: Turkey is full of lean protein, making it a great way for your dog to boost their energy and keep muscles strong.
- Phosphorus: This mineral found in turkey is great for your dog’s kidney health.
- Magnesium: Turkey contains this mineral which promotes good skin and a shiny coat.
Overall, turkey can be a great protein-packed option for your dog to supplement their daily diet, and can also serve as a high-value snack during training or for other rewards. That said, always double-check with your veterinarian before adding new foods to your dog’s diet.
As mentioned, turkey is best served to dogs when it’s free of any additives and seasonings, including butters, oils, and spices, especially garlic, which is toxic to dogs. Unfortunately, that means no Thanksgiving turkey for your pooch (unless you cook them a plain one separately!).
Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey means dealing with various parts and pieces of the bird. But what can your dog eat, if anything?
When you feed a dog raw turkey, you increase their risk of contracting bacterial infections like salmonella.3 If you have a puppy, or a dog with cancer or kidney disease, it’s best to avoid feeding them raw turkey. As always, talk to your vet if you’re considering incorporating raw food into your dog’s diet.
Turkey bones are very brittle when cooked, and they turn into glass-like splinters that can be highly dangerous for both animals and humans. Vets recommend you don’t feed your dog turkey bones to avoid a medical emergency.2 Some of the complications associated with consuming turkey bones include:
- Mouth and tongue injuries
- Bone fragment-related injuries in the stomach, intestines, or rectum
While dogs love chewing on bones, it’s best to avoid giving your dog poultry bones, including turkey bones.
Yes, dogs can eat turkey necks when prepared correctly without additives or seasoning. You may want to throw the Thanksgiving turkey neck from the bag of giblets into their bowl, but it’s best if you don’t feed your dog raw meat to decrease their risk of bacterial infections and kidney disease.
Surprisingly, though, turkey necks are a highly nutritious treat that can be safe for your dog when freeze-dried or dehydrated. These preparation methods remove the risks of eating raw meat and make the texture of the bone more digestible compared to cooked bone. Turkey necks also have dental benefits, helping to remove build-up on teeth and improve bad breath. Always consult your vet prior to serving them treats with bones in it, as there are still potential risks.
Dogs should not eat turkey skin due to its high fat content.2 Like other poultry, the skin should be taken off before feeding it to your dog to avoid conditions like pancreatitis. Skipping the skin also helps prevent your dog from developing other health conditions that can prevent your dog from living a long life, like obesity. No need to worry if you accidentally left a little bit of skin on the turkey, though. While it’s not recommended, it won’t hurt your dog if it happens once or twice.
Turkey can be prepared in a variety of ways, and their safety for your dog depends on how much it’s been processed to get to its final state. For example, if turkey is packaged with a lot of sodium, it might be best to avoid feeding it to your dog. Here are a few common turkey preparations and whether or not they’re safe for your pup to eat:
- Can dogs eat ground turkey? Yes, as long as it’s cooked without extras like oils or seasonings
- Can dogs eat turkey bacon? It’s not a good idea because turkey bacon is high in sodium
- Can dogs eat deli turkey? No, due to the high sodium and fat content, plus additional seasonings can lead to other health risks
You’re probably wondering if your dog can eat other favorites from the dinner table during the holidays. As a general rule of thumb, the foods dogs can eat are only under the condition that they’re prepared plain – that means free from any additional sodium, fats, spices, herbs, and other things that can harm your dog.
Dogs can eat:
Dogs can’t eat:
- Pumpkin pie
- Apple pie
- Macaroni and cheese
- Green bean casserole
- Mashed potatoes
- Candied yams
- Cranberry sauce
- Collard greens
- Christmas cookies
- Fruit cake
- Seasoned fish
For more ideas on how to keep your dog safe this holiday season, check out 12 Days of Holiday Pet Safety Tips.
Giving your dog plain, skinless, boneless turkey meat is the best way to incorporate this type of poultry into your pup’s diet. As always, keep in mind that other dog-safe holiday treats are best served plain. Of course, accidents do happen. If you find your dog has ingested a part of a turkey or another holiday food that could make them sick, contact your vet to help determine next steps and identify if it’s an immediate concern. Consider investing in a dog insurance policy from MetLife1 to help offset the costs of emergency visits and even wellness check-ups.
Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2023 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.