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The Incredible, Edible Egg: Nutritional or Deadly for Pets?

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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

 

Comments  8

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  • Why need to limit eggs?
    07/05/2014 02:35am

    Hi, I'm surprised you don't explain why cooked or uncooked eggs should be given in moderation, just one a day - I don't know whether you mean for all size dogs either, surely a large dog could have more egg than a tiny dog?

    In fact I believe from research eggs are a perfect meal containing all essential amino acids, vitamins etc (some consider them the perfect natural multivitamin) and the protein in eggs has the highest biological value compared to other proteins. Even humans were told to avoid eggs for years until recently due to incorrect myths about their cholesterol etc (plenty of studies out there debunking the cholesterol myth yet people still refer to dangers of cholesterol in eggs) so now eggs have been reinstated as the healthy nutritious food they are and people aren't warned to limit their intake. So could you please explain your recommendation you need to limit eggs when feeding to dogs?

    The only exceptions I can think of are kidney disease as egg yolk is high in phosphorous, and pancreatitis/obesity as yolks are high in fat, and an allergy. If you or any other readers have other reasons not to feed eggs I’d welcome the information as I feed a lot of eggs to my dogs and want to know if they develop any other conditions whether or not eggs would still be good for them.

    You only need to cook egg whites to destroy avidin if eating them without the yolk, as the yolk has more than enough biotin to outweigh the biotin reducing avidin in egg whites: ie you can eat a whole raw egg without fearing avidin’s affect. It would be helpful if you could clarify that as the way the article reads it’s not clear whether you’re saying consumption of raw eggs in their entirety are dangerous due to avidin content, or just raw egg whites, and because you immediately refer to ‘even with cooked eggs moderation is the key’ again it sounds as though avidin is a danger even if egg is cooked - but when cooked egg’s avidin is mostly destroyed (some say totally, others say mostly).

    IMHO and from research done there is nothing harmful about raw eggs - the risk of getting salmonella poisoning from a raw egg is ridiculously low for humans, and healthy dogs are well able to handle bacteria (not sick immune compromised dogs though). But in fact cooking (I poach them so it’s less heat which can destroy antioxidants etc) makes egg protein more digestible/bioavailable (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/10/1716.full) so I prefer cooked, whereas I give my dogs their meat and offal raw. Thanks for your help.

  • Agreed - why limit eggs?
    07/26/2014 04:38am

    Can somebody please answer the question asked below about limiting the eggs? I can not see good reasons to limit them either. Thank you. :)

  • 07/29/2014 04:52am

    Thanks for your support! I'll email and ask if someone can provide a response - don't want people to limit eggs unless the author can provide a valid reason!

  • 09/30/2014 12:16am

    Hello lisaharris, Im johnny ,I give my two aussi eggs every day an they love it (three each) . I haven't noticed any change in their poop or any sings of sickness , they play hard run all ways as usual. I scramble the eggs for them no salt or pepper an very little smart balance for more flavor.

  • 4 months but no reponse
    09/09/2014 02:54am

    I was hoping after 4 months and continuous emails (none of which have even been acknowledged) someone at petmd would have made a comment here.

    Petmd: you should check your email address as after so many emails there is obviously something very wrong with your email account - or perhaps staff don't bother acknowledging emails, perhaps the writer thinks they're correct so doesn't feel a need to respond - who knows because I haven't got a response! First time I've ever tried to contact petmd but won't be bothering again as it's been a big waste of my time! Very disappointed as I believe some advice in this article is incorrect and petmd is doing a disservice to the owners and pets you claim to care about by not responding and either validating the claims made or changing the article.

    I live in Australia and can't ring you or I'd be straight on the phone. The only reason I'll continue to (probably) waste my time sending you emails is because I don't want owners and their animals to be disadvantaged by what I think is incorrect advice in this article.

  • 09/09/2014 03:06am

    4 months should read 2 months sorry!

  • 09/10/2014 11:26am

    Hi MH - Sorry for missing your e-mail. We take our information from different sources; from veterinarians who work with us or write for us, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and from the leading veterinary organizations. In this case we took advice from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on taking precautions because of the potential for salmonella in raw eggs (Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets), and from our veterinary sources who allow that not all dogs are able to consume several eggs each day and still maintain ideal health.

    We prefer to keep our health advice on the conservative side to keep risk to a minimum, as in this case with our recommendation to limit egg consumption. But as with all of our information, we advise pet owners to consult their pets' doctors on whether feeding several eggs each day is a practical nutritional choice. We also encourage our community to expand their knowledge and information sources by researching topics of interest offsite when necessary. We do appreciate when our readers return to share what they have learned and to pose questions to the community. Thank you for sticking with us and for engaging with us. We hope you'll keep coming back :)

  • 09/10/2014 11:27am

    Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets - AVMA:

    https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Raw-or-Undercooked-Animal-Source-Protein-in-Cat-and-Dog-Diets.aspx


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