For many families, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. More than enough hours go into the roasting and the basting, and after the feast has ended, there are turkey casseroles, turkey sandwiches, and a variety of other leftovers to be consumed over the next days. Slipping your dog a little turkey both on Thanksgiving Day and later on is rather tempting.
But can dogs really eat turkey and is it any good for them? Are there any risks involved? What about the bones? Here is all you have to know about this topic.
Are Dogs Allowed to Eat Turkey?
There’s no simple answer to this question, unfortunately, as it’s both a yes and a no. In itself, turkey is quite nutritious, and it contains a lot of protein, phosphorous, as well as riboflavin. Its nutritional value is actually higher than that of chicken, and it’s considered the healthier alternative since it comes with a lower percentage of fat overall.
When it is fed under the guidance of a veterinarian, and it is prepared plain, turkey can actually be healthy for your dog.
However, almost no Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t involve the use of quite a bit of seasoning, condiments, butter, and a variety of other additions such as salt and pepper, which normally shouldn’t go into your dog’s food. All of these can lead to your dog suffering from indigestion, and even worse, pancreatitis.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Turkey?
There’s an ongoing debate as to whether dogs, and pets in general, should be fed raw meat, but many veterinarians will agree that in many cases, it is just too unsafe. The last thing you might want to do is to endanger your pet’s health by accident, so we recommend cooking the turkey meat without any seasonings whatsoever if there are parts of the bird that you want to feed to your dog.
Keep in mind that we’re not referring to the bones, but to the actual meat. If, for any particular reason, you have some turkey in your freezer and you don’t plan on cooking it anytime soon, and it’s been there for several months, if you cook it thoroughly, it’s safe to feed to your dog.
Why is raw turkey dangerous? While we, humans, have the ability to cook it and therefore, kill all of the potentially pathogenic bacteria and parasites present in any piece of meat, the acid in a dog’s stomach might sometimes not be potent enough to handle the task.
Whole turkeys are sold without their internal organs, which means that they were removed either mechanically or by a person. The likelihood of the meat coming in contact with the bird’s feces if the intestines weren’t properly taken out of the body is extremely high. And as you might imagine, bird feces are rich in bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Enterococcus, and Staphylococcus aureus. All of these pose a real threat to your dog’s health.
Feeding Your Dog Turkey Safely
Before even thinking about including turkey in your dog’s diet, it might be a good idea to have a talk with your veterinarian so as to find out whether the pet doesn’t have any medical conditions that prevent him or her from eating leftovers. Liver and pancreas issues can be caused by nutrition, and both of these organs become less healthy and more prone to developing chronic conditions as your dog ages. Food scraps should never be fed to a dog suffering from diabetes.
Always give your dog the actual meat. In larger amounts, garlic is potentially toxic, and onion is extremely dangerous when fed to dogs. Naturally, you should avoid feeding your dog the bones at all cost, especially chicken and turkey ones as they can basically be turned into tiny splinters by your canine buddy’s effective teeth. Some of them can be as sharp as to pierce the mucous membrane of the gut and that’s how the dog can end up with a severe case of peritonitis.
Avoid feeding your pet the skin, too, because it is extremely fat and greasy and can cause indigestion.
Why are Turkey Bones Bad?
We’ve already mentioned that cooked bones can splinter and puncture the digestive tract, but that’s not the only problem they cause. They can also be at the root of tongue injuries and a bloody mouth, and they can become stuck around your dog’s lower jaw, and only a veterinarian can remove them.
On top of everything, they can lead to constipation. In the event that the bone fragments haven’t pierced your dog’s stomach or intestines and as a result, there is no bacterial infection that needs to be treated, as your dog passes them, there could be pain and bleeding from the rectum.
What Can You Do If Your Dog Did Eat Turkey Bones?
It’s true that many dogs are equipped with a natural ability to be able to digest many bone fragments, but that doesn’t mean that you should start feeding your canine companion turkey bones following the dinner.
Many dog parents will make the mistake of panicking once they realize that their dog ate some bones. There are several things that you can do to make sure that your dog remains healthy if this has occurred. Don’t try to induce vomiting because you risk causing a throat injury or choking hazard when the pet expels the bones.
Start by checking for throat and choking issues. If your furry friend is drinking a lot of water, gagging, retching, or pacing anxiously, you need to call your vet right away.
Even if none of these symptoms are noticeable, you have to monitor your pet as closely as possible for the first three days after he or she has ingested the bones. During this time, you ought to feed the animal a diet composed of soft foods. Some vets recommend feeding your dog a lot of soft bread, and that’s because it’s quite likely that the bones will end up encased in the bread inside your dog’s digestive tract, thereby making it impossible for them to pierce through the stomach or gut as they won’t come in direct contact with it.
Because of the threat that the bone fragments pose to your dog’s health and their ability to go through the intestinal wall, you should avoid rough play, strenuous exercise, as well as excessive jumping over the first 72 hours after your dog has ingested eaten the bones.
Keeping your Pooch Safe
In many cases, dogs get to ingest turkey bones because they have access to the kitchen trash can. Just because your canine companion has never manifested an interest in taking anything out of the trash can, that doesn’t mean that the animal might not attempt it if you haven’t fed him or her any scraps.
Many families get their turkey roast to cool down by leaving it on the counter. If you do this, make sure that your dog is nowhere around, especially if your pet is known to steal scraps from the table or counters. Either move the bird so that it is out of your dog’s reach or take your dog out of the kitchen and close the door.
If you have a friendly dog who likes to beg for scraps, you have to instruct your family and friends before the Thanksgiving dinner so that you can know for sure that no one will feed him any bones.
By the way, turkey bones are just as dangerous both raw and cooked. Even if some might argue that they are softer when cooked, the truth is that bird bones are dangerous in general, and that’s because they turn into tiny sharp bone fragments.
A Note about Commercial Turkey Dog Food
Turkey can be found in many commercial dry and canned food varieties made for your canine companion, but many times, the ingredients used are lower quality and usually consist of other parts of the bird instead of the actual meat.
Whenever you see ‘animal by-product meal’ or ‘meat meal’ written on the label of the dog food you buy regularly, you should ask yourself what else is in there.
Unless you know for a fact that the food is made using excellent ingredients such as real meat (and even organs), the likelihood of it coming from waste materials ranging from hooves to animal heads is very high. Needless to say, these have almost no nutritional value, and even though the food might be infused with all sorts of aromas that might make it hard for your dog to say no to it, your major concern should be your pet’s health.
In the end, turkey is both safe and unsafe to feed to your dog.
Bones are always dangerous and should be avoided at all cost. Raw meat, whether it comes from a turkey or any other animal, can be risky because it might have been exposed to feces, bone marrow, and blood, and all of these can contain bacteria and other germs. Even the bird’s skin should be avoided because it is too fat and can cause indigestion depending on the dog’s health state.
Cooked turkey meat is safe but without any seasonings and condiments.