Is Turkey Bad For Dogs? (The Truth)

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TurkeyIt’s tempting to slip Fido a piece of Thanksgiving turkey or lunch meat, but could turkey be harming your dog? Which state is feeding its dogs the most turkey? Learn the answers along with some alternatives (and a yummy turkey treat recipe to make with the Thanksgiving leftovers).

Article Overview

Is Turkey Bad For Dogs?

Plain, unseasoned turkey is a tasty and nutritious snack for most dogs and is often an ingredient in commercial dog foods. There isn’t anything particularly toxic about it, but when processed, like deli meats and turkey hot dogs, the chemicals used to keep them “edible” is often not digested well by dogs. We do not recommend feeding your dog any processed meats.

Thanksgiving turkey can be just as dangerous. We like to cover and fill our birds in oil, butter, seasonings, garlic, onion, stuffing, etc. This can upset your dog’s digestive system or even cause pancreatitis. It’s better to avoid sliding your dog a piece under the table.

If you choose to give your dog turkey, moderation is key and always remember that each dog is an individual.

Some dogs are allergic to beef and some to chicken. If you see a pattern with your pup eating turkey and subsequently getting sick, then you’ve done the right thing by removing the turkey from their diet.

Which Human Foods Are Safe To Feed Fido?

Which States Feed Dogs The Most (& Least) Thanksgiving Turkey?

We did some research to identify which states feed their dogs the most turkey leftovers around the Thanksgiving holiday. The locations may surprise you!

Which States Feed Dogs The Most (& Least) Thanksgiving Turkey Infographic

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Delaware came out on top as the state with the happiest pups on Thanksgiving (because their owners are consistently eager to know whether it’s okay to feed turkey to their dogs). Right behind Delawarean pups are those from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Note: DE and WV made our top five list last year too, but PA, RI and NJ are new lucky pups in our turkey-loving rankings!

Are you wondering which dogs are least likely to chow down on turkey? Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Mississippi showed the least interest in this subject, suggesting those dogs may skip the Thanksgiving festivities (or perhaps they already know it’s okay to feed turkey to dogs in these areas, so they are skipping the online research).

There is also some good news for all dogs (and their bellies) – searches for “Can Dogs Eat Turkey” are up 47% over the past five years. So, it seems that more and more dogs are successfully begging their way into more poultry on Turkey Day (or parents are doing a better job of researching it ahead of time to play it safe).


Google Trends U.S. state data for the phrase “can dogs eat turkey” was analyzed for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to the Tuesday after for each of the past 5 Thanksgivings (2014-2019). Wednesday to Saturday each year around Thanksgiving are by far the vast amount of searches for this term during any given calendar year during this time frame.

Turkey Dog Treat Recipe

Dog eating turkey treat

If you want to try giving your dog some Thanksgiving leftovers, below is a dog treat recipe. Remember to avoid giving your dog a butter-soaked, herb covered stuffing filled turkey and to only give it to them in moderation. Removing the skin is a great way to eliminate these things.

  • 1 unbaked loaf of bread or pizza crust
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (preferably low sodium) or water
  • 1-2 teaspoons flour
  • 3/4 cup cooked turkey chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (pick your pup’s favorite)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Roll out the dough and cut into 3″ circles with a cookie cutter.
  3. In a pan, combine the broth and flour, stirring until flour dissolves.
  4. Heat on medium until mixture thickens.
  5. Add the turkey and vegetables. Cook until the mixture is thoroughly heated.
  6. Simmer for a few minutes.
  7. Spoon one to two teaspoons of the turkey-veggie mixture onto each circle.
  8. Fold up the sides and pinch shut.
  9. Roll into a ball shape.
  10. In a separate small bowl, mix the cheese and sesame seeds.
  11. Roll or sprinkle each ball with the cheese-sesame seed mixture.
  12. Arrange the balls on a baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow time for this turkey dog treat recipe to cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Serving Size: Approximately 8 cups (64 oz.)

Is Turkey Bad For Dogs Infographic

Here’s a handy graphic you can share and print out with the recipe.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey and Turkey Treat Recipe Graphic

To share this infographic on your site, simply copy and paste the code below:

Turkey Alternative For Dogs

If you are looking for a delicious pre-made turkey recipe, we highly recommend you get your paws on The Farmer’s Dog. They’ll gobble it up (or at least our dogs do). It’s freshly made wet dog food packed with all the nutrients that your pup needs and delivered to your doorstep. Learn more in our Farmer’s Dog review.

Get 35% off your first box of PetPlate! Just use this link to get started!

What’s your dog’s favorite Thanksgiving dish?

About The Author:

Michelle holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and has worked in marketing at Bank of America, Mattel and Hanes. Her expert advice and opinions have appeared in many outstanding media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest and Apartment Therapy, among others.

She is the proud co-founder of Canine Journal and a dog lover through and through. Since the day she was born, she has lived in a home full of dogs. Her adult home is no exception where she and her husband live with Lily and Barley, their two adorable rescue pups.

In addition to her love for snuggling with dogs, she also has enjoyed working professionally in the canine field since 1999 when she started her first dog-related job at a dog bakery.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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Matthew Foley
October 22, 2018 12:21 pm

Turkey is GREAT if you want your dog to get pancreatitis.
About as good for your dog as onion and nutmeg.

Disclaimers dont erase liability when you cause someone’s animal harm by knowingly giving false information. Everyone legit, from the American Veterinary association to the AKC warns against Turkey. Studies are extremely conclusive.

