Many dog owners feel their pets could use a bit of variation in their diet, which they actually do, and try to make kibble more appealing by adding human foods.
Cream of chicken soup sounds just like the perfect food to add to a regular dog’s meal. Plus it’s affordable and you probably have a can or two in the pantry.
It smells like chicken, tastes like chicken, so, naturally, dogs tend to lap it up quickly. However, cream chicken soup is not exactly healthy, neither for dogs, nor for their owners.
In this article we’ll examine the main ingredients in this type of products, to see what’s safe for your pet and what not. Also, we’ll be looking at healthier, easy to prepare food alternatives.
What are the ingredients in cream of chicken soup?
There are many types of chicken soup cream on the market and they contain more or less the same basic ingredients.
Don’t confuse this with chicken broth, which is made by boiling chicken meat. Chicken stock is basically bone broth. It is prepared by simmering chicken bones and cartilage for 6 to 8 hours.
Chicken stock is actually quite healthy, at least the homemade version.
If you’re thinking of using shop bought cubes read my article about chicken flavoured stock cubes.
Chicken stock is thicker than broth as the collagen in the bones slowly dissolves into the simmering water. It also has a higher content of carbs, protein, fats and minerals than chicken broth.
All in all, chicken stock is highly nutritious and can improve digestion and promote joint health due to its collagen and minerals content.
That is quite good for your dog. According to the AKC, chicken meat is rich in protein and is safe and nutritious for dogs, especially if it’s cooked. Raw chicken might contain salmonella or harmful bacteria.
Since the meat in the soup can is cooked, you don’t have to worry about that. What you should worry about is how much real meat is in that can, and the answer is not much. It doesn’t say on the label, but you can easily guess it’s little actual meat just by looking at the next ingredient.
Dehydrated mechanically separated chicken
This weird-sounding term refers to anything but meat. It’s sometimes called white slime and it’s produced by forcing pureed or ground chicken through a sieve to separate the bone fragments from the edible mush.
In that slime you’ll find tissue, skin, nerves and blood vessels from the chicken. Not meat, as that is stripped of the carcass before the grounding part. There are some nutrients in this slime, also used in hot dogs or fast food products, but it’s still a cheap substitute for real meat.
Milk is good for dogs, unless they’re lactose intolerant. However, milk and cream are full of fats, so they should be offered to a dog only as an occasional treat. There’s probably little milk in the cream of chicken soup anyway, so that won’t harm your pet.
Starches are used as thickening agents, emulsifiers or stabilizers in the food industry. Modified starch is derived from ordinary starch using various methods, including chemical treatment with various compounds.
Modified starches are approved for human consumption and are even used in baby food. However, the chemicals used in the modification process might be dangerous and cause a lot of problems, from headaches and diarrhea to cancer.
You can use vegetable oil in your dog’s meals. It’s safe to eat for dogs, but once again you should keep in mind that too many fats in your pet’s diet can cause many health problems, including pancreatitis, which can be fatal. Also, vegetable oil is very calorific.
Wheat flour is commonly used in many dog treats recipes and it’s perfectly safe for a healthy dog. It only poses risks to dogs with a wheat allergy. On the other hand, the cheap white flour in most canned products has little to no nutritional value.
Are any of the ingredients toxic to dogs?
Yes, there are several ingredients that pose significant health risks to both dogs and humans. Here are just a few of them.
You’ll find that on the label as sodium. When you look at the nutritional information on a can of Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup, you’ll see that a 1/2 cup serving (120ml) contains 17% of the Recommended Daily Value.
For a human, that is. This means that an average 130 lbs person gets almost a fifth of the recommended salt intake from one measly serving of this soup. Do the math and see what that means for a medium-size 40 lbs dog. That’s practically huge for a dog.
This is a flavour enhancer found in many processed foods, together with disodium guanylate, closely related to the infamous monosodium glutamate, heavily used by the food industry to make their products more appealing to the palate. These compounds can cause allergies, heart problems, digestive issues, as well as behavioral problems. You shouldn’t eat them, and your dog shouldn’t eat them either.
