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Dog looking at a roast turkey

The essentials

  • Turkey is a good source of protein — Protein supports the immune system, provides energy, and aids in tissue repair for your pet pal.
  • White meat turkey is easy for dogs to digest — White meat turkey is a lean, highly digestible protein source.
  • Even treat time can have health benefits — Instead of being packed with fillers and artificial ingredients, turkey is a snack that tastes delicious (and is healthy, too).

As long as it’s cooked properly, plain turkey is a fantastic treat that you and your pup can enjoy together. The key word here is plain. To avoid potential health hazards, it’s important to only feed your dog turkey that’s skinless, boneless, and fat-free.

Like any treat, turkey should be given sparingly and shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s total diet .

How to safely feed your dog turkey

Turkey is a safe, healthy source of protein for dogs when it’s prepared without seasoning and fats like butter and oil. It’s actually a primary ingredient in several commercial dog food formulas, often chosen for its rich stores of essential vitamins and minerals.

Here are a few tips to keep your furry friend as safe as possible during turkey treat time:

Be on the lookout for turkey bones 

Turkey bones splinter easily because of their brittle texture and small size, making them very dangerous for your dog.

Vets advise pet parents to refrain from feeding their dog any kind of cooked bones to eliminate potential choking hazards and intestinal blockages and punctures, all of which can be life-threatening.

🚨Always remove the bones from any turkey meat you feed your dog.

Make sure it’s fully cooked

You might think that dogs’ stomachs are better equipped to handle raw meats than our own, but that’s not necessarily true.

Raw turkey of any kind puts your dog at risk of coming into contact with harmful bacteria such as campylobacter, E. coli, and salmonella. Before feeding your pet turkey, make sure that it’s fully cooked — reaching an internal temperature of 165℉.

Pass on pepper and other seasonings 

As scrumptious as that fried Thanksgiving turkey breast tastes to you, added oils can give your dog an upset stomach and lead to long-term health problems like pancreatitis. Plus, common turkey additives like onions and garlic are also toxic to dogs, so steering clear of table scraps is best.

When it’s treat time, stick to plain, cooked turkey to keep your pet safe. You may prefer a well-seasoned turkey, but we promise your dog won’t know the difference.

Skip the skin

Turkey skin should be avoided as it’s high in fat, which can irritate a dog’s digestive tract and quickly lead to tummy troubles.

This is especially true for puppies, whose stomachs are much more sensitive compared to adult dogs. Consistently feeding your dog fatty foods can also lead to long-term complications, like diabetes, pancreatitis, and heart disease.

Start small  

Any time you introduce a new food to your dog, it’s best to start with a very small amount to see how they do. If they seem to tolerate plain, cooked turkey meat, you can gradually increase the amount you give them. Just remember: Treats should only make up 10% of your dog’s daily food intake.

 👉 Consult a vet before introducing any “people foods” into your dog’s diet. 

How much turkey can dogs eat?

Consulting your veterinarian is the best way to determine the ideal amount of turkey you can feed your dog. However, we’ve compiled a table below with quantities that are in the safe range for the average furry friend.

Please use this table as a reference only, noting that your dog might need smaller portions depending on their age and underlying health conditions.

Size (pounds) Turkey serving Breeds in this group
Extra small (2-20 lbs) Half a piece* Chihuahuas, pugs, Yorkshire terriers
Small (21-30 lbs) 1-2 pieces beagles, mini American shepherds
Medium (31-50 lbs) 3-4 pieces basset hounds, border collies, Siberian huskies
Large (51-90 lbs) 5-6 pieces Australian shepherds, German shepherds, golden retrievers
Extra-large (91+ lbs) Handful of pieces St. Bernards, Bernese mountain dogs, Rottweilers

*Each “piece” equates to a one-inch cube of turkey meat

Health benefits of turkey

Turkey can be a wonderful addition to your pup’s diet. White turkey meat makes an especially healthy snack because it’s a lean, highly digestible protein source that’s packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals dogs need to live long, healthy lives. These include:

  • Protein. Protein is crucial for your pupper’s overall health. It provides essential compounds like nitrogen, phosphorus, and amino acids that serve as building blocks for healthy hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
  • B vitamins. Vitamin B12 assists with enzyme function and is beneficial for your dog’s nervous system and intestinal health. Turkey also contains niacin (also known as vitamin B3) and vitamin B6 — an especially important nutrient that supports the nervous system, hormone function, and healthy immune responses.
  • Minerals. Turkey contains significant levels of essential minerals like choline, magnesium, potassium, and zinc — all of which are essential to maintaining a dog’s skin and coat; as well as their overall health.

Can dogs eat processed turkey?

While cooked turkey is okay in small portions, you should never give your dog pre-cooked turkey products (like deli meat or turkey bacon). These compounds contain high amounts of salt and artificial preservatives, which can wreak havoc on a dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) system and lead to a host of other health issues.

Lunch meat, turkey bacon, burgers, and smoked turkey products

Grocery store products like turkey lunch meat and smoked turkey are packed with sodium and seasonings that are toxic to dogs, including garlic and onions.

