Dog looking wide-eyed at a turkey on the counter

Can Dogs Eat Turkey? Yes, But…

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Turkey is one of the most divinely delectable meats around, dotting dinner tables across the United States during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the rest of the culinary year. That means that it’s only natural to want to include your favorite furry friend in the turkey bacchanal. But there is a question you should ask before you set them on a plate at the dinner table: can dogs eat turkey?

Don’t feel bad if it makes you feel anxious or uncertain when gazing back and forth between your favorite pooch and a succulent turkey leg. It is a fair question that needs answering—and in this article, that’s what we’re going to do.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

Yes, but you should not feed your dog turkey with typical (human) seasoning.

As far as turkey and dogs go, things get a little complicated. The simple answer is that dogs can eat turkey, but not in the way that humans are most familiar with.

Unlike foods like chocolate, turkey is not toxic to dogs. It is a healthy addition to many dogs’ diets and is a key ingredient in many dog foods.

However, it would be best if you did not start carving off a slice of your Thanksgiving fowl for your furry friend. Dogs can experience severe digestive distress and even conditions like pancreatitis if they eat foods like garlic, butter, and onions, which we use to make turkey so delicious. The Shakespearean tragedy of dogs and turkey is that what makes turkey delicious on Thanksgiving tables makes it an unsafe option when it goes in a kibble bowl.

In addition, you should avoid giving your dog turkey bones. Unlike pig bones and cow bones, which are thick, turkey bones (like the bones of other poultry) aren’t very strong. When dogs chew on them, the bones can splinter into sharp fragments, which can lacerate their mouths and internal organs or pose a considerable choking hazard.

Are There Any Safety Concerns Feeding Turkey to My Dog?

As the issues above suggest, there are some concerns about giving your dog some turkey. First, a dog can get serious health issues from eating seasoned turkey, spices, fats, and other ingredients that disagree with a dog’s system. These problems might be as mild as an upset stomach or as severe as pancreatitis, gastrointestinal irritation, and red blood cell damage.

How Much Turkey Can I Give My Dog?

If you feel the irresistible impulse to give your dog some turkey, there are a few ways to do so safely. First, give your dog a minimal amount of turkey, and even less if your dog has preexisting dietary health conditions. Trim off all the skin and fat before providing them with a delicious slice of this holiday-favorite fowl.

Tips from Our Vets

The following is a list of tips on how to think about what human foods are (and may not be) safe for your dog from Dr. Jennifer Coates’ article on Foods Dogs Can and Cannot Eat.

There are some human foods that dogs can eat safely, as well as some human foods dogs can’t eat.

If you have a dog, you might be used to seeing adorable puppy eyes begging for a bite of, well, anything that you happen to be eating.

While it’s natural to want to share human food with your furry pal, many of the foods we eat are toxic to dogs. Some reasons foods may be harmful to your pup include:

  • Foods that are a problem due to our physiological differences (foods we can handle that a dog’s stomach can’t)
  • Other foods aren’t toxic, but are still potentially dangerous for dogs because they are hard to digest
  • Another category of foods that are a problem for dogs are foods that may contain high levels of fat

Some tips and words of caution if you are feeding your pet human foods:

  • Always keep in mind that new foods of any kind, including switching to a different dog food, can cause stomach upset.
  • When you find a human food you’d like to share with your pup, go slowly. Give small amounts at first and watch for any problems like vomiting or diarrhea before giving more.
  • Remember that treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s diet. So all of the foods that are safe for your dog should be given in moderation to avoid weight gain and nutrient excesses and deficiencies.

What To Do if Your Dog Eats Something He Shouldn’t

Now that you know what foods are safe for dogs, it’s a good idea to know what to do if your pup eats food that’s toxic to dogs.

If your dog does end up eating something he shouldn’t, try not to panic. You have a few options for getting the help your dog needs:

  • The first is to call your dog’s veterinarian, who can advise you to either come into the office or to watch for signs of poisoning, obstruction, or other potential problems.
  • If it’s after hours, you can try calling an emergency veterinarian.
  • Another option is to call a pet poison control line. Be aware that there is a fee to use these services. Two that we can recommend are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

In some cases, you might be told to induce vomiting in your dog. It is helpful to keep hydrogen peroxide on hand in case you need to do this.

Do not induce vomiting unless your veterinarian or someone from one of the pet poison control hotlines advises you to do so, however, because in some cases, vomiting can make the situation worse. [efn_note]Is it ever safe to induce vomiting? ASPCA.org. November 19, 2019. Accessed April 28, 2021.[/efn_note]

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while turkey meat is a scrumptious meal that makes a good name for poultry everywhere, that doesn’t mean you should send some along to your dog. Seasoned turkey is very dangerous for dogs and should be given only in moderation, if at all.

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.