In advance of Thanksgiving

I’m starting to see questions pop up here and there, along the lines of “Can I give my dog turkey part X?” As someone who feeds a lot of turkey, I’ll give you my rundown.

Turkey Necks Not many people use these for anything, so this is one of the more common questions. Yes, your dog can eat it, as long as you don’t cook it. I cut them into 6″ pieces for Silas, who weighs about 30 pounds. If you have a large dog, leave it whole. If you have a small dog and an enormous turkey, it may be more of a chewing object than an eating one. As with any raw bones, if you have a dog who is prone to gulping his meals down in one bite, you’ll be better off skipping this one. Also remember that your dog may not want to eat the turkey neck. Not every dog is just itching for a chance to eat raw food. As with any object that requires chewing, exercise caution and supervise. For most dogs, a turkey neck is a whole meal, so adjust your dog’s rations accordingly. I really recommend that you do more research before you just toss it to the dog.

Giblets: Absolutely! Hearts and livers are chock-full of nutrients. You can even cook these, if the whole raw turkey thing wigs you out. A few minutes in boiling water will do the trick. Please note that too much liver at one time can upset your dog’s stomach, so (again) those of you with small dogs and big turkeys should probably not give the whole thing in one meal.

Other bony turkey parts will probably have been cooked, which makes then a DEFINITE NO. Cooked bones of any kind are not good for your dog, and turkey bones are especially dangerous. Like all birds, turkeys have relatively thin, hollow bones in their legs and wings. This makes them prone to splintering and they are very sharp when they do so. Because of this, they can cause your dog serious injuries. NO NO NO NO NO. Can I say that again? It makes me feel better. DON’T DO IT.

Cooked turkey meat: Why not? As long as it’s removed from the bone and not overly seasoned, cooked plain turkey is very low risk.

On the other hand, Turkey skin or fat can cause anything from mild digestive distress to pancreatitis. A bite or two probably won’t hurt a healthy dog of average size, but weigh your risk. Also remember that cooked turkey skin will contain the bulk of whatever seasonings you put on the turkey. Most of those are definitely not good for your dog.

Gravy is not healthy for your dog, just like it really isn’t healthy for you. Gravy is substantially composed of fat and salt, neither of which is easy for your dog to digest. It also probably contains flour and/or cornstarch, which are very common allergens for dogs.

Remember that little bites here and there add up. Even the healthiest foods, eaten in too large of a quantity, are bad for dogs, and a lot of dogs don’t really understand “fullness.” Be mindful of whatever “little bits” you hand your dog. Post-holiday digestive distress is extremely common for dogs, either because they find ways to steal food they shouldn’t be eating or because we flat-out overfeed them.

Above all, if you’re a guest at someone else’s party, don’t feed the dog anything. Not even if it’s “perfectly safe” for the dog to eat. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs. Some are allergic to turkey. Some have extremely restricted diets for very good reason. Some just took ages to train away from hounding guests for food, and now you’re ruining it.

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5 thoughts on “In advance of Thanksgiving

  1. A friend gave me a plucked guinea fowl. Her dog killed it and she didn’t want to encourage his hunting behavior so she gave it to me. It’s in my freezer now.

    I’ve never fed Honey a raw bird before (although she swallowed a pigeon whole when she was a puppy). I guess I’ll try to cut a little of it up for her and see how it goes.

    But having paid thousands of dollars for surgery to remove a squeaky from her intestines, I’m kinda nervous about feeding her bones.

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    1. As long as she’s eating a regular dog food there’s not a reason you *have* to feed the bones. There’s enough calcium in her regular food to offset the odd diet addition. If you worry about it, you can feed her a little bit of eggshell.

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