So can dogs eat raw chicken? If you’re like most dog owners, you probably give your furry friend a piece of raw chicken from time to time. After all, it’s a convenient way to feed them their favorite food! But did you know that feeding your dog raw chicken can be dangerous and pose serious health risks? Today we will explore the dangers of feeding dogs raw chicken and provide some safer alternatives.
Is Raw Chicken Safe for Dogs?
The answer to this question is a resounding no! In fact, feeding your dog raw chicken including raw chicken breast, chicken wings, chicken feet, chicken thighs, chicken liver, chicken hearts and other organ meats can be very dangerous. Raw chicken can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria, which can make your dog sick. Raw chicken is a common protein source used in raw meat diets and while a great source of protein, uncooked chicken can be very harmful and cause severe illness. Puppies and older dogs seem to be the most susceptible but any age and size dog can be affected.
Risks of Feeding Raw Chicken to your Dog
Salmonella bacteria is a type of bacteria that can cause serious food poisoning in humans and bacterial infections. Dogs can also become infected with salmonella, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. Salmonella is found in the millions and billions on the surface of raw chicken. One study, found that 8 out of 10 home-made raw chicken-based diets had positive results when cultured for Salmonella spp, whereas none of the commercial dry diets yielded Salmonella spp.
In many instances, healthy dogs may not be affected by being fed a raw diet containing raw chicken meat. BUT they can shed this nasty bacteria in their feces and pass it on to their pet owners – making them very sick. Pet parents and other people in the household can be infected by handling the raw food, food bowls, or the pet’s stools. Salmonellosis is higher in people with a compromised immune system who are more at risk. For example, young children, pregnant people, the elderly, and individuals with illnesses or on certain medications.
Feeding your dog raw chicken can also increase their risk of developing campylobacteriosis, a serious illness caused by this bacteria. Campylobacter is a type of bacteria that can also cause food poisoning in humans, similar to E.Coli and Salmonella. Dogs can become infected with campylobacter from the raw chicken, which can lead to stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Like salmonella, campylobacter is found on the surface of raw chicken in high numbers. A stud found that Campylobacter was present in 86% of raw chicken meat samples from supermarkets (eew!). It can contaminate surfaces, cutlery, and human hands if not handled carefully.
Listeria can be found in a variety of foods including raw chicken, deli meats and soft cheeses. Anyone who has had a baby will be very familiar with this little bacteria. This bacteria can cause food poisoning in humans but can also be fatal for dogs. Raw chicken can contain listeria, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Chicken fed solely is not a complete and balanced diet for dogs. When fed as the only source of food, it can lead to malnutrition. Dogs need a variety of nutrients in order to stay healthy, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Feeding your dog raw chicken can lead to deficiencies in these important nutrients.
The larger bones can get stuck between the dog’s teeth and in some instances, fracture them causing an expensive dental bill!
What are the best alternatives to feeding raw chicken?
Raw chicken and chicken offal is a common part of a raw food diet, or raw meaty bones diet. This diet practice stems from the philosophy that your own dog should be fed like their wild dog ancestors. However recent studies have warned of the risks of feeding raw meat and your typical domesticated house dog is a far cry from a wolf.
There are a number of safe and healthy alternatives to feeding your dog raw chicken. These include:
Quality commercial diet:
Choose a high-quality, commercial dry food that is complete and balanced and is designed for the appropriate life stage (growth, adult senior etc) and has been tested for safety. Some premium pet food companies actually test for Salmonella and other bacteria such as Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin. They can be purchased from pet stores or online.
If you are like me and cannot be bothered cooking for your dog but still want a complete and balanced, tasty meal for your furry friend then I highly recommend a subscription delivery service such as Pet Plate. Use this link to get 50% off your first box!
If you decide to feed your dog a homemade diet, make sure it is balanced and the protein is cooked. One way to achieve this can be to use small amounts of human-grade meat and combine it with pet food or other ingredients such as vegetables and grains. Alternatively, some commercially available supplements can help you balance your dog’s diet at home (e.g additional calcium, taurine, etc). Please speak to your veterinarian if you want to go down this route for some individual advice
Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken Bones or Cooked Bone?
Another question that is often asked is can dogs eat raw chicken bones? The answer to this is also no – cooked or raw bones from the whole chicken can cause serious damage to a dog’s digestive system. Raw chicken bones can splinter and get stuck in the intestines, while cooked bones can become brittle and sharp.
