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Thanksgiving, for most families, is all about the bird. Hours go into the roasting and basting, and once the feast is over, there are turkey sandwiches, turkey potpies, and turkey casseroles to make. In the midst of all of that leftover turkey, it is tempting to slip our dogs some meat, or even to make them up a plate of it as a special Thanksgiving treat.

But can dogs eat turkey? Is it good for them? Are there risks? Here is what you need to know about feeding turkey to dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

It depends on how the turkey is cooked. Turkey is not inherently toxic to dogs. It is an ingredient in many commercial dog foods and is rich in nutrients like protein, riboflavin, and phosphorous. When cooked plain, under the guidance of a veterinarian, turkey can be an essential part of a homemade dog food diet.

Chihuahua licking its lips looking at a place of food on the kitchen table.
© via Getty Images

Thanksgiving turkeys, however, are rarely cooked plain. We rub our birds with butter and oils and season them with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices. We stuff them full of onions, garlic, and more. To humans, this is delicious. For our dogs, these ingredients can be toxic and a recipe for unpleasant digestive upset or pancreatitis.

How to Feed Your Dog Turkey Safely

If you decide to feed your dog turkey this Thanksgiving, there are a few things you need to know to do it safely.

  1. Skip the skin. All of that fat and seasoning is dangerous for dogs. The fat content can cause pancreatitis, while the seasonings can irritate your dog’s stomach.
  2. Make sure you only feed your dog turkey meat. Onions are toxic to dogs, and garlic is potentially toxic in large quantities.
  3. Feed your dog only small quantities of turkey. Talk to your vet about adding food scraps into your dog’s diet before feeding them turkey, especially if your dog has a preexisting health condition, like diabetes.
  4. Make sure there are no bones in the meat you feed your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?

No. Poultry bones, especially cooked poultry ones, are brittle. This, combined with their small size, makes them very dangerous for dogs. Veterinarians caution against feeding dogs bones of any kind, including poultry bones, as they can cause the following problems:

  • Mouth and tongue injuries
  • Obstruction of the throat or intestinal tract
  • Choking
  • Possibly piercing stomach and intestine lining
  • Constipation
  • Rectal bleeding from sharp bone fragments
  • Blockages that require emergency surgery

If you want to give your dog a bone, try a large hardy nylon or rubber chew toy bone or another size-appropriate chew toy. Some of them are even flavored and help keep teeth clean; your dog will live to chew another day. If you really want to treat your dog and get into the holiday spirit, consider a dog advent calendar.

The Verdict

Yes, you can feed your dog turkey safely, as long as you follow the above guidelines. However, feeding table scraps to dogs on a regular basis can lead to obesity, which causes a host of problems, including diabetes, hypertension, joint stress, diarrhea, and hip dysplasia. If your dog has an upset stomach, consult your vet and consider an over-the-counter diarrhea treatment.

If you have any more questions, talk with your vet about how to feed turkey safely to your dog.

Related article: Can Dogs Eat Garlic?
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