Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

sliced deli turkey meat on a table

When you think of Thanksgiving, odds are you think of two things: family and turkey. Well, maybe three, if you are a football fan. Mostly, we think of Thanksgiving as a day of feasting, and that typically includes a large group of our loved ones and a delicious meal full of turkey and delicious sides. And for many dog owners, their pup is a part of that feast. During and after the Thanksgiving feast, there may be so much turkey around that you are wondering what to do with it all. When your dog comes sitting at your feet, hoping for a little bit of that delicious-smelling meat, you may think to yourself – can dogs eat turkey?

Sharing food with our dogs is a common occurrence in many households, especially around holidays that are based on delicious meals, such as Thanksgiving. When you are offering your dog some table scraps or leftovers, it’s essential that you know which foods are and aren’t safe for your dog. While turkey is a common dog food ingredient, feeding your dog homemade turkey differs from feeding them turkey-based dog food.

So, can dogs eat turkey? How much turkey can dogs eat? Is turkey good for them? We’ll go over everything you need to know when it comes to feeding your dog turkey, how to go about doing so, and some precautions that need to be made before adding turkey into their diet. By the end of this article, you’re sure to be feeling confident about whether turkey is safe to feed your dog and how to introduce this food into their diet while avoiding any health risks it may cause.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

If you are asking yourself can dogs eat turkey, the quick answer is both yes and no. Turkey does not pose any toxicity threat to canines, which is why it is such a common ingredient in dog food. Turkey is a great source of protein, which dogs need plenty of – much more than humans. Because of their high protein intake, turkey and other meats are commonly the main ingredients in dog food. While turkey is safe to feed your dog, it must be done correctly.

Turkey can be fed to your dogs, but it must be plain turkey. Thanksgiving turkeys are coated in butter and seasonings, which can be dangerous for your pup. The last thing that any dog owner wants is for their dog to develop pancreatitis or other dangerous health conditions due to feeding them turkey with unsafe ingredients. We’ll go over how to safely feed your dog turkey in a bit.

While turkey tastes delicious, it also has some health benefits for your dog. Ensuring that you are taking the proper steps and precautions when feeding your dog turkey is the best way to make sure they are reaping the benefits of this delicious food. As always, be sure to consult with your vet before adding any new foods to your dog’s diet, including turkey. Turkey may not be safe for dogs with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or obesity. Once you get the all-clear from your vet, your dog is sure to love having the new flavors and nutrients that turkey has to offer them.

sliced turkey breast on a cutting board

Health Benefits Of Feeding Turkey To Your Dog

As stated earlier, dogs need a lot of protein in their diets each day. Protein fuels their bodies, allowing them to do all of the things that they love, such as running, swimming, playing fetch, and much more. Some dogs obtain most of their protein from beef or chicken, others from fish. While these are some of the most common canine sources of protein, dogs can be prone to food allergies that make it tough for them to digest certain meats. This is where turkey can come in handy.

Turkey meat is lean, easy to digest, and packed with protein – making it the perfect protein alternative for dogs with allergies to other types of protein. It is rich in other nutrients and vitamins and can help support various canine bodily functions and systems. Turkey meat not only taste delicious, it also can help keep your pup healthy and happy when included in their regular diet. We’ll take a look at some of the different vitamins and nutrients that turkey has to offer.


Riboflavin is a nutrient that supports your dog’s body in a variety of ways by enhancing their overall health. This nutrient supports the metabolism of amino acids and carbohydrates. This ensures that these nutritional components are properly used so that your dog can feel full, fueled, and energized. If you have an active dog, they need all of the food and nutrients that they can get. Riboflavin found in turkey can help attain just that by enhancing their body’s processing of both amino acids and carbohydrates.


