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Can dogs eat turkey legs?

At one time, families only ate turkey on Thanksgiving, or maybe at Christmas, and sometimes both, depending on the individual family tradition, but nowadays we find that more and more families are eating turkey throughout the year.

Larger families often cook whole birds or turkey breasts, while singles and couples tend toward ground turkey, or they cook a whole turkey or turkey breast and freeze what they won’t eat in a couple of days in servings that have been portioned out to fit their individual household’s needs.

This uptrend is a bit odd since Forbes reported around holiday-time in 2021 that turkey was around 30% harder to get your hands on and cost over one-third more than the prior average for the last 3 years. Forbes reported in another article at around the same time that in 2021 the price of some beef rose at a higher rate of around 25%, so it may be that people are just finding turkey a more affordable choice overall.

Whenever you eat turkey, your best canine pal is close by salivating as they watch you eat it. They are daydreaming of getting their jaws around one of those big, juicy turkey legs, but stop and ask yourself whether you should share a turkey leg or even a turkey leg bone with your dog. There are a few things you should ponder before you do. Let’s take a look at whether dogs can eat turkey legs.

Can dogs eat turkey legs?

Whether it’s Thanksgiving or not, when you have turkey, your dog wants to partake in all that delicious, juicy goodness. Is it all right to share a turkey leg with your dog? Is it safe? Look at the facts.

Should dogs eat raw or cooked turkey meat?

People disagree strongly over the answer to this question. The majority believes that dogs should only eat cooked turkey meat, but there, for a while now, has been a movement toward feeding dogs raw meats (again).

Raw Turkey

Companies, like We Feed Raw and BJ’s Raw Pet Food deliver a raw diet that is ready to eat. Dog owners who feed a raw diet argue that dogs always ate a raw diet until they were domesticated — a diet consisting of both newly-killed meat and rotting carcasses. Dogs do have very acidic digestive tracts that are not long and complicated like humans’. The truth is that any salmonella contained in this food wouldn’t be in their systems long enough to harm them.

So, theoretically, as long as you handle the raw meat carefully (i.e., only handle it with clean hands, keep it frozen until you are ready to use it, thaw it correctly, and refrigerate or refreeze the rest), you shouldn’t have any problems with your dog getting ill. Also, you may have heard that your dog could make you or your child sick with salmonella by licking your face or hands after eating raw food, but thus far, this is an unproven theory.

Cooked Turkey

It’s fine to feed your dog cooked turkey, but wait, there’s more to it than that. While turkey is loaded with protein, phosphorous, and riboflavin, if it’s being fed from table scraps, it can also be loaded with extra fats and seasonings that can cause an upset tummy at best, pancreatitis at worst for your dog. Not only are onions and garlic toxic to your dog, but so are salt, xylitol (which can cause very serious hypoglycemia [low blood sugar] in dogs), and many other seasonings, and many spices can serve to cause your dog serious digestive upset.

So, if you’re going to feed your dog the turkey table scraps, follow these simple rules.

Leave off the skin.

The skin of a holiday turkey is full of extra fat and spices that your dog doesn’t need. As a matter of fact, even if it didn’t have those, your dog probably doesn’t need the extra fat of turkey skin.

Don’t include the extras.

Ensure there are none of the extras that you cooked with your turkey along with your dog’s turkey meat — no onions, garlic, celery, etc., as these ingredients can badly upset your dog’s stomach.

Don’t feed portions that are too large.

Especially if your dog suffers from a disease like diabetes, be careful not to serve portions that are too large. You don’t want your dog to overeat. Overeating can cause both stomach aches and weight gain, which can lead to obesity.

Consider feeding lean (white) meat.

Consider feeding your dog the white meat instead of the dark meat, as it is leaner and will be healthier for them.

Can I feed my dog the bones?

Read the next section!

Can dogs eat turkey leg bones?

This is something else that dog health professionals argue about. Some say it’s all right for dogs to eat raw bones, since they are soft but not cooked bones, since they become brittle and hard when cooked. Others say you should avoid poultry bones altogether, since they are so small.

Here is what I know. Many poultry bones are tiny and can be very, very sharp if broken, and when they are cooked, they are the same but hard and brittle, thus breaking more easily. I would say to consider the following factors when deciding whether to feed your dog turkey leg bones.

Are you planning to feed raw or cooked bones?

I feel that it does make a difference. Raw bones are softer and would be much easier for your dog to chew and digest, while I don’t feel cooked bones are safe for any dog, as they splinter and get too sharp.

How large is the bone?

This may sound strange, but many times, a larger bone is better than a smaller bone, because a dog can only chew off small parts of it at a time.

How big is your dog?

It can make a difference how big your dog is. If your dog is tiny, their system is tiny also and may not be able to digest bones as easily.

Does your dog chew their food well?

It makes a huge difference whether your dog is one who chews their food well. If they are one who gulps food almost whole, they are not the one you should be feeding any type of bones to.

What happens if my dog eats a turkey leg?

Firstly, be aware that many veterinary professionals advise against feeding your dog any bones at all, but dogs ate bones for many, many years before they were domesticated. However, they were domesticated, and now, you have to ask yourself whether your dog still knows to chew as well as the dogs did back then. Yes, there is much to consider — isn’t there?

If your dog has gotten ahold of a turkey leg and consumed it, there may be no need for panic. Ask yourself the questions above. Do they chew their food well? How big of a dog are they? If you think they may be all right, just watch them for signs of internal bleeding, as a sharp bone can puncture something inside them, causing a grave situation.

Common signs of internal bleeding are pale gums, trouble breathing, weakness, a distended abdomen, loss of appetite, vomiting, general malaise, and collapse. So, if you notice your dog is in distress or in pain, take them to their veterinarian immediately, or if you are just too concerned to rest easy, take them anyway.