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Is Turkey Safe for Dogs and Cats?


Thanksgiving is the ultimate foodie holiday. For meat lovers, prepping the bird can be a matter of great pride, and what you do with the leftovers can be too. From turkey casseroles, to soups, pot pies, there’s no shortage of food following a grand Thanksgiving feast! 

The delicious smells that fill your house make pets crazy, and you’ll likely find them hovering in the kitchen more than usual on turkey day. With so much food, it can be very tempting to give our pets table scraps or even make a plate of fixings and turkey for our dog and cat so they can join us. After all, they are our best friends and a part of the family! 

So, is turkey safe? Yes and No. Let us break it down for you! 

Raw vs Cooked

Because dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores, meat is an essential part of their natural diet. For cats and dogs, turkey is a lean meat that is a key ingredient in many pet foods. Plain, unseasoned, boneless, skinless turkey is safe for cats and dogs in small amounts. While you can give raw turkey to your pets, you increase their risk of bacterial contamination, like contracting salmonella. Raw meat is also not recommended for puppies, dogs with cancer, and dogs with liver or kidney disease. Feeding a raw diet to cats, however, cat help provide the extra taurine they need as carnivores. The dark meat, heart, and liver of turkeys contain higher levels of taurine. Plain, cooked turkey is safest for dogs and cats in general. 

The Skinny on Seasonings

Almost every human food you are tempted to feed your pet contains spices and seasonings that may taste amazing to us, but can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal issues for our furry friends. If you’re lucky, your Thanksgiving turkey is slathered with butter, salt and pepper before it’s put on your plate. Stuffing is also filled with spices and other ingredients that may be bad for your pet. 

For example, onions are often added to stuffing and they are toxic to both dogs and cats, causing damage to their red blood cells. Garlic, which is in the onion family, is also toxic to pets in large amounts. The last thing you want to do on Turkey Day for your dog is clean up after them in front of your guests or worse, take them to the vet. If the food is heavily seasoned and your dog has displayed stomach issues in the past, play it safe and don’t feed it to your pets.

Turkey Skin & Fat

Whether your family is cooking up a turkey, ham, or prime rib roast for Thanksgiving, there will be plenty of fat clinging to the good stuff. In turkey, the main source of fat is the skin. While you may trim your food of fat before you eat it, you know your cat or dog would love to gobble down your tasty fat morsels. Remember fat = flavor! 

Be careful to dispose of fat where your pets can’t reach it. A big fatty meal can cause disastrous results in the form of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can cause immediate symptoms of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It requires immediate vet attention and it can progress rapidly without treatment into a potentially fatal condition. 

So, Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?

Dogs and bones go together, right? Well, not so fast. Poultry bones, like that of turkey, chicken, and duck, are fragile and splinter easily, especially when cooked. Even rib and pork bones will splinter. 

The bone fragments can cause many GI problems for both dogs and cats. Pieces of bone can puncture the digestive tract or cause tears, internal bleeding, and bacterial infections. Bones can cause blockages that may need to be surgically removed in costly procedures. 

Remember, cats and dogs can’t eat turkey bones. Always trim turkey for dogs and cats away from the bone!

A Turkey Thanksgiving Recipe for Pets

As a general rule when feeding your pets home-cooked meals, keep it simple. If you want some safe turkey for your dogs or cats to enjoy on Thanksgiving with you, grab some ground turkey meat. Since cats are carnivores, you can just cook it plain and feed it to them in limited amounts. For dogs, boil it together with some plain white rice. The meat will flavor the rice and it will be easy on their stomach. They will even have leftovers to enjoy with you over the next few days.