Dogs who consume too much sodium risk contracting salt toxicosis , a form of poisoning characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. Additionally, long-term sodium overconsumption can result in potentially life-threatening conditions like kidney disease .

Is turkey bad for dogs?

Turkey isn’t bad for dogs in small amounts, so long as it’s prepared properly. Here’s what you need to know about the risks of feeding your dog turkey.

  • Improperly cooked or raw meat. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)   opposes feeding raw meat, including poultry, beef, pork, and fish, to dogs because it can make them sick. Improper handling of raw meats also puts pet owners at risk of coming into contact with harmful bacteria.
  • Obstructions. Turkey bones can cause intestinal blockages. An obstruction requires surgical removal of the substance causing the blockage and can sometimes be fatal.
  • Intestinal perforations. Cooked turkey bones could cause a perforation, resulting in a hole in the intestines or stomach. This can lead to a potentially fatal inflammation of the abdominal lining called peritonitis.
  • Digestive upset. Vomiting and diarrhea can be common if a pup ingests something they’re not used to eating, or if they ingest foods with a lot of fat (like turkey skin).
  • Pancreatitis. This can result from too much fat in your dog’s diet, so make sure to contact your vet before feeding turkey to your pooch. Dogs prone to pancreatitis (including miniature schnauzers, cocker spaniels, and some terrier breeds) should never be given dark meat or turkey skin because of their high fat content.

Can dogs eat dark turkey meat?

While both white and dark turkey meat are technically safe for dogs to eat, vets recommend only feeding your dog pieces of lean white meat. That’s because the dark meat found in turkey legs and thighs is higher in unwanted fat and calories, while white meat is leaner and more protein-dense.

Turkey skin is similarly high in fat and calories, so do your best to keep your dog’s turkey treats skinless, too.

Dogs and turkey allergies

Dogs experience food allergies just as much as humans. It’s rare for dogs to have a turkey allergy, but it can be possible. If you know your dog has an allergy to similar foods like chicken, we recommend playing it safe by avoiding all poultry, including turkey and eggs.

Common symptoms of turkey allergies in dogs include:

  • Itchy skin. Medically referred to as pruritus, itchy skin is often a telltale sign of an underlying allergy.
  • Rashes. Dogs with allergies may exhibit patches of red, scaly skin after consuming a food they’re allergic to. These can occur anywhere on the body, but they’re most commonly found along the belly.
  • Paw biting. Allergies are the most common cause of paw licking and chewing in dogs. This behavior usually manifests alongside other dermatological symptoms, like rashes and itchy skin.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea. These gastrointestinal issues are common indicators of most food intolerances.

🚨 If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after eating turkey, stop giving it to them immediately. 

Fun alternatives to turkey

Of course, turkey’s not the only treat your dog can enjoy — there are tons of safe foods out there that you and your pup can enjoy together. Just remember to see a vet before introducing any human food to your pet, as they’ll be able to give you a clearer picture of which foods are safe for dogs (and which foods to avoid).

Here are a few delicious alternatives for turkey that are pet- and people-safe:

  • Lean meat. Lean proteins like chicken, beef, and fish provide dogs with many of the same essential nutrients as turkey and can be fed safely in their fully cooked form.
  • Fruits and veggies. Sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, mangos, and (seedless) apples are some of our favorite dog-friendly foods, and they’re all super easy to give to your pooch. Simply wash, peel, and core these treats, and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Then you’ll have plenty of healthy snacks ready to offer your pet. We recommend cooking produce when possible to make it more chewable for your pooch.
  • Dog treats. Commercial treat companies produce turkey-flavored treats specially formulated to contain essential vitamins and nutrients for dogs. You can use these to treat your dog to the taste of turkey with none of the risk. If you’re feeling crafty, you can even try your hand at making some delicious DIY dog treats.

Frequently asked questions

Can I give my dog a slice of turkey?

Boneless, skinless turkey breast is best for your dog. Turkey deli slices, however, contain large quantities of salt — which can lead to dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you let your pet have turkey, be sure that it’s fully cooked and completely unseasoned.

This is because commercial turkey products and brined or seasoned turkey can contain ingredients that will make your pet sick.

How much turkey can I feed my dog?

According to the American Kennel Club, treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake, so the quantity of turkey that’s safe for your dog really depends on their daily requirements.

Why can’t I give my dog turkey skin?

Turkey skin has a high fat content, which can lead to stomach upset and pancreatitis.

Is cooked turkey okay for dogs?

Cooked turkey is the only kind of turkey you should feed your dog — just make sure to remove the skin and bones before giving it to them. We recommend sticking to small, quarter-inch size pieces to prevent choking hazards and intestinal blockage.

As a reminder, you’ll also want to leave all seasonings off any cooked turkey you give your pup. Store-bought products like lunch meat and turkey hot dogs should also be avoided because they’re loaded with sodium.

Can turkey upset a dog’s stomach?

If your dog has a turkey allergy, eats too much turkey at once, or consumes turkey skin, they could wind up with a very upset stomach.