Is cream of chicken soup good for picky eaters? What about sick dogs?
If your dog is particularly fussy or maybe you’ve changed his food and he refuses to eat, adding something with a chicken flavor might make the food more palatable. However, using cream of chicken soup is not such a great idea. Once or twice two spoonfuls of this product won’t hurt the dog, but long term look for a homemade alternative.
For a sick dog, giving him cream of chicken soup might worsen his vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs with an upset tummy should be put on a bland diet. Plain cooked rice is the go-to remedy for many dog owners, but you can also give your pet some boiled chicken breast. That’s lean meat with no salt or flavorings of any kind. Unfortunately, cream of chicken soup cannot be used as a substitute, not even if you’re in a hurry and don’t know what to give your poor dog. Better run to the store and grab a bag of rice.
Are other cream soups any better?
You may wonder whether there are other canned cream soups you might use to add some flavor to your dog’s meal. The answer is no, other products, like mushroom or celery soup, aren’t any better. The problem is not the chicken, that’s good for the dog. The problem is with other ingredients that are harmful, and you will find those in any other commercial product. Take for instance cream of mushroom soup, which has a sky-high salt content. 100g of product has 870mg of salt, or 37.7% of the RDV, for humans. Not to mention this soup also contains monosodium glutamate.
The same goes for celery soup, although some products have a slightly lower salt content.
Are then any other healthy alternatives?
If your dog is a picky eater or has a sensitive stomach you should stick with homemade foods. The soup you make for the rest of the family probably has too much salt, so your best option is to try homemade bone broth, aka chicken stock.
Bone broth is the healthier option for your dog as it contains a lot of gelatine and minerals, which is good for his joints, his stomach as well as his immune system. However, stay away from any broth that contains onion.
Here is a great recipe for bone broth. The good part in making a bone broth is that you can use the parts of the chicken you don’t have much use for when it comes to your family meal. The not so good part is that making bone broth takes a lot of time.
If you’re using a regular pot, you just throw whatever bones you have in it (especially chicken feet), cover them with water and have them simmer for at least six hours. Make sure to add water from time to time.
If you’re using a crockpot, fill it with bones (including the discarded ones from the family dinner) and put it on high for one hour. Turn the crockpot on low and let it cook for another 24 hours, strain the bones and you’ll have a delicious bone broth you can store in the fridge for days and use as needed.
There’s a secret ingredient to this recipe – apple cider vinegar, which pulls the minerals from the bones. Use 3-4 tbsp to of ACV to a crockpot.
What is the best dog friendly chicken soup to use?
When you don’t have the time to make bone broth, you can always prepare some chicken soup. Here is a great chicken soup recipe for your furry friend. It’s very quick to make and you can add healthy veggies, like carrots, celery, green beans and some sweet potatoes. They are full of vitamins and fibers, and your dog needs these in his diet.
The main advantage of making such a soup for your pet is that it is salt-free and doesn’t contain spices or any sort of chemical compounds. The chicken base is optional, and you might want to choose to leave that out. There’s enough chicken meat in the soup so there’s no need for chicken base, which is not recommended for dogs as it might contain salt or other flavor enhancers.
Can dogs eat cream of chicken soup?
Dogs should not be fed canned soups of any kind, not even cream of chicken soup. There’s very little chicken meat in this soup. Instead there’s plenty of dehydrated mechanically separated chicken, which is highly-processed chicken scraps. Those aren’t even the worst in a canned soup. The real danger in such products are salt and flavor enhancers, which are potentially harmful chemicals, even if they are approved for human or animal consumption.
If you want to give some flavor to your dog’s regular food, take them time to make some bone broth or real chicken soup. Store it in the fridge and you’ll have something yummy and healthy to put in your dog’s bowl for the whole week.