Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

PetMD Editorial
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PetMD Editorial
Published: October 25, 2022

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NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be okay for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.

You may be wondering if you can share some turkey from your sandwich or delicious turkey dinner with your canine. Or what about a slice of turkey lunch meat?

Turkey in and of itself is fine for dogs and quite healthy, but there are some stipulations.

Here’s some info on whether you should feed your dog turkey—whether it’s a turkey leg, breast meat, jerky, or ground turkey—plus potential benefits and hazards to look out for. 

Is Turkey Bad for Dogs?

Turkey isn’t bad for dogs when prepared and served correctly. It’s a lean, healthy animal protein that’s often a main ingredient in dog food recipes, and it can be given to your dog as a treat.

However, we tend to add all sorts of ingredients, seasonings, preservatives, and other additives to turkey that makes it unhealthy and sometimes unsafe for dogs.

If you’d like to feed a little turkey to your pup, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid the fatty parts

  • Cook the meat fully

  • Don’t add extra ingredients

  • Always remove all the bones

Avoid the Fatty Parts of Turkey

Giving your dog pieces of fat or skin is very unhealthy for dogs because of the higher fat content. This could cause an upset stomach and other digestive issues. Keep in mind that puppies have much more sensitive stomachs than adult dogs. 

Also, giving a dog fatty foods on a regular basis over time can lead to health problems like obesity, arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, and heart disease. 

Serve Fully Cooked Turkey

Although some people might think that feeding a raw turkey neck to a dog is fine, raw turkey can have dangerous bacteria. It’s also a choking hazard. Make sure any turkey you feed your dog is fully cooked. 

Skip the Seasonings and Added Ingredients

Only completely plain, cooked turkey is okay to give to your dog as a treat. Added ingredients and seasonings can not only be unhealthy for dogs, but they can be toxic, like garlic and onion. Even butter and salt can cause problems.

Remove All Bones

Any bones left in could accidentally be swallowed. This would create a choking hazard and potential intestinal blockage. Cooked bones are even more dangerous than raw bones because they will easily splinter into shards. 

If your dog has swallowed a piece of a bone, contact your veterinarian right away and take them to the vet clinic. 

Does Turkey Make Dogs Sleepy?

You may have heard the myth about turkey making humans—or dogs—sleepy. But this isn’t the case. Although there is a nutrient in turkey called tryptophan that aids in good sleep and a good mood, turkey contains such a small amount that you would never eat enough in one sitting—or even one day—for it to influence your energy level. And the same goes for your pup. 

Is Turkey Good for Dogs?

Yes, when cooked and prepared properly—and given in very small portions—turkey can be a healthy, occasional treat for dogs. Make sure it is fully cooked; has no skin, bones, or fat; and is not cooked with any other ingredients or seasonings. Here are some nutrients found in turkey:

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B12

  • Niacin

  • Protein

  • Zinc

  • Selenium

  • Sodium

  • Phosphorus

  • Choline

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

Dark Meat vs. White Meat

There is a difference in nutrition between dark meat and white meat. The dark meat in turkey legs and thighs and is much higher in fat and calories. The white meat in turkey breast is a little higher in protein. 

Turkey skin is high in fat and calories, so any piece with skin on it is much less healthy. 

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Lunch Meat or Smoked Turkey?

No and no. Turkey lunch meat is packed with sodium and other seasonings that can cause gastrointestinal issues. 

The same goes for smoked turkey. Smoked meats in general contain a high amount of sodium, as well as other seasonings that could be toxic to your dog. 

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Turkey?

In the same way that humans can have food allergies, so can dogs. But it typically develops over time from repeated exposure to a particular food.

Since a turkey allergy in dogs is quite rare, most dogs won’t have any adverse reactions to eating it. If you do suspect a food allergy to turkey, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

Talk to your vet about your concern for food allergies to discuss next steps. 

Can Dogs Have Turkey Bacon or Turkey Sausage?

No, dogs shouldn’t eat turkey bacon or turkey sausage. They usually contain large amounts of sodium, preservatives, and other added ingredients that could be harmful to your dog. Added ingredients like garlic and onion are toxic to dogs. 

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Burgers?

The same goes for turkey burgers. You should not feed these to your dog because of the added sodium, preservatives, and other ingredients that are unhealthy, even potentially toxic. 

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Jerky?

Dogs shouldn’t eat turkey jerky for the same reasons. Jerky is known for its high amounts of sodium and will likely have other preservatives and ingredients that are unhealthy for dogs to eat. It is also a choking hazard.

How Much Turkey Can Dogs Eat?

Always check with your veterinarian before adding new foods and snacks to your dog’s diet, especially if they struggle with obesity, diabetes, or any other diseases. Below is a general guideline for feeding fully cooked, white turkey meat to your dog in small portions, without any skin or bones. 

Any treat for a dog—even healthy ones—should only make up 10% of their daily diet, while the other 90% should come from a well-balanced dog food diet

Each “piece” listed below refers to a 1-inch cube of turkey meat:

  • Small dog (21-30 lbs.) = 1-2 pieces of turkey (Examples: Basenjis, Beagles, Miniature Australian Shepherds)

  • Extra-large dog (91+ lbs.) = handful of turkey pieces (Examples: Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees)

If you’re concerned that your dog has eaten too much turkey, contact your veterinarian. Too much turkey can cause problems such as pancreatitis, which is a serious condition. Watch out for the signs of pancreatitis below:

How to Safely Feed Your Dog Turkey

The best way to feed turkey to your dog is in small portions as listed above. You can feed it to your dog as a treat or as a food topper in their bowl. Just be sure to use the following guidelines:

  • White meat only

  • No skin

  • No bones

  • Fully cooked

  • No added seasonings or other ingredients

  • No lunch meat, jerky, smoked turkey, turkey burgers, turkey sausage, or turkey bacon


Featured image: iStock.com/adogslifephoto

References

1. Llera Ryan, Barnette Catherine, Ward, Ernest. VCA Animal Hospitals. “Food Allergies in Dogs.” https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/food-allergies-in-dogs

2. Veterinary Emergency Group. “Can Dogs Eat Turkey?” 2021. https://veterinaryemergencygroup.com/blog/can-dogs-eat-turkey

3. Animal Health Foundation. “Pancreatitis in Dogs.” 2020. https://www.animalhealthfoundation.org/blog/2020/02/pancreatitis-in-dogs


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