It’s Thanksgiving…so…can dogs eat Turkey?

November 22, 2022
can dogs eat turkey

Learn the health benefits of feeding turkey to dogs.

You’re sitting around the dinner table exchanging words of thanks with your loved ones, when all of a sudden you see him.

Fido. Just innocently looking up at you. “Wow,” you think. “I wonder if he’s thankful for me…” Then, you realize it: he’s looking up at the steaming turkey sitting on your plate.

You get it, of course. After all, turkey is delicious to us humans: imagine what it must taste like to him. So, you think about tearing off a hunk and giving it to him. However, as you’re about to do it, a thought crosses your mind: is turkey even good for dogs?

Well, we’re about to cover that question, as well as what health benefits turkey has for dogs, in this short blog below!

Quick facts about whether dogs can eat turkey:

  • Turkey should only be given to dogs without any skin or seasonings on it
  • Turkey meat contains a number of important minerals and nutrients for dogs, including B-complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and more
  • You should never under any circumstance give your dog turkey bones, as turkey bones can splinter and cut up and even block your dog’s intestines

Can dogs eat turkey?

can dogs have turkey

Skinless, unseasoned turkey meat is the best way to prepare it for your dog.

Dogs can eat turkey, but only if it’s skinless, unseasoned turkey meat. We know, we can’t believe it either, but this is how you have to prepare it if you want to keep your dog safe.

Let’s start by talking about why you should only feed your dog skinless turkey. Turkey skin is quite fatty which means eating a lot of it can strain your dog’s pancreas. Eating too much turkey skin can even cause inflammation and swelling of their pancreas, leading to a condition known as pancreatitis.

Additionally, most Thanksgiving turkeys are cooked with loads of salt and spices, and are usually stuffed with onions and garlic. You know, the stuff that makes them worth eating. Unfortunately, all of these ingredients can cause digestive issues if your pooch eats too much of them. In fact, onions and garlic are toxic to dogs and can cause damage to the structure of their red blood cells if ingested in large quantities.

So, the short answer to the question of “Can dogs eat turkey meat safely?” is yes, BUT only if it’s prepared in the most boring way possible.

Can dogs eat deli turkey or smoked turkey?

is turkey good for dogs

Do not feed deli or smoked turkey to your dog!

Dogs should never eat deli turkey or smoked turkey. There are a few reasons why smoked turkey and deli turkey meat are not safe for dogs to eat.

First, turkey lunch meat and smoked turkey are packed full of sodium and other seasonings that, while delicious, are harmful to dogs. In fact, eating too much salt can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as sodium ion poisoning in dogs. Additionally, processed turkey typically contains fillers and artificial flavors which can be detrimental to dogs’ health.

Then there is the fact that the smoke used to create smoke turkey can irritate your dog’s intestinal tracts. Finally, we must remember that eating smoked meats in general can put your dog at greater risk for colon cancer.

For real: don’t take unnecessary risks. Just play it safe and feed your dog the bland, skinless version of turkey.

Is white or dark turkey meat better for dogs?

Generally speaking, white turkey meat is going to better for dogs to eat than dark turkey meat. This is because dark turkey meat cuts – like legs and thighs – have more fat than white turkey meat. Sure, we might think the added fat helps make dark turkey meat delicious and juicy, but it poses a risk for dogs since their bodies can’t process large quantities of fat very well. Additionally, dark meat tends to have a higher caloric density than white meat, making it less than ideal for dogs who are overweight.

That being said, we’ve never heard of a dog going to the vet over one little nibble of skinless, unseasoned dark meat…

What are the health benefits of turkey for dogs?

is turkey bad for dogs

Turkey meat is low in fat and has a number of key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

When prepared properly, skinless, unseasoned turkey breast can safely be used to provide certain key nutrients to dogs. Not only is turkey meat generally low in fat, but it also has a high concentration of a number of key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.