Dogs need strong bones, ligaments, and muscles to support their active lifestyles. Without them, basic tasks such as running, jumping, walking, and roughhousing can become not only difficult but even dangerous. This is where phosphorus steps in. Phosphorus works alongside calcium to ensure that your dog’s bones and ligaments remain strong. Thankfully, phosphorus is abundant in turkey meat. When you add plan turkey into your dog’s diet, you can take one thing off your list to worry about when it comes to your pup. Turkey is sure to help support their bones and keep them healthy.

dog sitting in front of a yellow background

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for both humans and dogs. It carries many functions that help make up a healthy body. Vitamin B12 is important for a dog’s intestinal health, which your dog needs to maintain in order to have a healthy gut and immune system. In addition, Vitamin B12 is vital in nervous system health and brain function. It also greatly contributes to the formation and growth of blood cells. By feeding your dog turkey meat, you will help ensure that they are getting all of the health benefits that Vitamin B12 has to offer.


Zinc is an important mineral that plays many roles in your dog’s health. Zinc is important for immune system functioning and thyroid functioning – making it a great dietary component for dogs who suffer from thyroid disease. It also plays a role with enzymes, proteins, and hormones, making sure that they are properly functioning within the body. Without zinc, your dog can be at risk for developing infections. Don’t worry – zinc is abundant in turkey and can help you provide optimal health for your pup.

Vitamin B6

Vitamins are important for your dog’s health, but Vitamin B6 is very close to the top of the list. Vitamin B6 is responsible for an abundance of different bodily functions, including red blood cell and nervous system functions, hormone regulation, and niacin synthesis. It also supports gene activation, immune response, and glucose generation. As you can see, Vitamin B6 is used throughout the body in various ways. To ensure that your dog is receiving enough Vitamin B6, consider adding plain turkey to their diet.

dog sitting in front of a purple background

How Much Turkey Should You Feed Your Dog?

Calculating how much food your dog may need can depend on a variety of different factors. For example, smaller dog breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Tibetan Spaniels, need smaller amounts of dog food per day than larger breeds, such as St. Bernards or Great Danes. Because of this, they also need different amounts of meat in their diet. It’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all turkey consumption amount because every dog is different.

In addition, various health conditions can dictate how much turkey you should feed your dog. For instance, dogs with diabetes or obesity may need to stay away from eating turkey. A general rule, your dog’s diet should be made up of no less than two-thirds meat, organs, and bones. This doesn’t mean that turkey should take up two-thirds of their diet. Instead, their diet should be two-thirds turkey, other types of meat, bones, and organs.

If your dog consumes three cups of food per day, at least two of the three cups should be made up of meat, bone, and organs. Calculating how much your dog should eat every day will depend on various factors, such as breed, size, age, and more. If you are feeding your dog commercial dog food, you won’t have to worry about them not consuming enough meat per day, as all dog foods available are protein-based. This means that turkey is simply an added protein in their diet. As always, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, so don’t overdo it with the turkey. Instead, stick to small portions at the start, and be sure to check with your vet on how much turkey your dog can eat.

sliced turkey breast on a wooden cutting board

How To Feed Your Dog Turkey

Knowing how to properly feed your dog turkey is the key to ensuring this meat doesn’t impose any health risks. While the turkey meat is safe for your dog to consume, some additives and parts of the bird can be dangerous for your dog. Plain turkey meat is perfectly safe to feed your dog. Cooked turkey should not have any extra butter, spices, or additives when cooked. Plain is best!

When enjoying a holiday turkey, you may not realize all of the seasonings and fats that are added to the skin, such as marinades or brines. These additive ingredients can be very dangerous for your dog to eat. Garlic and onions are toxic for dogs and can even lead to deadly anemia. To avoid this, it’s best not to offer your dog any holiday turkey table scraps. Instead, consider preparing them their own special serving of plain turkey meat to enjoy.

Raw Turkey

Be sure to avoid feeding your dog raw turkey. Raw turkey can contain dangerous bacteria that can cause your dog to become ill. To avoid this, be sure to steam, bake, or broil your turkey before allowing your dog to enjoy this delicious meat.

