Thanksgiving is that time of year when the whole family – including our beloved pooches – share in the blessings that we have received the whole year round. And when the smoke has cleared, we’re often left with a lot of leftover turkey meat that makes for perfect potpies, casseroles, sandwiches, and a many more turkey-based and turkey-themed dishes. We’re also tempted to give our pooches a plate or two of their own turkey treats. The question most pet owners have is ‘can dogs eat turkey’? It is really safe for them? Here’s what you really need to know.

turkey meat for pets

Turkey is a Healthy Protein for Your Pet…

Turkey meat is lean meat. Like chicken, it is one of the best sources of protein needed for a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in dogs. It helps build muscle tissues and body organs that are necessary for optimum growth and development. Three ounces of lean turkey meat contains 26 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat while containing zero carbohydrates. This makes it exceptionally ideal for dogs as it closely resembles their diet in the wild.

Turkey meat is also an excellent source of highly digestible proteins. This helps promote healthier digestive system and prevent the development of gastrointestinal problems. More importantly, it is a great alternative for dogs and other pets that may have food sensitivities or even food allergies to other protein sources like chicken and beef.

It’s also rich in the following nutrients.

  • Vitamin B6 – for the more efficient production of hemoglobin in the blood
  • Vitamin B12 – ensures a healthier digestive and nervous system in dogs
  • Niacin – maintains optimum skin and coat health
  • Choline – Choline is a supplement that is widely used in animal health to slow down the progression of cognitive decline
  • Phosphorus – ensures optimum musculoskeletal health especially when it relates to connective tissues like cartilage and bones
  • Selenium – excellent antioxidant which can be beneficial in the prevention of a variety of inflammatory conditions in dogs
  • Zinc – improves the overall function of the immune system, enabling dogs to be more resistant to infections and other diseases
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids –neutralize the activity of free radicals in the body so that they don’t trigger an inflammatory response

…But it Can be Dangerous, too

Unfortunately, the turkey that we had for Thanksgiving is not that really healthy. More often than not, we’ve rubbed it with oils and butter, herbs and spices, onions, and lots of garlic that are particularly toxic to dogs.  We put a lot of stuffing inside our bird. For us, these make the turkey more delicious, more appetizing, truly worthy of a sumptuous feast. Sadly, the ingredients we’ve put into the bird are not really healthy for our beloved pooch. If we do give them turkey, they might end up with digestive upset, if not pancreatitis.

A Look at Canine Pancreatitis

One of the most serious complications of feeding your dog with a hefty portion of Thanksgiving turkey is canine pancreatitis. This is simply the inflammation of the pancreas and can be manifested by the following signs and symptoms.

  • Vomiting
  • Doesn’t want to eat even though it’s its favorite treat or food
  • Curls up in pain particularly emanating from its belly
  • May have fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargic or doesn’t want to move or play
  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Signs of dehydration

Pancreatitis in dogs is often associated with feeding them with unusually large portions of a fatty meal. Exactly how this irritates the pancreas is still relatively unclear. What is important to know is that certain breeds are more prone to the development of pancreatitis, like schnauzers, senior dogs, and obese dogs. Canine pancreatitis can also be brought about by drugs and even surgical procedures.

So, What Can You do?

This brings us back to the fundamental question whether dogs can have turkey during Thanksgiving or not. As we have already shared with you, your pooch also deserves to get all that nutrition that turkey meat can provide. However, there are things that you have to observe if you don’t want your dog to suffer the consequences of a really fatty and toxic meal.

  • Forget the skin: Majority of the dangerous stuff on Thanksgiving turkey is found on the skin. The garlic, the onions, the other herbs and spices, including the butter and really fatty oils are all concentrated on the skin. Also skip the lining of the core where you put all those delicious, mouth-watering stuffing in. The excessive fat can cause canine pancreatitis while the herbs, spices, and all other seasonings can irritate your pooch’s tummy and digestive tract.
  • Focus on the lean meat: Instead, it’s a lot better to give them lean meat. If you really want to be safe about it, give your beloved furry friend meat from the breast section as this contains inherently less fat and more protein. You can also go for meats of the thighs and legs, although these have a much higher fat content than those on the breast. Additionally, be picky in what you give. Only give the meat and not the spices like onions and garlic. 
  • Give small quantities: Your pet’s tummy is not as large as yours so you might want to resist the temptation of giving it extra-large servings of your lean turkey meat. Additionally, you may really need to talk to your veterinarian about giving your pet food scraps in addition to its regular diet. This is especially true if your canine friend happens to have a preexisting health condition. 
  • Don’t ever give the turkey bone: Whatever you do don’t give your pet the turkey bone, even though it looks so tempting. Poultry bones are very brittle and can injure your pet’s tongue and mouth. It can also lodge in its throat leading to choking or even in the gut which can pierce the lining of its intestines and stomach.

roast turkey

Can You Give Your Dog Turkey?

By all means, yes! But give only the lean meat and stay away from bones, dark meat, and, more importantly, the skin. Also, don’t give any of the spices, herbs, and other ingredients you’ve put into your Thanksgiving turkey.

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Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!


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