Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

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It can be tempting to share a juicy slice of turkey with your meat-loving pup, especially around Thanksgiving. But can dogs eat turkey safely? Read on to learn why it's usually not in your dog's best interest to share your turkey meat and why dogs and turkey bones are a dangerous mix.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Meat?

A happy dog holding a soft toy
You may have noticed that turkey is a common ingredient in dog treats and dog food. Skinless, unseasoned white turkey meat that's been properly cooked is actually fine for dogs to consume in small amounts. Ground turkey, as long as it's plain and has no additives, is also perfectly healthy for dogs.

The problem with feeding turkey to dogs isn't the meat itself. According to the American Kennel Club, here's why you shouldn't share turkey with your pooch:

  • The fat in turkey skin may cause pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed and swollen. In addition to causing your dog discomfort and pain, it can also cause serious health complications.
  • The seasoning added to cooked turkey can irritate your dog's bowels and cause digestive issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Turkey is often seasoned with garlic and onions, both of which are toxic to dogs.
  • Deli meat, turkey hot dogs and other kinds of processed turkey meat contain high amounts of salt and preservatives that could be harmful to your dog's health and can upset their stomach. Only give your dog processed meat occasionally and in very small amounts — for example, you can use a small piece of turkey hot dog to hide a pill. It's unhealthy, and even dangerous, to feed your dog any type of deli meat on a regular basis, says Top Dog Tips.

Turkey Bones: Are They Bad for Dogs?

While there's no question that dogs love to chew and eat bones, doing so can actually be harmful to your pup, according to the AKC. Small poultry bones, including turkey and chicken bones, are especially dangerous. Gnawing on bones can cause:

  • Injury to the mouth and throat
  • Choking or throat obstruction
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Piercing of the stomach or intestinal lining
  • Constipation or painful bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding

Some of these injuries, like intestinal blockage, may require emergency surgery to correct.

My Dog Already Ate a Turkey Bone: What Should I Do?

Even with your best efforts to prevent it, there's a chance that at some point your dog will get hold of some forbidden turkey meat or a bone and gulp it down before you can stop them. If this happens, it's important not to panic. Don't try to snatch the food away from your pup, especially if they're prone to aggressive food behavior. If you suspect your dog may have eaten a bone, call your veterinarian for advice, suggests the AKC. They can talk you through how to reduce your dog's risk of injury.

Keep a close eye on your pet. Contact your vet right away if your dog is having difficulty or pain when attempting to defecate a few days after ingesting a bone as fragments may be causing (rectal) irritation. Other signs to seek veterinary care would include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation or straining
  • Bloody stool
  • Bloated or distended abdomen
  • Restlessness or difficulty getting comfortable

If you want your dog to enjoy the taste of turkey safely, without the risk of bones or unhealthy additives, give your pup a dog treat made with turkey. You'll make them just as happy, and you'll have peace of mind knowing their health isn't in danger.

Jean Marie Bauhaus