Can Dogs Eat Turkey? Yes! It’s Not Just For Holiday Meals Anymore

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5 min read
5 min read

Updated - Sep 1st, 2021

Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving. We use this lean meat in so many of our everyday dishes. There’s turkey bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and that delicious club sandwich. We consider turkey to be a low-fat tasty meat perfect for a healthy diet, but does that hold true for our dogs?

The quick answer is: turkey is healthy for your dog. In fact, you’ll find it in many commercial dog foods and treats because it’s a lean, easy-to-digest protein source. It’s also considered an alternative meat for dogs with allergies to chicken, as we’ll discuss below. We also love to share our Thanksgiving feast with our furry family members, but it’s not always a good idea. Let’s explore why and look at healthier ways to share turkey with our dogs.

Health Benefits of Turkey

Turkey meat is a lean, easy to digest protein that’s perfect for dogs with allergies to chicken- or beef-based dog food formulas. It’s also a rich source of riboflavin and phosphorus, which provide the following benefits:.

Riboflavin supports the metabolism of amino acids and carbohydrates in your dog’s body.

Phosphorus works with calcium to keep your dog’s bones and ligaments strong. 

These are both essential minerals in a dog’s diet.

Turkey and dogs with allergies

Plain, cooked white turkey meat is a suitable alternative for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities to meats like chicken or beef. However, turkey is similar to chicken and may not be appropriate for some dogs. According to food energetics charts, turkey is a warming food. This means that for dogs with candida or yeast problems, it can inflame an already overheated body and may not be a good alternative protein source.

Guidelines for feeding turkey to your dog

Thanksgiving is the biggest day for turkey-eating in the United States. We cover our holiday turkeys with delicious seasonings and fill them with savory stuffing. The meat of the bird is healthy for your dog, but the seasonings you add for flavor – and the ingredients in the stuffing – can be very harmful.

Let’s explore why turkey prepared in certain ways for us humans can be risky for your dog to consume:

Skip the turkey skin. Turkey skin is very fatty and may cause digestive issues for some dogs. Too much fat, or a large helping of turkey skin, can cause the pancreas to become red and inflamed. We call this pancreatitis and it’s a very serious condition, needing immediate veterinary care.

Any seasonings or fats added to the skin, including marinades or brines, can also be toxic to your dog. Onions and garlic are toxic and can cause serious anemia that could lead to death. Sage, another common ingredient we add to our holiday turkey, is not toxic to your pup when offered in small amounts.

Dark turkey meat is fatty too. The high fat content in the dark meat of the leg and thigh could be harmful, especially if your dog is overweight or prone to digestive problems. Ground turkey meat may be a better alternative, as it uses meats from all parts of the turkey.

Skip the turkey bones. Cooked turkey bones, even larger ones, can splinter when chewed. This can lead to blockages in your dog’s intestines or –even worse – perforations of the throat or mouth. Raw turkey bones are fine as part of a dog’s raw food diet, but cooking them changes the bone composition, making them harmful.

If your dog gobbles down a bone accidentally, it’s probably going to be fine – it’s the chewing and splintering that causes problems. If you suspect your dog ate a cooked turkey bone, watch for these signs:

  • Mouth or tongue injuries
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Straining while pooping or constipation
  • Bloody stools (rectal bleeding requires immediate surgery)
  • Bloated or distended abdomen
  • Inability to get comfortable, or restlessness

Skip the raw turkey morsels. When dogs are eating a raw turkey diet, their meat needs to be prepared under strict guidelines for safety. Throwing raw turkey from your dinner preparations into the dog bowl is not a good idea, as there could be salmonella on the meat. Turkey meant for human consumption has been prepared with the assumption that the meat will be consumed after proper cooking. This kills any harmful bacteria that may be on the skin or the meat itself. In a raw dog food diet, manufacturers prepare the meat to be consumed raw.

Skip the deli and processed turkey products. Turkey bacon, turkey sausage, deli turkey, and turkey hot dogs can have too many additives and preservatives and/or a high salt content. Dogs have different digestive systems than we humans do, so processed foods work against their immune systems and cause havoc in their bodies. A small bite may not cause chaos, but regularly sharing your processed foods can upset your dog’s health.

Now that you know the benefits of turkey, as well as the precautions, it’s time for the fun stuff!

Pet Pro Tip: If you have a dog that is prone to ‘snacksidents’ – you should consider getting a dog insurance plan as soon as possible. It can help you afford the best care in the future by covering eligible vet bills for digestive illnesses, toxic ingestion, and more.

Snack Time!

Plain, cooked white meat is the safest, healthiest option for your dog. You can steam it, roast it, grill it, boil it, or bake it. Just don’t add any seasonings, salts, or sugars to the meat.

Turkey soup can warm your dog on cold winter days. Simmer some green beans, unsalted turkey or chicken broth, and healthy veggies like carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, or celery. Add in some cooked ground turkey or plain pieces of white turkey meat, along with some cooked sweet potatoes or rice. Your dog will be in heaven!

Here are some more tasty recipes:

Turkey is an excellent choice for training treats. You can also add it as a delicious kibble topper when your dog is a picky eater, or when trying a new food.

Remember the 90/10 rule of treats. 90% of your dog’s daily calories should come from their regular dog food, while the remaining 10% can come from treats. As always, check with your veterinarian before you offer your dog a new food just to make sure it suits your dog’s health needs.

The bottom line with turkey 

If you’ve ever wondered: “Can my dog eat turkey?” The bottom line is yes. Turkey is not toxic to your dog and offers a digestible, lean source of protein. Prepared alongside a healthy diet with no seasoning or skin, this meat is an excellent alternative to chicken or beef, and may be the answer to your dog’s food sensitivities as a regular protein in their daily diet.

Lynn Guthrie

Lynn Guthrie

Writer, Mom of a Fab Fur Fam of Five
Lynn is a writer and long-time Learning & Development Manager at a large PNW retailer. She's also mom to 3 dogs & 2 cats!
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