Can My Puppy Eat Turkey?

Many people adopt or receive a puppy around the holidays, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Puppies make a fantastic, adorable present, of course, and receiving one is the ultimate holiday gift, in many people’s opinion.

Waking up on Christmas morning to the sounds of a puppy’s barking or yapping has been music to the ears of children and adults for generations. There’s nothing quite so special as receiving a precious puppy as a gift and nothing that’s nearly as life-changing.

One of the things that many of my readers ask me when they receive a puppy around the holidays is something that you might be wondering about as well if you’ve received a puppy for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. That question; can my puppy eat turkey?

The answer is that yes, you can give your puppy turkey, but no, you probably shouldn’t give them turkey cooked for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. See, turkey is nutritious for puppies and adult dogs and part of many dog food recipes. It’s not toxic to puppies in the least, thank goodness, but only when it’s plain turkey with nothing added.

However, the turkey made for humans at the holidays is far different from plain turkey. That’s because holiday turkeys are seldom cooked plain but instead are cooked with spices, herbs, garlic, onions, butter, salt, and other seasonings. Also, we stuff the heck out of our turkeys because, as we all know,  everyone loves stuffing! 

All of these things we put on and in our turkey can make it unhealthy or even deadly for a puppy. Even if the ingredients aren’t toxic, all the extra fat can cause your puppy to have a very unpleasant day or two from digestive problems and, even worse, problems with pancreatitis (in severe cases of turkey and stuffing overfeeding).

In short, yes, your puppy can eat turkey but, if it’s holiday turkey with all the extras, they probably shouldn’t. Knowing that your puppy can eat plain turkey, you might have more questions about this nutritious protein. For example, the benefits of eating turkey for puppies, and can puppies eat turkey bones? If yes, read on! I’ve got the answers to those questions and more below!

Benefits of Turkey for Puppies and Dogs

There are, to be sure, many nutritional benefits your puppy will get from eating plain, cooked turkey. In fact, turkey is one of the key ingredients in the formula of many different puppy food brands. The reason why is that turkey is low in fat (lean), easily digestible, and is very helpful for your puppy’s growing bones.

The turkey that dog food companies use is typically lean (the white meat) and has removed all the skin and fat. (The better companies do this. Some, frankly, do not.) The health benefits I’ll discuss below are based on giving your puppy the same; lean, white turkey meat with the fat and skin removed. Some of the best benefits include:

  • Protein. Turkey is an excellent source of protein, essential for a puppy’s growing bones, joints, and muscles.
  • Riboflavin, which helps your puppy’s body produce life-giving red blood cells.
  • Phosphorus, to flush out toxins and keep a pup’s kidneys healthy. Phosphorus is also essential for muscle contractions which allow your puppy to do things like walk, chew, and run.
  • Turkey is low in fat to prevent health problems with obesity. 

What are the Different Kinds of Turkey?

Turkey is turkey no matter how you slice it, but how turkey is prepared can significantly change its ingredients and nutritional content. For example, processed deli turkey is quite different from turkey you’ve cooked in your home, in both good and bad ways. (Dangerous levels of salt, anyone?)

Raw turkey is different from cooked turkey, of course, and don’t forget the turkey organs like the liver. That’s not precisely turkey, per se, but is an edible part of the bird nevertheless. Below are the different types of turkey and whether or not they’re healthy enough to give to your precious pup.   

Can Puppies Eat Turkey Deli Meat?

No, your puppy should stay pretty far away from deli turkey, even the “good” deli turkey without preservatives. That’s because processed turkey contains an obscene amount of salt. If it’s been processed the typical way, it’s also got the preservatives I mentioned a moment ago, which aren’t healthy for a human, let alone your little puppy.

All that salt and preservatives can cause many problems for your pup’s stomach and digestive system. It could upset their stomach, cause them to vomit, and otherwise overtax their GI tract. 

Can Puppies Eat Raw Turkey?

Yes, but it’s risky. Here’s the thing; some veterinarians and dog experts today recommend a raw diet for puppies after they’ve been weaned. Puppies are, after all, carnivores, and their digestive system is capable of dealing with raw meat, including turkey. 

That being said, turkey, like chicken, has a nasty problem with salmonella, a bacteria that can cause grave illnesses for humans and puppies alike. (Adult dogs, too.) Also, feeding your puppy raw meat over a long time can cause their diet to become severely imbalanced if you’re not careful.

From what I’ve read, my recommendation would be to hold off on the raw turkey until your puppy is a full-grown adult dog. The chance of an adult dog having a health problem from turkey meat that’s been handled correctly is much lower than that of a puppy’s.

Can Puppies Eat Turkey Liver (and other Organs)?

Yes! Not only can your puppy eat turkey organs like their liver, but it’s also recommended you feed it to them. The heart and liver are rich sources of many vitamins and minerals your puppy needs. Even the gizzard is nutritious as it’s high in helpful cartilage for your puppy’s bones and joints.

Like any other part of the turkey, you should cook the organs if you’re giving them to your puppy. They should also be plain, have any fat removed, and have no added salt or other ingredients. 

Can Puppies Eat Turkey Bones?

No, never. Turkey bones are hazardous for puppies and dogs, especially after being cooked. Not only do they present a significant choking hazard but, as they chew the bones, they can splinter. These splinters can puncture and rupture your puppy’s stomach and intestines which, as you might imagine, is not a good thing.

Even if they don’t puncture anything, turkey bones can cause an intestinal blockage that could be severe enough to require surgery. That’s not good, either, and could cause them great pain and suffering. (It could cause pain and suffering for your finances, too, as the operation could be quite costly.) 

What to Do if your Puppy has Eaten Turkey Bones?

If your puppy has accidentally (or, let’s be honest, on purpose) eaten turkey bones, there are a few things you should do right away to prevent big problems for their health, including:

  • Stay calm.
  • Do not induce vomiting. That could cause a choking risk on the turkey bone’s way back up.
  • Make sure they’re not choking. If they are, you’ll notice that they’re drinking a lot of water, licking their lips excessively, or gagging. They might also vomit or pace around anxiously. If they do any of these things, call your vet right away.
  • Feed your puppy soft, easily digestible food for a couple of days.
  • Avoid stressful situations or getting your puppy over-excited for a couple of days.
  • Watch for the bones to be pooped out in their stool.
  • Be more careful with turkey bones in the future. (Please.)

Final Thoughts.

“Can my puppy eat turkey?” is frequently a question I hear. The answer is that yes, they can, as long as it’s lean, cooked turkey that hasn’t had any other ingredients, spices, or condiments added. Turkey is healthy food in moderation for your puppy and, in fact, is included in many puppy food formulas. It’s safe, nutritious and they love the taste.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog and that your questions about feeding your pup turkey have all been answered. If you have more, please be sure to check out my other puppy blogs. They all have helpful, real-world information that will help new puppy parents like yourself raise a healthy, happy puppy!