Tearing of the GI tract
When your dog swallows small or large bones, it is at risk of tearing its mouth, esophagus, or even intestinal tract due to the bones splintering. Chicken bones can be quite sharp so they are the biggest no no. Small dogs seem to be at higher risk – likely due to their smaller mouths.
Worst case scenario! Raw bones are hard to swallow. Small bones can get stuck in your dog’s throat and it can lead to choking or esophageal obstruction. My local specialty and emergency practices have commented they have seen a rise in these emergency cases in the past few years as feeding raw has become more popular.
If the bones go down the wrong way, they usually get stuck in the upper part of the airway or pharynx. This will cause obstruction in their air passageway which will lead to coughing and choking with visible signs of distress and heavy breathing. This is an emergency situation.
Getting Lodged in the dog’s teeth
I have seen this several times where the chicken bone gets lodged on the roof of the mouth between the teeth. Dogs will panic and I have seen them cause some serious damage tearing at their mouths.
Can My Dog Eat Chicken Necks?
Chicken necks can be a good source of calcium and phosphorous and fatty acids, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin which are high in chicken cartilage. But they can also pose risks to your dog’s health. They are the least likely to splinter but do carry a high risk of bacterial contamination. They are not processed in a clean way as they are considered a byproduct and not a human-grade product.
Can Dog’s Eat Chicken Carcasses and Whole Chicken?
No, it can be contaminated by salmonella and other pathogens and carries a high risk of obstruction or constipation. I once had a patient – a labrador, that was extremely constipated and hadn’t pooped in days. When I took an x-ray his entire digestive tract was full of bone! After questioning the owner I found out he was receiving a chicken carcass a day as his daily meal!
Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken Wings?
A raw or cooked chicken wing can be a choking risk, especially for small dogs. They can also pose the same risks of bacterial contamination and gastric upset as raw chicken can.
Can My Dog Eat Cooked Chicken?
The good news is that yes, dogs can eat cooked chicken! Just make sure it’s unsalted and unseasoned. Cooked chicken in small amounts can be a great addition to add some excitement into their diet and is a good source of protein. It is also great if they feeling a little under the weather or recovering from a hospital stay. Remove the skin if your pooch is susceptible to pancreatitis or is prone to weight gain (the skin has the highest calories).
My dog Ate Raw Chicken: Should I be Concerned?
This is a difficult question to answer as every dog reacts differently. Some dogs may experience mild gastric upset from eating raw chicken, while others may develop more serious problems such as pancreatitis or intestinal obstruction. Some dogs may not show any signs! If your dog has eaten raw chicken and begins exhibiting any signs of illness (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc), it is important to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
If they have ingested a raw or cooked chicken bone that they shouldn’t have: just observe the condition carefully. If there do not appear to be signs of obstruction or distress, then it is a good idea to give them some soft pieces of bread or food. It will help soften the bones in the stomach while digesting so it does not damage the stomach lining.
If your dog is having difficulty breathing or appears to be gagging or choking: then you should contact your vet immediately! Your dog could be choking and this can be life-threatening for your precious pooch!
Overall, it is best to avoid feeding your dog raw chicken bones or meat as they can pose a serious health risk. Cooked chicken can be a safe and healthy addition to their diet, but make sure to remove the skin if they are prone to weight gain or pancreatitis. If your dog has eaten raw chicken and begins exhibiting any signs of illness, take them to your local veterinarian as soon as possible.
I hope you found this article useful!
Joffe DJ, Schlesinger DP. Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets. Can Vet J 2002; 43: 441–442
Woodward M, et al. Campylobacter spp. in raw chicken meat and its potential for cross-contamination in the domestic kitchen: a quantitative risk assessment. Int J Food Microbiol 2009; 136:128-134
Schlesinger DP, Joffe DJ. Raw food diets in companion animals: a critical review. Can Vet J. 2011;52(1):50-54.
Dr. Elly has always loved animals, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. After studying hard in veterinary school, she practiced in several different countries before moving to North Carolina with her husband and young family. She currently works part time as a veterinarian while caring for her 4 busy children and writing this blog. Dr. Elly genuinely cares about the welfare of her patients. She currently has three dogs, two cats, 5 chickens and 2 rabbits (yes a bit of a zoo!)