Some dogs may be on a raw food diet, which often contains raw turkey. This raw turkey differs greatly from the raw turkey you may find at the store. Raw turkey that is used in canine raw diets has been prepared under strict preventative measures that eliminate bacteria and other harmful parts of raw turkey. Raw turkey meant for humans to cook and consume doesn’t have the same safety measures in place, so it isn’t recommended to be fed to your pup.

dog laying in the grass

Turkey Skin

While turkey skin is safe for humans to consume, this isn’t the case for our canine companions. Turkey skin is very high in fat, which can cause canine digestive issues. Too much turkey skin leads to too much fat in your dog’s diet, which can cause pancreatitis. This condition happens when the pancreas  becomes red and inflamed from excess dietary fat. To avoid this serious medical condition, it’s best to skip the turkey skin all together.

Turkey Bones

Raw turkey bones don’t cause a threat, but cooked turkey bones can be hazardous for your dog to chew on. Cooked turkey bones can splinter when chewed, no matter the size of the bone. These splinters can cause major health concerns, such as intestinal blockage or even perforations of the throat or mouth. While raw bones are fine for chewing and consumption, cooking them is what changes the bone composition and that can make them dangerous.

If your dog accidentally gets ahold of a cooked turkey bone, don’t panic. Not all dogs who ingest cooked turkey bones experience health issues. Just be sure to keep an eye out for indications that your dog has swallowed a cooked turkey bone.

Mouth or tongue injuries, lethargy, loss of appetite, constipation, vomiting, bloody stool, bloated stomach, and restlessness can all be indications that the cooked turkey bone your dog has swallowed is causing issues. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, be sure to get them into the vet immediately.

Deli Meat and Processed Turkey

When making a sandwich or breakfast that involves turkey, you may want to offer a piece to your pup. While it may taste delicious, processed turkey is not safe for dogs to consume. Turkey bacon, turkey sausage, deli turkey, and turkey hot dogs have additives and preservatives, as well as a high salt content. These ingredients can cause digestive issues and other health concerns for your dogs. A small bite of processed turkey may not cause major health concerns, but anything more than this should be avoided.

Dark Turkey Meat

A turkey leg and thigh are considered high in fat, which can be problematic for your dog’s health and can even lead to pancreatitis. To avoid this, we recommend staying away from dark turkey meat. White turkey meat has a lower fat content, making it safer to feed your dog. Ground turkey meat may be a better option as it is made up of all different types of turkey meat. If you choose to feed your dog ground turkey meat, be sure that there are no other additives in it.

sliced turkey breast on a wooden cutting board

Ways To Incorporate Turkey Meat In Your Dog’s Diet

Feeding your dog turkey is usually pretty simple. You can feed small, individual pieces and use them as treats. You can also put turkey meat on top of your dog’s kibble for some added flavor and nutrients.

If you are looking for a fun way to feed your dog turkey meat, consider putting it inside of a dog toy. Many dog puzzle toys are made with the goal of putting food inside for your dog to reach. Doing so stimulates your dog’s mind as they search for the best way to reach whatever delicious food is inside. These puzzle toys can help prevent various cognitive conditions, such as anxiety, separation anxiety, and canine dementia. The next time you are trying to think of a new food to put in your dog’s puzzle toy, consider using some leftover, plain cooked turkey.

Wrapping Up

Turkey is a very lean, delicious meat that many dogs enjoy. It’s high in protein and low in fat, making it the perfect addition to your dog’s diet. While turkey is safe for your dog to eat, some of the spices we commonly put on it are not. When feeding your dog turkey, be sure the meat has no spices or added ingredients. Always feed your dog turkey that has been cooked and never raw turkey. It’s best to avoid other areas of the turkey besides the meat, such as bones and skin.

Turkey has an abundance of health benefits for your dog. Protein, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and phosphorus are just some of the nutritional benefits that come with feeding your dog turkey. While turkey is often thought of as a human food, it’s also very widely used in commercial dog food, with good reason. Dogs love the taste of this delicious meat, and their bodies love the vitamins and nutrients that it has to offer. Consider feeding your dog turkey and see how they like it. This simple meat may become a new staple in their diet.

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