Americans love chicken nuggets. They ordered 2.3 billion servings of nuggets in restaurants in 2018, not to mention the chicken nuggets they cooked at home. With so many chicken nuggets available, the odds are very good that more than a few of them found their way to some happy dogs. That’s why we’re asking can dogs eat chicken nuggets? Or, should they eat them?
We can tell you everything you need to know about chicken nugget nutrition so keep reading.
Chicken Nugget Nutrition
Let’s start by saying that not everyone is a fan of chicken nuggets. The tasty, crispy fast food item has its detractors. This is based not just on the fact that many chicken nuggets are fried (some are baked), but also because many chicken nuggets use some non-muscle meat. The process to make some chicken nuggets is called deboning. One method for deboning can remove the softer parts of the chicken by forcing them through a mesh. The result is a meat paste which is shaped and then battered and cooked. As a result, the nugget may contain some soft parts that are not strictly speaking muscle. Not all chicken nuggets are made this way but this is a common practice. This probably doesn’t affect the taste of the nugget but it does alter the texture of the meat.
In terms of nutrition, chicken nuggets will vary slightly in calories and ingredients, depending on the restaurant. We looked at Tyson chicken nuggets for these figures.
5 chicken nuggets is considered a serving with this brand (90 grams). This serving contains 270 calories. It has 160 calories from fat. Total fat is 17 grams. No transfat. The cholesterol was 40 mg. Sodium was 470 mg. Total carbohydrates was 15 mg. Zero dietary fiber. Zero sugar. They had 14 grams of protein. They had zero vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron (they actually contain a little iron, according to another site). Wheat (in the flour) was listed as a possible allergen.
Here are the ingredients listed for this brand: Chicken, water, wheat flour, contains 2% or less of the following: brown sugar, corn starch, dried garlic, dried onion, dried yeast, extractives of paprika, natural flavor, oat fiber, salt, spices, wheat starch, white whole wheat flour, yellow corn flour. Breading set in vegetable oil.
According to the company, they don’t use any preservatives.
Granted, these nuggets are high in fat and sodium but they look good compared to some fast food chicken nuggets.
We also looked at McDonald’s chicken McNuggets for comparison. They say their chicken is made with all white meat and that they use no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. A 4-piece pack contains 170 calories. They have 10 grams of total fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein. No sugar, no dietary fiber, and no transfat. They have 25 mg of cholesterol. They contain 330 mg of sodium. They have no meaningful vitamins or minerals (with a small amount of iron, like the previous brand).
So, McNuggets seems very similar to the Tyson brand when you consider Tyson’s figures for 5 nuggets and McDonald’s figures for 4 nuggets.
Here are McDonald’s ingredients: Chicken McNuggets®
Ingredients: White Boneless Chicken, Water, Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Enriched Flour (bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Vegetable Starch (modified Corn, Wheat, Rice, Pea, Corn), Salt, Leavening (baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Lactate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Spices, Yeast Extract, Lemon Juice Solids, Dextrose, Natural Flavors.
Wheat is also listed as a potential allergen.
Neither of these chicken nuggets will thrill a nutritionist but they are tasty. As long as you don’t eat too many, too often, they can be a fun meal. Don’t eat chicken nuggets expecting health benefits, however.
Can You Give Your Dogs Chicken Nuggets?
There are some very extreme blogs and opinions online that tell you that dogs can’t, shouldn’t, should NEVER ever have a chicken nugget. My dogs think that’s sad, but they’re pretty spoiled. No, you shouldn’t give your dog chicken nuggets. They really aren’t a very healthy food for you or for your dog. However, your dog is not going to explode if he eats one or two nuggets occasionally.
The truth is that chicken nuggets, especially from fast food restaurants, are usually deep fried in vats oil. They are high in fat which your dog doesn’t need. They are also very high in sodium – another thing that your dog doesn’t need.
Depending on the brand, nuggets may also contain some ingredients which could be questionable for dogs, especially in the spices. Some nuggets may have preservatives.
Please note that wheat flour and wheat in general are not toxic to dogs. Most dogs can eat wheat products without any problem. Most of the dog cookies in the world are made using wheat flour and dogs never have a problem with them. The wheat flour that is used to coat chicken nuggets is not a reason to avoid them. A few dogs do have wheat allergies but unless you know that your dog is allergic to wheat you should not assume that wheat will kill him or other dogs.
If you buy chicken nuggets that are baked or you bake them at home from nuggets you purchase at the store, you can avoid most of the problems with high fat. This would be a good way for your dog to be able to enjoy chicken nuggets. They would still be high in sodium, however. Picking off the breading before you give the nuggets to your dog could help reduce the sodium content (but your dog would probably hate that).
What about Giving Your Dog Mcdonald’s Chicken Nuggets?
McDonald’s chicken McNuggets have similar nutritional values to the Tyson’s nuggets that you can buy in the store (see above). However, they do contain some ingredients that might bother some dogs. Along with the dreaded wheat, the McNuggets contain several forms of corn which might bother dogs with a corn allergy. They use soybean oil which can also be a problem for some dogs. “Spices” is non-specific and could be a problem, depending on which spices are used. And “natural flavors” is also vague. It generally means flavoring from the liquid used to cook the meat ingredient but it could be many things.
Your dog would probably be fine if he eats chicken McNuggets but if you are concerned about any of these ingredients you can choose a different kind of nugget. According to one reviewer, Chick-fil-A nuggets are the best.
How Many Chicken Nuggets Can You Give Your Dog?
Since chicken nuggets really aren’t a recommended food for your dog you should keep the number small. Very small. For small dogs just one nugget would be plenty. For a bigger dog, two nuggets should be enough.
Your dog will likely beg for more but you need to consider his health.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Chicken Nuggets?
Don’t make a habit of giving your dog chicken nuggets even if you go to the fast food drive-thru more often than you should. Once a week would be about as often as you should share a chicken nugget with your dog.
Dogs usually think they should have the same food we eat even if it’s not the healthiest food. That’s definitely true with chicken nuggets. Eating one or two chicken nuggets won’t do any long-term harm to your dog but giving them to your dog in large amounts or too often could be harmful. They are high in fat and sodium. You can let your dog have a chicken nugget occasionally but put his health first. Find healthier snack options for your dog.