Wondering can dogs eat turkey? Yes, they can. And it’s a common concern since this bird isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. In the U.S., turkey consumption has grown a lot over the past six decades. Americans each only ate about 6.2 pounds of turkey all year in 1960. By 2018, the average amount had grown to 16.1 pounds. This is due to the nation’s push for healthier dietary habits. Happily, turkey can be a healthy addition to your pup’s diet, too. But be sure to follow our guidelines. That way, your special pup can enjoy safe and smart turkey consumption.
What to Avoid
It’s safe to feed your pooch turkey meat. But you shouldn’t add seasonings, oils, and spices. Those extra ingredients can be hazardous to their health. For example, large amounts of garlic, onions, and herbs seasoned with these vegetables are toxic to dogs. If your pup consumes more than 0.5% of his body weight in garlic and/or onions, it can lead to anemia. For a small 15 lb dog, that’s only 1.3 ounces. A large 40 lb canine hits their maximum amount at 3.2 ounces of onions or garlic. A high-fat diet presents dangers too. Feeding dogs too much oil and butter has been associated with the development of pancreatitis. Even when it doesn’t lead to disease, fatty diets can cause gastronomic distress and discomfort for your dog.
Not Your Turkey
When preparing turkey, most people season it with many things that are bad for dogs. Since the skin absorbs most of these flavorings, always avoid giving that part of the bird to your pooch. Overall, it’s best to keep the turkey you cook for yourself away from your pup. And sharing Thanksgiving turkey table scraps is a bad idea. Be safe and give your fur baby their own canine-approved turkey meal.
Ban the Bones
Turkey bones are fragile and brittle, splintering easily. This is even more of a problem after being exposed to heat. When you feed them to your dog, you risk injury to their mouth, tongue, stomach, and intestines. Splintered bone fragments can cause severe damage, resulting in internal bleeding, and possibly, death. Choking, constipation, and internal blockages are other potential issues. For these reasons, you should never offer turkey bones to your pooch.
Skip the Junk Food
Due to its growing popularity, turkey is showing up in a lot of foods. But that doesn’t make those choices healthy. Deli meats, bacon, burgers, and hot dogs made from turkey may be better choices for your diet. But, they’re over-processed and full of preservatives, which makes them hard to digest. It’s best not to feed them to your beloved pooch.
White Meat is Best
Though turkey prepared for humans isn’t suitable for dogs, the right turkey meat can be a healthy part of their diets. Turkey is an excellent source of protein that’s easy for dogs to digest. It’s also packed with natural minerals, including potassium, zinc, iron, and phosphorous. These things can be great for your pup!
When feeding your dog turkey, white meat is their best bet. It’s a lean protein source, minimizing their fat intake. Lean ground turkey is also a smart choice. But be sure to check the label for skin, additives, and spices. You don’t want those. Cook plain ground turkey thoroughly and add a bit to their dry kibble for a nutritious treat.
Turkey in Dog Food
Turkey is a popular staple in dry kibble and wet dog food. Reputable manufacturers recognize its nutritional benefits and add this robust protein source to their recipes. Most companies add vegetables, fruits, and/or fiber to their turkey dog food products. Read the nutrition labels carefully to check for undesirable ingredients. With a bit of research, you can find all-natural, allergen-free products.
When shopping for a quality dog food that includes turkey, look for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) certification. It’s not a regulatory designation. But it sets standards that are important to your dog’s nutrition. When a dog food meets the AAFCO minimum requirements, there will be a “complete and balanced” claim on the label.
You should also check for the source of the turkey meat. Cage-free or free-range turkey raised in Canada or the United States are good choices. There are several grain-free, turkey-based dog foods for canines who have grain allergies or sensitivities. But beware of unwanted fillers. You can also find dog foods that include other proteins along with the turkey. The ingredients listed as first, second, and third are the primary ingredients.
What’s the Deal with Turkey Meal?
While searching for pre-packed dog food with turkey, you may have come across the term, turkey meal. That’s because meat meal is a common dog kibble ingredient. This is the result of rendering. During this process, the kitchen makes a meat stew with ground up turkey meat, muscle, and skin. It may or may not contain bones. They cook it until most of the moisture evaporates. The remaining meat pulp is then baked. This creates a concentrated protein powder, called meal. They then use the meal to make the dog food.
