One man’s trash is another dog’s treasure.
That’s particularly true about turkey necks.
If you’re like me, you find them oddly creepy and gross and will chuck them the first chance you get. But, if you read this, I know you’ll think differently afterward.
That’s because most dogs can eat raw turkey necks. But like many bones, there’s a few safety precautions you need to take to ensure she doesn’t choke.
In this post, we’re answering can dogs eat turkey necks, the benefits and how you can safely incorporate it into your dog’s diet.
Can Dogs Eat Turkey Necks?
When you cook up a turkey, you’ll pull out a bag of what I call “disgust” but my dog would deem “deliciousness.” One of the things you’ll find in there is the turkey neck. Turkey necks are a set of small, easy-to-break bones. This is what makes them a crunchy snack for your pup; they’re easy to dissemble and chew away.
Since cooked bones are bad for dogs, many people wonder “can dogs eat turkey necks?”
The quick answer is that dogs can eat raw turkey necks, but not cooked ones. And, even at that, there are some serious choking hazard cautions you need to take (more on this below).
Another thing to consider is whether it’s appropriate to feed your dog an entire turkey neck. If you have a medium or large-sized breed, feeding it to her whole in one sitting is likely okay. However, for smaller breeds, you may want to chop the neck up and give it to her over the course of a few days.
If you’re cooking multiple turkeys and have a few necks to get rid of, the same is true. Instead of feeding it all to your dog, chop it up or freeze it and give it to her as a treat occasionally.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Turkey Necks?
I have to admit, the fact that most dogs can eat raw meat creeps me out. Won’t the bacteria wreck their stomach? Can they even break it down when it’s not cooked?
Most dog’s stomachs can process raw meat because, compared to us, their digestive tract is shorter and more acidic. That combination can stop the bacteria from making them sick.
With that being said though, many vets and experts advise against a raw food diet for dogs. Even though they’re at a lesser bacterial risk than us, the risk still exists and is increased when you feed your dog raw meat. Although we’re not recommending a raw food diet, a turkey neck may be an acceptable snack once and awhile.
If your dog has never eaten raw meat, she may get sick from eating a turkey neck because her body isn’t used to it. Many kibble-eaters are fine after gobbling it down, but it’s something to consider and watch out for. If you give a dog a raw turkey neck for the first time, start small with a chunk and see how she reacts. If she’s okay, you can slowly start introducing it to her diet on an occasional basis.
If you decide that it’s too risky to give a dog a raw turkey neck, you can use it in other ways. For more information about this, read the last section on how to feed your dog a turkey neck.
Another thing to take into consideration when feeding your dog anything raw is the risks it poses to you. As with any raw meat, you should wash your hands after touching it to avoid transferring the bacteria and making family members ill. When your dog chews on the bone, she’s also likely to transfer the bacteria. To prevent this, you can feed it to her on a patch of grass outside or inside on a washable surface, such as a towel, blanket or her bed.
Cooked Turkey Necks for Dogs: That’s a Quick No
Like any cooked bone, you should never feed your dog cooked turkey necks. Although you may think cooking it gets rid of bacteria and makes it safer, it actually changes the structure of the bone. This makes it more likely to break off in splinters, which can get stuck in and puncture your dog’s throat.
Cooked turkey necks for dogs should never be given—whether it’s baked, boiled, fried or steamed. In any form, cooking a bone damages it and makes it likely to hurt your pup.
If you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving turkey dinner and want to give your dog something cooked, opt to give her a piece of meat instead.
Benefits of Turkey Necks for Dogs
They’re not just a tasty treat. Turkey Necks
- Protein— Turkey necks are a good source of high-quality protein for dogs, which makes them feel fuller for longer.
- Glucosamine— Many owners give their dogs glucosamine supplements to help with joint and mobility issues. Research has backed up the impact of the nutrient and it can also be found in turkey necks. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin in the neck’s cartilage and tissue is easy to digest and a natural form of the supplement.
- Phosphorus and Calcium— Raw turkey necks for dogs are also a good source of Phosphorus, which is a major component of bones. It’s also high in calcium, which is another critical nutrient for bone and cartilage health.
- Healthy Fats— Along with its protein, a turkey neck will also keep a dog full because of its higher fat content. Unlike some treats, that use unhealthy fats, the fats contained in turkey necks can contribute to a balanced diet.
