When Thanksgiving finally comes around again, you and your entire family are drooling over the thought of that fat, juicy turkey that’s going to be the centerpiece of the table. From the tender white breast meat to the succulent thighs, there isn’t a piece of the turkey that isn’t dripping in deliciousness. While the family is diving in at the table, it’s guaranteed your dog is hovering around with big, hopeful eyes. Before you start sharing your big turkey dinner with your pup, you should keep a few things in mind.
Is Turkey Okay for Your Dog to Eat?
Turkey is relatively safe for your dog to eat if you take a few precautions. In regards to its health benefits, it does offer some nutrition for dogs. The dark meat is the most nutritious part of the bird because it contains more vitamins and minerals than the white meat. It also has more fat and calories, which is something to consider if your dog is overweight and/or sedentary. Both the white and dark meat are full of the vitamins B6, B12, choline, selenium, and zinc.
Parts of the Turkey That Are Dangerous
The meat is fine for your dog to eat, but the other parts of the turkey should be avoided. The bones are the most dangerous part. Dogs eating raw diets are supposed to have bones to round out their nutrition, but those bones are always fed raw. Your dog should never have cooked bones under any circumstances. When bones are uncooked, they’re still soft and relatively flexible, meaning your dog can crunch them up and swallow them without causing any harm. When bones are cooked, though, they become dry and brittle. Cooked bones will turn into shards when a dog bites into them. These shards can damage the esophagus as they’re swallowed or become lodged in the throat. They’re also incredibly dangerous to the stomach and intestines. If the piece of bone is sharp enough, it’s entirely possible that they will puncture the stomach or intestines, spilling the contents of the digestive tract into the abdomen. This will lead to a severe bacterial infection that can rapidly kill your dog.
If you’re guilty of sneaking pieces of the skin as you’re carving the turkey, do your dog a favor and keep it to yourself. The skin is incredibly fatty (part of why it tastes so good), and that fat is very dangerous to dogs. A dog’s pancreas isn’t designed to handle a lot of fat, so when it becomes overwhelmed with it, the organ becomes inflamed. This inflammation is known as pancreatitis. If your dog develops pancreatitis, they’ll have severe diarrhea, vomiting, a very painful abdomen, lethargy, and an unwillingness to move because of the pain. Pancreatitis is rarely fatal if you get them treated by a vet. They’ll need pain medication, IV fluids, antibiotics, and medications to stop the vomiting. Your vet will want to run bloodwork to check on the pancreas and see how it’s handling recovery. The only lasting effect is an increased risk of having another bout of pancreatitis and having to be on a lifelong diet.
Be Careful with the Turkey Carcass
Once you’ve cut most of the meat off the bones, you toss the rest in the garbage and go about your day. You have to realize how tempting the smell of a greasy, juicy turkey carcass is to a dog. Even if it’s tucked away in the trash, it’s a big enough temptation to even the most well-behaved dogs to dig it out and have a feast.
If you throw your turkey away, seal it into a bag and put it into your outside trash can that your dog doesn’t have access to. Don’t ever toss it into your inside trash can. Not only will all of that fat send your dog into a case of pancreatitis, all of those bones are going to cause a dangerous obstruction of the intestines or a deadly perforation of the stomach or intestines.
If the turkey has been in the trash for a few days, it’s developed a host of bacteria that can make your dog very sick. This is known as “garbage gut”, and it attacks the body in a few different ways. It can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, giving your poor dog explosive diarrhea and frequent bouts of vomiting. The bacteria also attacks the nervous system. It’s not uncommon for dogs to get muscle tremors, have seizures, or even go into a coma. Garbage gut absolutely requires hospitalization and constant care by your veterinarian. If it isn’t treated, it’s possible your dog won’t pull through.
Giving your dog a few bites of turkey is fine, but it isn’t the most ideal food for them. Don’t worry about feeding turkey as long as you aren’t giving them the fattiest parts of the bird or the bones. White meat and small amounts of the dark meat won’t make your dog sick, but if you notice any stomach upset or changes in their appetite or behavior, you should stop the snacks and stick to their regular diet.