Turkey meat is rich in certain B-vitamins which help convert carbs into glucose to provide energy to dogs’ bodies. Turkey meat in particular has high concentrations of Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12. Vitamin B3 help provide energy to the body, but it also helps maintain healthy nerves and skin. Likewise, Vitamin B6 helps maintain healthy skin while also promoting bladder function and good blood flow. Meanwhile, Vitamin B12 facilitates a healthy nervous system and maintains hormone levels for pregnant dogs.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Remarkably, turkey meat contains a considerable concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids like Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Each of these compounds work in cell membranes to catalyze the creations of new compounds that regulate blood clotting and fight inflammation. This powerful process has been found to help dogs fight the symptoms of arthritis as well as boost the function of dogs’ hearts. It’s also been found that Omega-3 fatty acids play a positive role in the development of puppies’ brains.


Like most poultry, turkey is a great source of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral for dogs’ health because of its central role in providing energy throughout the body. Magnesium achieves this by promoting the absorption of essential minerals, as well as enabling the utilization of vitamins B, C, and E. In fact, magnesium is so important for dogs that magnesium deficiency can turn fatal if not resolved.


Turkey is abundant in Zinc, and we’re grateful for that. Zinc is involved with a number of functions in the body, and as such is essential for dogs to stay healthy. It helps stabilize cell membranes which prevents certain pathogens or viruses from invading cells. In fact, it has been repeatedly shown that low levels correlate with low immune responses. Zinc’s ability to stabilize cell membranes also makes it a natural antioxidant by protecting against free radicals. Additionally, it has been found to reduce the number of cytokines produced by the body and lower inflammation. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is not uncommon, and can lead to problems such as skin infections and intestinal discomfort.


Phosphorus is another essential nutrient for dogs that is found in turkey meat. Dogs’ bodies use minerals like phosphorus and calcium to provide the foundation of bones and teeth. In addition, phosphorus is key for promoting muscle contractions, which allow your dog to walk, run, and do all the fun stuff they like. Phosphorus also mixes with other minerals to generate compounds which regulate certain biological activities. Phosphorus compounds also play a vital role in forming and maintain your dog’s RNA and DNA.

Should you give your dog turkey bones?

can dogs eat turkey bones

Use your turkey bones to cook up a homemade bone broth.

Do not give your dog turkey bones. We know it’s tempting – after all, what dog doesn’t love to gnaw on a bone? But, the fact of the matter is that cooked poultry bones carry too many risks to your pet’s wellbeing. It’s a known fact that cooked turkey bones will crack and splinter, especially after being chewed on. Not only can this cut your dog’s mouth, but it can also cause perforate or block your dog’s intestines if swallowed. This can be life-threatening, so don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has swallowed a piece of a turkey bone.

Instead of rolling the dice on feeding a turkey bone to your dog, use those bones to cook up a quick bone broth. Then, pour a bit of this warm broth on your dog’s kibble. That way, they get all of the turkey goodness without any of the hassle of going to an emergency vet.

How much turkey should you feed your dog

First, let’s remind ourselves of the 10% rule: any treat – even healthy ones – should only constitute 10% of their daily calories. That means that dogs should only ever have a few pieces of turkey in any given day. That being said, below are some guidelines for how to know how much turkey to serve different-sized dogs.

Note: A 1-inch cube of turkey meat constitutes on piece:

  • Dogs that weigh 2-20 pounds = half a piece of turkey
  • Dogs that weigh 21 – 30 pounds = 1-2 pieces of turkey
  • Dogs that weigh 31 – 50 pounds = 3-4 pieces of turkey
  • Dogs that weigh 51 – 90 pounds = 5-6 of turkey pieces
  • Dogs that weigh 91+ pounds = Up to 10 turkey pieces

Of course, we know that you would never dream of trying to give your dog more tasty treats than they need, right? After all, you’re trying to keep your dog happy and healthy – hence why you’re here! That’s why we hope you’ll continue to poke around and find ways to educate yourself about how to care for your four-legged friends by reading other articles on our blog.





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