- Easily Broken Down— Not only are turkey necks easy to break apart and chew, but they’re also easily broken down by your dog’s stomach acid.
- Teeth Cleaning— Since a turkey neck is made up of many small bones, taking it apart gives your dog’s teeth some work to do. In turn, this can help scrape of grime and lead to better oral health.
- Entertainment— Like most bones, working at it gives a dog something to do when she’s bored. Just remember, unlike some treats, you’ll want to supervise her each time you give her a turkey neck, so make sure to be home!
Are Turkey Necks Safe for Dogs? Choking Cautions to Take
Even though dogs can eat raw turkey necks, they are not without safety hazards. Whether or not you’ve fed one to your dog before, you should always be around when she’s eating it. That’s because you’ll be close by if she happens to choke.
One thing that’s easy to forget about is the shape of a turkey neck. Just like ours, it’s long and thick, which means it can pose choking risks. If your dog doesn’t chew it fully and instead inhales it, it can get stuck in her throat. This could be an issue for dogs of any breed, but you’ll want to be particularly careful with smaller breeds since there’s less room in their windpipes for the neck to slide down. If your dog is small, one idea is to start off with a small animal neck first, such as a chicken neck. These are substantially smaller, meaning they’re less likely to choke on.
To prevent this, you can hold one end of the neck while she chews on the other. That way, she’s forced to slowly eat it, making it impossible for her to gulp it all down. If you can, it can also be a good idea to split it into chunks. Although this doesn’t completely get rid of choking risks (unless it’s really small), it significantly reduces the chances. This is a particularly good idea if you know your dog is one to inhale food.
Another option is to freeze the turkey neck beforehand. Although this isn’t foolproof and you’ll still need to supervise her, it makes her more likely to tear off pieces as opposed to swallowing it whole.
Again, you may think it’s unlikely your dog will swallow the whole thing, but it’s actually quite common. In fact, on a message board, one animal worker wrote, “Chicken and Turkey necks are the #1 reason we have to go in with the endoscope to retrieve an esophageal foreign body. I have known pets to die as the esophagus becomes too necrotic, or is perforated when the bone is removed.”
To back this up with some doggy data, bones or bone fragments are the most common cause of oesophageal obstruction in dogs. They account for 47% to 100% of cases in reported studies.
To summarize, you can prevent your dog from choking on a turkey neck by:
- Always supervising her when she’s eating a turkey neck
- Holding one end of the neck while she chews
- Chopping it into smaller pieces
- Freezing the turkey neck beforehand
- For smaller breeds, consider smaller animal necks (ex. chicken or duck)
Turkey Necks for Dogs: How To
If you want to give a dog a raw turkey neck, there’s a few ways you can obtain it.
- Buy a turkey and save the neck for your dog
- Buy frozen turkey necks
- Buy broth made from turkey necks
- Buy freeze-dried or dehydrated turkey necks
Preparing Turkey Necks for Dogs:
- Raw— If you’re comfortable feeding your dog raw food, you can serve up the raw bone as is (preferably chopped into chunks, read the safety section above).
- Broth— You can stew it in some water for a few hours to make a delicious broth. Just make sure to strain before serving (never give your dog cooked bones!).
- Pupsicles— Simply strain the turkey neck broth and give it to your dog warm, cold or freeze it into ice cubes for a pupscile.
- Dehydrate— You can choose to dehydrate or freeze dry your own turkey neck, just be safe it’s done enough for your dog to eat without safety or choking hazards. (Since these are dry, be sure your dog has plenty of water if you go this route). Your local butcher may be able to take on this task for you.
Summary of Turkey Necks for Dogs
Turkey necks should no longer be overlooked now that you know your dog can enjoy them in some circumstances. Remember that you should never feed your dog cooked bones, including necks because they could splinter and get lodged in the throat.
If you’re wondering can dogs eat turkey necks, remember to feed it to her raw and to take safety precautions to avoid her choking. You should consider cutting the turkey neck into smaller pieces and, if your dog is a smaller breed, smaller animal necks may be more appropriate. In any case, you should always supervise your dog while they’re eating a bone, especially ones from the neck. If you’re uncomfortable giving raw meat to your dog, you can prepare the neck in the other ways we’ve suggested above. Remember: even if it’s safe for your dog, it’s not safe for you, so wash your hands and sanitize any surfaces the raw neck touches.