March 21, 2018 7:06 pm

I have been giving my dog processed turkey for a few days came home today dog not playfull just lays their still wags tail but no reaction

Matthew Foley
October 22, 2018 12:22 pm
Reply to  Ricardo

That’s cuz Turkey is extremely toxic to dogs, and can cause pancreatitis

November 19, 2016 6:46 pm

I am having trouble understanding if dogs can have turkey whether it is deli, processed or unprocessed due to the fact that my dog’s regular dog food has turkey in it. I know they can’t have bones from it that is I am confused about whether or not she can have it due to eats it everyday in her dog food can you please tell me?

Kimberly Alt
November 21, 2016 10:33 am
Reply to  bobbi

Our Pet Doc says deli meats and turkey hot dogs have extra chemicals in them which make them more difficult to digest for dogs. Pet Doc recommends not feeding your dog any type of processed meat.

June 27, 2016 9:19 am

Interesting info – 2x now, my dog has eaten a commercial turkey topper and both times the morning after has had 3 seizures each. She is currently on Keppra ER and was dx’ed with idiopathic epilepsy. I have not given her any turkey, since. Is it possible that the turkey was the cause? Seems coincidental to me. All regular vets tests ‘normal’. Thoughts, please.

Kimberly Alt
June 27, 2016 9:28 am
Reply to  Jockoliveson1

Turkey can be the trigger for the seizures. Each dog is different but if both times your dog has had seizures you fed her turkey the day before, we definitely suggest avoiding turkey from now on. Hope all is well with your pup now!

June 27, 2016 11:38 am
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Thank you, Kimberly Kurimski! When asking my reg vet aforementioned, vet ‘blew it off’ ie: turkey/seizures. I have to listen to my ‘gut’ and have read numerous articles suggesting turkey causing seizures. Your reputation and credibility is ALL I needed to confirm. I was looking for a supplement from Balance IT but top ingredient is Tryptophan – knowing Tryptophan is high in turkey…not sure I want to risk it, thoughts, please. Thank you so very, very much, Kimberly. Thankfully, though weighing 90 lbs, only on Keppra 750 ER twice a day, (low dose).

October 31, 2018 1:46 am
Reply to  Jockoliveson1

Rosemary extract is a common additive to ground turkey as well as kibbles. Linked to seizures

Kimberly Alt
June 28, 2016 8:25 am
Reply to  Jockoliveson1

You’re welcome! At this point, if you have doubts about a food to feed your dog, I suggest not giving it to her. What are you wanting/needing a supplement for? Did your vet suggest a certain supplement to give her to help with the epilepsy?

June 28, 2016 8:45 am
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Thank you, again, Kimberly Kurimski. I home cook for my dog – lean ground beef boiled/rinsed and brown rice. Didn’t know if she needed more nutrients, thus a supplement. I can certainly cook up, puree, carrots, green beans and squash and add to beef and rice. So many peeps on the web are all for supplements for their dogs and I wondered if truly necessary or if the veggies I’m going to add will be fine. Thank you, so much, again, Kimberly.

Kimberly Alt
June 29, 2016 10:35 am
Reply to  Jockoliveson1

The food you are providing your dog sounds like it should be enough for her. Unless your vet suggests a supplement that she is lacking she should be getting the nutrients she needs. So happy we could help you!

June 30, 2016 11:50 am
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Thank you so much, again, Kimberly Kurimski! Hugs, licks, kisses and paws, to you. Melinda and Snowy <3

Hooked on Health
June 29, 2015 8:38 am

This is crazy. Maybe its the dang chemicals in the foods and not the turkey. No one – dog, human, cat – should be eating those “foods”.

Toby Hampton
May 5, 2015 12:58 pm

I just gave my little Yorkie the deli turkey off my sandwich. I think at most two pieces and a little roast beef and ham. Now I’m afraid she may get sick…

December 26, 2015 5:49 pm
Reply to  Toby Hampton

Feeding your dog or yourself processed meats is just darn silly. You have a choice, your dog does not. There are plenty of healthy alternatives. Our Dobie loves turkey but never processed cr@p.

a hound with a fashionable sense
April 26, 2012 8:01 pm

Yes, an allergy has to be the case.  I give my dog turkey all the time, and she is a Chihuahua too, and she never has any problems.  In fact, she loves it.  That is scary though, not realizing that your dog has an allergy.  At least her reaction was not a major one and she could breathe.  But I always get scared when my dog gets sick, it is scary because she cannot talk and tell me what is wrong or what hurts.  One thing I could suggest is that if you feel like your dog really loved the flavor of the turkey, but would just get sick soon after eating it; you could give her vegetarian turkey possibly, though it is usually made with soy and wheat, so those could be allergens to a sensitive dog as well.  I am not sure.  What I do know is that my little puppy cannot seem to tell the difference between real  meat and veggie.  The funny secret is that neither can humans.  They put this stuff into restaurant food like soups and stews called TVP, and it takes on the flavor of whatever dish it is in.  Sometimes you have it in your food and you have no idea that you are eating chicken or beef.  One of the ways that people use TVP is to create the illusion of more meat in food, without having to spend the money.  For example, when a person re-hydrates a pound of TVP and cooks it with a pound of ground beef, the TVP will take on that flavor and it will be good.  Anyway, just a bit of extra information.  The veggie turkey you buy however will not have any cooked turkey juices at all.  It will be all vegetarian (possibly with some eggs) seasoned to taste like the meat that you desire.  A lot of these mock meat copies work well as substitutes in recipes, and some of them taste close to real meat by human standards, but by dog standards, I really think that they taste like meat.  My dog has always reacted the same way to a piece of veggie lunchmeat or a piece of real lunchmeat.  To her, it just seems like good meat.  I guess there is something to be said for that.  It could be a good option for your little pup!