Have you just bought a chicken and tucked in amongst all the giblets was a heart?
Which leads you to wonder how nutritious they might be for your dog?
Or it might be that you have stumbled on an article which has detailed the large concentrations of vitamins and minerals this ignored part of a chicken is.
But before we tuck in to the finer details, I will treat you to some chicken heart trivia.
Did you know that the average chicken heart weighs about 7 g?
And that it beats between 200 and 300 beats per minute.
Or that in 2017 Brazilians ate five billion chicken hearts!
So can dogs eat chicken hearts? Yes they can. Although your average chicken heart is small, the nutrition that they contain is huge. Although there are concerns about feeding raw heart to your dog, you can play it safe by cooking it instead. The fact that they do contain some much nutrition means that you should feed them sparingly to your dog. Besides which, you might struggle to get hold of any in the first place!
Chicken heart nutrition
I have created a chart below which shows the most relevant nutrition data about a chicken heart.
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 even though the average one only weighs 7 g it makes comparisons easier.
|Fat||10 g||7 g|
|Cholesterol||136 mg||135 mg|
|Sodium||74 mg||730 mg|
|Protein||16 g||40 g|
So we can see from the chart above that chicken heart compared to chicken breast is low in calories, has a slightly higher fat content but has a significantly lower amount of protein. But I think that the real nutrition in a chicken’s heart is in the vitamins and minerals that it contains.
Let’s take a look.
|Vitamin B2||.728 mg||0.17 mg|
|Vitamin B3||4.8 mg||8.5 mg|
|Vitamin B5||2.5 mg||–|
|Vitamin B12||7.3 mcg||0.17 mcg|
|Copper||0.35 mg||0.04 mg|
|Zinc||6.59 mg||.87 mg|
Now of course, it is unlikely that your dog will ever eat 100 g of chicken heart in one sitting because that would be the equivalent of about 14 hearts but it helps us to make a fair comparison.
Chicken heart is far, far richer in most B vitamins than chicken breast.
For instance it has at least six times more B2 and over thirty times as much B12- although chicken breast is a better source of vitamin B3.
But how does vitamin B help a dog?
Vitamin B plays an important part in your dog’s metabolism- helping to turn food into energy.
As well as helping to give their hair a healthy sheen, it also supports the brain and the nervous system.
Moving onto the minerals found, the heart has over 10 times as much copper as you would find in a breast and nearly eight times as much zinc.
Despite the fact that these minerals are found in relatively tiny amounts, they are vital for certain functions.
Perhaps the starring role for copper as far as your dog is concerned is that it helps in the creation of red blood cells- you know those cells which transport oxygen around your dog’s body?
When it comes to zinc, it supports the immune system and is involved in helping the thyroid to function properly.
Having established just how nutritious a chicken heart is for your dog, in the next section I will explain how much chicken heart you should feed to your dog.
How much chicken heart should I give to my dog?
It is easy to get over excited when we see nutritional data like that to rush out and buy as many hearts as we can.
After all, aren’t chicken hearts the new dog superfood?
Those concentrations of vitamins and minerals are very high to consider feeding them to your dog on a regular basis.
And although your dog won’t come to any real harm in the short term, a food as rich as chicken heart will play havoc with their digestion.
And you will end up, literally, having to clean up after them.
Hopefully your dog is already on a balanced diet and so the best thing to do is to use chicken hearts as a treat or an occasional health boost.
Realistically feeding your dog one or two chicken hearts a week will be more than sufficient.
And besides, you might struggle to find a reliable source of chicken hearts.
Where can I buy chicken hearts?
A quick glance at the shelves in your local grocery store might show that chicken hearts are as rare as hen’s teeth!
Often they will be bundled in a mixed tray with gizzards- which is the name of all the other organs in a chicken.
Realistically you are left with three main choices.
Go to a grocery store that has a meat counter or to go to your local butcher shop.
Visiting your local butchers might be good because they might be able to get hold of some for you, even if they don’t normally stock it.
Your final choice is to go online and buy chicken heart from a reputable raw food dog company.
Having given you some idea about how to “source” chicken heart, the next step is to work out how to serve it.
Can my dog eat raw chicken heart?
Raw is so convenient isn’t it?
Well raw meat still leaves some mess and clearing up to do but nothing compared to having to cook it.
Feeding your dog raw chicken heart doesn’t come without risk though.
And the risk is in the form of two different bacteria- salmonella and campylobacter.
These bacteria can be present in any part of a raw chicken- breast, skin, wing you name it.
According to a study in 2018, there is a 4% chance that your chicken heart will be contaminated with salmonella.
Now, dogs can be infected by both of these bacteria and can become very ill even though that is a very rare event.
But, these bacteria are very dangerous for people and can and have killed people.
Which is part of the reason that dog owners are sometimes warned off feeding their dogs raw meat.
Because in handling it and not being careful enough, people will contaminate themselves.
So, if those figures have just put you off feeding your dog raw chicken heart, in the next section I will explain the best way to cook it.
How should I cook chicken heart?
In the last section I painted a bit of a scary picture of chicken hearts that were full of bacteria.
Well there is an easy way to stop any of this bacteria in its tracks and that is to cook it.
The easiest way to cook a chicken heart is to boil it in water for about 30 minutes.
Although many recipes will advise you to wash the heart before you cook it there is no need to do this.
Washing it just increases the risk of leaving splashes of infected meat on your work surfaces!
¹ Photo by Daniel Panev