Meat Meal Pros and Cons
Meal has much more protein than the original meat. For example, before rendering, a whole turkey contains about 70% moisture, 18% protein, and 5% fat. After cooking away most of the water, the ratio changes to about 10% water, 50% to 65% protein, and 12% fat. With meal, your dog gets more protein from a very dense source. But that’s not the end of the story.
Meat meal is only as good as its source. To be nutritious, the original raw materials must be high-quality. Unfortunately, some manufacturers include waste products in their meal source. You don’t want your pup eating slaughterhouse waste — like hooves, beaks, and animal heads — in any form. To avoid these issues, stick with clearly identified animal sources.
Choose foods with labels that name the animal, such as “turkey meal”, “duck meal”, “chicken meal”, or “beef meal”. Avoid kibble with labels that include the words “by-product”, “meat meal”, “meat and bone meal”, or “animal meal”. Those are low-quality foods with suspicious ingredients.
Chicken vs. Turkey
The white meat in both chicken and turkey are hearty, healthy protein sources for your pooch. In a breast comparison, 1 ounce of turkey breast has 8 grams of protein. Chicken breasts offer 1 more gram per ounce. Vitamin and mineral content differences are negligible. So, in a nutritional match-up, either bird is a good choice for your pup. That said, your dog may prefer one over the over, in which case, go with their preferred choice. However, if you see signs of an allergic reaction with one or the other, make a change. Chicken allergies aren’t uncommon in dogs. In those cases, turkey is a smart alternative.
Turkey Dog Food Recipes for Healthy Eats
If you’re ready to introduce healthy homemade turkey meal options into your dog’s diet, these recipes are sure to please.
Turkey Biscuit Treats
- 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- 2 ½ cups quick cooking oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup turkey (or chicken) broth
- 1 ½ cups cooked turkey, shredded or chopped in a food processor
- Preheat a 350-degree oven.
- Grease and line a baking sheet.
- Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
- Blend the broth and the turkey meat to form a paste.
- Fold dry ingredients into the meat paste and knead to form a dough.
- Roll into small balls and flatten them on the baking sheet.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool completely before serving.
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 cup chopped baby spinach
- 1 carrot, shredded
- ½ a zucchini, shredded
- ¼ cup peas, canned or frozen
- ½ cup chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen
- Olive oil spray
- Spray a large stockpot or Dutch oven with olive oil over medium heat. Brown and crumble ground turkey over medium heat, about 3 to 5 minutes
- Stir in spinach, carrots, zucchini, peas and brown rice until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Let cool completely before serving to your furry companion.
Make Ahead Doggie Turkey Stew for the Slow Cooker
- 3 lbs of turkey breast, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 cup frozen green beans, chopped
- 1 cored & seeded apple, chopped
- 3 cups of water
- 1 cup of peas, frozen
- 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- Add the first 5 ingredients to your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or on high 4 to 5 hours. About 15 minutes before you turn off the slow cooker, add peas and parsley.
- Allow to cool completely before dividing into freezer bags or freezer-safe containers.
- Before serving, defrost the frozen baggies in the fridge overnight. The serving size will depend on the size and breed of your dog.
Turkey for the Win
The research shows that turkey is a great food option for your dog – with the cautions and guidelines we’ve included in this blog:
- Don’t share your turkey meal with your pup.
- Feed your fur baby white meat with no skin and no bones.
- Avoid herbs, oils, butter, garlic, and onion.
- Lean ground white turkey is fine for your doggy companion.
- Turkey bacon, hot dogs, burgers, and deli meat aren’t suitable for your pooch.
- Quality kibble or wet dog food with real turkey ingredients are fine.
Always pay close attention to your pup when you introduce new food into their diet. If you notice changes in their health, stop feeding them the new food and see a vet. With pet insurance, you’re assured of timely care for your beloved pooch whenever they need it. We provide lots of resources and information to help you choose the right pet insurance for you and your pup. Request a quote today.