Traditionally, dogs and cats have eaten eggs straight from the nest with nary a worry about nutritional value, toxic effects, or whether they might choke on a shard from the shell. But domesticated cats and dogs do not have the same access to bird nests that they once did, so we don’t get to witness them consuming eggs safely. As we worry about our own health and what we put into our bodies, we also worry about what we are feeding to our pets.
So what about one of nature's "perfect foods," the egg? There is evidence to support eggshells as an excellent source of calcium and protein for your pet. For strong bones and teeth, crush the eggshells and sprinkle about a half teaspoon into your pet’s regular kibble. And although research does not point to eggshells as a source of salmonella poisoning in cats and dogs, if it is a concern, you can boil the shells first -- allowing them to dry thoroughly -- and then crush the shells in a coffee grinder, food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.
This crushing method also makes it easier to store the shell’s pieces in bulk, rather than perform the task daily, since there will be need to worry about the shell being damp and prone to mold. The crushed shell can then be stored in an airtight bowl or jar for the week.
Another simpler method is to store the shells in a baggy or bowl in your refrigerator until you are ready to crush them for use.
The egg is also a great source of protein; it helps build muscle, strengthen the hair, and repair tissue. Hardboiled is the most foolproof and straightforward method for feeding eggs to your pet, since there is no need for extra non-stick ingredients (i.e., butter, oil, or margarine for scrambling). The cooked egg can be cut into heart chunks, or diced and mixed into the usual kibble. The egg can even be given as is -- after it has cooled thoroughly.
Again, if you are at all concerned about your pet’s ability to handle a whole unbroken egg, you can tap the egg against a counter top, tapping the egg on all sides until the shell is cracked all over. Then your dog or cat will be able to bite right into the egg, shell and all.
Raw eggs, on the other hand, are not generally recommended for cats and dogs. While there have not been health scares involving raw eggs and transmission of any major illness to domesticated animals, it is still better to be safe. Raw eggs do not impart any significant health benefit, and may only cause problems -- issues of which are nullified by cooking the egg.
One such issue is the presence of the naturally occurring protein avidin in raw egg whites. Occasional consumption is not an issue, but excess avidin interferes with the functioning of biotin in the body. Biotin, more commonly known as vitamin H or B7, is essential for the growth of cells, metabolism of fat, and transference of carbon dioxide, amongst other functions. Even with cooked eggs, moderation is key. No more than one egg a day, unless your veterinarian has indicated otherwise.
Image: themonnie / via Flickr