The presents have all been opened, Christmas lunch is over and every family member is full of turkey. Except for one. Those big puppy dog eyes looking longingly at you over the leftover turkey, and asking for a Christmas lunch of their own. Understandably hard to resist.

After all they’ve likely had their own stocking, presents and Christmas card so why not the meal too? Would it be so bad if you gave your dog some turkey over the festive period? Can dogs eat turkey?

In this article we will discuss how turkey, in some forms, can be a very enjoyable and safe treat for your furry friend. However, there are some exceptions. So this will be covered to make sure that everyone can have an enjoyable, but safe, and stress-free time. 

Turkey is a highly digestible protein source commonly found in commercial dog foods. And, if your dog has a poorly tummy, vets often advise feeding boiled turkey or chicken as part of a bland diet until they are feeling better.  

However, the turkey from your roast dinner has been cooked whole, and roasted rather than boiled, meaning not all of it is suitable for your pet. 

The meat itself, plain and in small quantities, is more than likely a harmless treat at Christmas. However, caution should be exercised in dogs with sensitive stomachs, food intolerances or prior gastrointestinal issues. Sudden changes in food can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. 

The skin, however delicious it may be, is very high in fat and should not be given to your pet – however much they plead. It is likely to upset their stomach at the very least and in some dogs can cause pancreatitis. Furthermore, the spice mixes and gravies that often coat the skin can have garlic or onion in them, which are toxic to dogs. 

Although some bones can be a common canine treat, cooked bones from your turkey roast are not suitable. 

Firstly, smaller bones like those found in chicken or turkey carcasses are likely to be swallowed, rather than chewed on. 

Secondly, cooking bones makes them a lot more fragile and more likely to shatter into fragments. These fragments can be very painful for your dog to digest. They can do a lot of damage to the lining of the intestines as they scrape past and, if very sharp, can even perforate into the abdomen. They can also be very painful for your dog to pass and can result in them getting constipated. 

There is also the chance that either whole bones or large bone fragments can get lodged in the oesophagus or intestines. These likely need surgical removal. Therefore it is important that any meat you give your dog has been stripped from the bone and checked for bony fragments first. 

For dogs on a diet, though, the situation is a bit more complicated.

While turkey meat in small quantities may be suitable for most dogs, as a once-a-year treat, if your dog is on a diet regime as advised by your vet, it is important that you consider this before giving them any human food. For dogs, our food is very high in calories. Even small amounts are likely to have a significant impact on any weight loss program. So think carefully before you undo all the hard work you have put in so far. If you want to treat your dog to some Christmas turkey, think about taking them for an extra walk or reducing their normal dinner portion slightly to account for the extra calories. 

Similarly, if your dog is an ideal weight currently, it is important to keep it that way. Scraps of meat from your roast dinner, while they may be harmless at the time, should not become a weekly occurrence. The cumulative effect will ultimately mean weight gain and future health problems. 

What about the rest of the Christmas dinner?

Turkey aside, other parts of your roast dinner may be suitable for your pet in small quantities too. Plain, boiled vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli or peas make good treats and are unlikely to cause any health problems.  Leeks, corn on the cob and any roasted or glazed vegetables should be avoided. To add that finishing touch, a dash of cranberry sauce would be the perfect accompaniment to your pets Christmas dinner. Just make sure it is unsweetened and has no added nuts.  

So, in summary, the answer is yes. 

Dogs can eat turkey and a small Christmas dinner of plain turkey meat, some vegetables and a drizzle of cranberry sauce is likely to be harmless. However, as described above, it is important that you know which parts are safe and which aren’t. You also need to take any previous medical issues your pet has had into consideration. 

While you’re occupied digesting your dinner and watching Christmas television ensure that the meat carcass and any other leftovers are kept out your pet’s reach. We don’t want them to enjoy seconds while you’re not looking! 

If you do suspect your dog has swiped some of your leftover turkey, or they become unwell, it is important that you contact your veterinary practice for further advice. 

For any health concerns, use our free dog symptom checker. Also, if you think your pooch may have eaten something it shouldn’t, there’s our Poisons Guide.

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