Can Dogs and Cats Eat Turkey?

Can Dogs and Cats Eat Turkey?

Thanksgiving dinner, featuring turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing, and white wine.Thanksgiving dinner, featuring turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing, and white wine.
Thanksgiving dinner, featuring turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing, and white wine.Thanksgiving dinner, featuring turkey, ham, green beans, stuffing, and white wine.

Table of Contents:

  1. Dangers for Dogs and Cats
  2. Do Dogs and Cats Need Turkey?
  3. The Safest Way to Feed Turkey to Dogs and Cats
  4. What Is a Safe Serving Size?
  5. Are Bones Safe?
  6. Can Dogs and Cats Be Allergic to Turkey?

Turkey is a popular poultry bird eaten throughout the year, and the focus of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and many other holiday meals. Since many human foods can be dangerous or toxic for animals, pet parents often pose the following question to their veterinarian: “Can dogs and cats eat turkey?

Yes, they can eat turkey. In fact, it is a common ingredient in many commercial dog and cat foods. Many pets enjoy the flavor, aroma, and texture of this popular meat. Turkey meat is considered a healthy food with nutrients that vary with each cut. The breast meat is a good source of water, protein, fat, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, zinc, and amino acids like tryptophan.

Turkeys can be wild or domesticated, similar to other birds like chickens and ducks, which impacts the type and quality of meat. Domesticated turkey contains more white meat, while wild birds primarily offer dark meat. Turkey can be sold whole, in parts (like legs or breasts), as cold cuts, or as ground meat.

Dangers for Dogs and Cats

Although dogs and cats can eat turkey, that doesn’t mean that they should.

There are five primary concerns:

  • Pancreatitis or gastrointestinal discomfort can occur in some dogs and cats that aren’t accustomed to turkey, or after ingestion of turkey cooked with seasonings (such as pepper, garlic, onion, and other herbs) and butter. Too much fat, oil, or seasoning can lead to stomach issues or pancreatitis. Processed deli meat made with turkey is commonly high in sodium and preservatives, which can also cause problems for some pets. Common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • There is a risk of choking, esophageal foreign bodies, and constipation from ingestion of turkey bones.
  • Pets often love the smell of raw and cooked meats, which makes the plastic wrappers and strings (such as those used to tie turkey legs) appealing. Ingestion of these items can lead to life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction, which often requires surgery.
  • Raw turkey can contain bacterium that infects pets (and you), such as salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, E.Coli, and/or Yersinia enterocolitica. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy, anorexia, and even organ failure.
  • Some dogs and cats may be allergic to poultry.

If your dog or cat ingested turkey or bones and is showing any of the following symptoms, please contact your veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately:

  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting

Do Dogs and Cats Need Turkey?

There is nothing unique in turkey that dogs or cats require, however, it can be a very good source of protein and nutrients. There are many pet foods formulated with turkey as a key ingredient. What pets do need is a high-quality, balanced diet formulated to meet their individual needs.

Learn more about the nutritional needs of dogs and cats in these articles:

The Safest Way to Feed Turkey to Dogs and Cats

The safest way to feed turkey to your dog or cat is to offer a small amount of unseasoned cooked white meat without bones and skins. It should never be fed raw, and always cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pieces should be cut to the size of the kibble you feed your pet. Feed only the meat and do not include items that may be cooked with the turkey, such as onions or garlic, which can be toxic.

Do not feed processed lunch meats.

What Is a Safe Serving Size?

If offering turkey as a snack, approximately 1 tablespoon is plenty for a small dog or cat, ¼ cup for a medium-sized dog, and ½ cup for a large-sized dog.

Are Bones Safe?

Feeding turkey bones to dogs or cats is not recommended. Small bones can cause choking, and bones are often brittle, which can cause oral punctures or cuts (to the tongue, lips, or mucous membranes), esophageal/intestinal obstruction, or constipation.

Carefully seal bones in trash receptacles without easy access for dogs or cats. Instead of feeding turkey bones, offer your dog durable, indestructible chew toys as a safe alternative.

Can Dogs and Cats Be Allergic to Turkey?

Dogs and cats can have food allergies to turkey. Pets allergic to chicken, which is another common allergen, can have cross reactions to turkey as well. Symptoms of allergies may include dry skin, ear and skin infections, and itching.

We hope this article helps to keep your pets safe. Learn more about what dogs can and can’t eat in the following articles:

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