Chicken balls are a favourite take out dish from Chinese restaurants in the US, Canada and the UK.
These battered pieces of chicken which often come in a rich and sweet sauce without a doubt are delicious.
But how appropriate is it for us to feed them to our dogs?
I will give you a quick answer below but if you want more details, please read on.
Should dogs eat chicken balls? Your dog shouldn’t eat chicken balls. There is nothing in chicken balls or the batter that are poisonous to dogs but they just aren’t very nutritious for your dog. Although onions and garlic (which can be poisonous to dogs) are used in some plum sauce recipes, the amounts used aren’t enough to trouble a dog. Most sweet and sour recipes don’t contain either onion or garlic.
What is the nutrition in Chinese chicken balls?
I have created a chart below which shows the most relevant nutrition data about chicken balls.
To try and place it in context, I have also added the nutrition details of a piece of chicken breast.
It is for a 100g serving.
The nutrition facts shown below are for chicken balls only.
It doesn’t include any of the nutrition about the sauces (such as sweet and sour) that we might eat these balls with.
|Fat||15 g||7 g|
|Cholesterol||21 mg||135 mg|
|Sodium||840 mg||730 mg|
|Protein||14 g||40 g|
Chicken breast is a popular food with dog owners because chicken is a lean meat and a quick glance at the chart tells us that it is a healthier option for our dogs than chicken balls.
The batter which coats the chicken ball gives it slightly more calories, almost double the fat content and more sodium than a plain chicken breast.
Shop bought rotisserie chicken is another form of chicken that has a very high salt content.
And it means that there are carbohydrates- which don’t exist in a plain piece of cooked chicken breast.
All of that batter also means that a chicken ball has less than half the protein of a chicken breast.
And finally, a strange piece of nutrition is that chicken balls have a much lower level of cholesterol than chicken breast.
Thinking of a chicken ball as an unhealthy food I would have assumed that it had a higher level of cholesterol!
But what does all of this mean for your dog?
Foods that are high in calories and fat place dogs at higher risk of obesity.
High levels of salt (sodium) in a dog’s diet can lead to an increase in blood pressure but this will only happen if your dog has a diet that is consistently high in salt.
Having looked at the basic nutrition data for chicken balls it is time to move on and look at the main ingredients.
What are the main ingredients in chicken balls?
The main ingredient in chicken balls are pieces of chicken breast.
The batter is made out of a combination of eggs and flour.
What are the ingredients in sweet and sour sauce?
A sweet and sour sauce is made using a combination of tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornflour.
That makes seven ingredients in all.
None of which are toxic to dogs- unless your dog is very wheat intolerant which could mean that they might struggle with the flour in the batter.
Dogs won’t be used to the richness of this recipe and they won’t be used to eating ingredients such as tomato sauce and vinegar- which is part of the reason that BBQ chicken isn’t ideal either
What are the ingredients in a plum sauce?
An alternative to sweet and sour sauce with chicken balls is plum sauce.
Now plum sauce is more of an issue for our dogs because it is more likely to contain toxic ingredients such as onion and garlic.
Although onions and garlic are poisonous to dogs, the amount that is present in a small dish of plum sauce shouldn’t harm your dog- it might just give them an upset stomach.
It gets more problematic if your dog gets hold of a large quantity of plum sauce- but I can’t quite picture a situation where this would happen.
Now, these ingredients are taken from various recipe sites on the Internet.
Try as I might, I wasn’t able to find a recipe from a real Chinese restaurant.
And one of the ingredients that commercial restaurants use in their sauces is a msg- monosodium glutamate.
It is added to recipes in order to enhance the flavour and there have been concerns about how safe it is.
The FDA recognises MSG as generally safe to eat.
It has carried out experiments on people to see if it triggers any sensitivities.
These tests have all turned out to be safe.
How many chicken balls should I feed to my dog?
Reading through the article, should tell you that in an ideal world, no one in their right mind would feed chicken balls to dogs.
But we live in the real world and our relationship with our dogs are close and complex.
And I know how easy it is to get into the habit of sharing food with them.
So if you want to feed your dog chicken balls or you can’t resist that pathetic look that they are giving you, break one up and feed them a chunk without any sauce on it.
My dog ate a chicken ball. What should I do?
Your dog should be OK as long as they only snuck one or two in their mouth.
If they ate any more because you were momentarily distracted then the worst that will happen will be a dose of diarrhea.
And there is nothing like having to clean up a mess like that in the house that will make us think more carefully next time!
¹ Photo by James Creegan