Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken Liver?

Photo by wEnDy on Flickr

Yes, your dog can eat raw chicken liver but there are a few things to bear in mind.

Chicken liver is a very potent piece of meat, particularly when it comes to vitamins and minerals.

It contains such large amounts of certain vitamins (such as B12 or A) that it needs to be fed very sparingly to your dog.

But how sparingly depends on the sort of diet that your dog is eating.

Another important consideration about feeding raw chicken liver to your dog is that it might be infected with dangerous bacteria- which could harm you and your dog.

But more on that later.

Complete diets vs raw diets

The frequency with which you should feed raw chicken livers to your dog, depends on what sort of food they are eating. 

If your dog is on a complete diet either by eating canned food or dry kibble then it is important to recognise that these diets provide them with everything your dog needs.

Chicken liver should be given as a treat.

Realistically a dog should only have a few tablespoons of it per week- it is that rich.

However, if your dog is on a raw diet then it is recommended that raw chicken liver should make up about 5% of their diet.

Don’t try and work it on a daily basis, calculate it over a week or even two weeks.

Let me give you an example.

My dog Sylvie eats 500 g of raw meat everyday.

Over a week she eats 3.5 kg of food.

And 5% of that is 175 g.

And so Sylvie needs 175 g of chicken liver (or liver from another animal) per week. 

Now, I want to demonstrate to you just how potent raw chicken liver is.

And I’m going to do this by looking at all the nutrients that it contains. 

Raw chicken liver nutrients

As you can see by looking at the nutrition data alongside this text, raw chicken liver is nearly 5% fat and 17% protein and is high in cholesterol and sodium.

But the real “oomph” provided by chicken livers comes when we start looking at the vitamins and minerals that it contains. 

Here is a breakdown of the vitamins.

VitaminAmountRecommended Value
B12.016 mg553%
A11078 IU2216%
B2 1.778 mg356%
B56.23 mg519%
B6.853 mg568%
B39.73 mg715%

Now, the chart above shows the six biggest vitamins that are contained within chicken liver.

And they are; B12, A B2, B5, B6 and Niacin.

The recommended value column shows how much of each of these vitamins a dog should get a day.

And I have used the data that I gained from this report.

And these amounts are based on 100 g serving of chicken liver. 

So the biggest overdose is given by vitamin A which provides over twenty two times the daily amounts. 

All the other amounts look inconsiderable compared to that!

Vitamins B12, B6 and B5 have over five times the amount 

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) has seven times the daily amount, and B2 has a lowly three times the recommended daily amounts.   

And now that we have looked at the vitamins, let’s move into the minerals

MineralAmountDaily Value
Copper8.00 mg1095%
Iron8.99 mg224%
Phosphorus297 mg .0002%
Magnesium 19 mg.0002%
Zinc 2.67 mg33%
Potassium230 mg .0023%

Heading straight to the daily value column, we can see that your dog does not get quite the overdose of minerals as it does of vitamins with raw chicken liver.

It gets ten times the recommended amount of copper (1095%) and twice the amount of iron (224%) 

Zinc comes in with a more balanced and moderate 33% of a daily value but of the other main minerals that are contained in chicken liver, a dog need’s are poorly met.

Phosphorus, magnesium and potassium deliver hardly anything for your dog. 

And now let’s check out what difference cooking makes to chicken liver. 

Raw chicken liver vs cooked chicken liver

Glancing to your right, you will see some nutrition data for chicken liver that has been simmered. 

It is 6.5% fat and it is 24% protein.

Raw liver was 5% fat and 17% protein. 

There is also quite a substantial rise in the amount of cholesterol that cooked liver contains in comparison (563 mg as opposed to 345 mg.)

What about vitamins? Well funny that you should say that because I have a chart for that!

VitaminRawCooked
B1216.58 mcg16.58 mcg
A11078 IU13328 IU
B2 1.778 mg2 mg
B56.23 mg6.67 mg
B6.853 mg.0755 mg
B39.73 mg11.045 mg

Cooking chicken liver seems to increase the concentrations or amounts of the main vitamins.

Vitamin A increases by about 20% and vitamin B2 sees an increase of about 10%. 

Vitamin B5 increases by about 5%, B6 seems to decrease by about 10% and vitamin B3 sees an increase of about 20% by being simmered. 

Since all of the vitamins from a raw piece of chicken were already way over the prescribed daily amount and cooking it seems to increase the concentration of these vitamins, it would seem to suggest that feeding it to your dog raw is the way to go.

Does raw chicken liver contain any bacteria?

It seems that the next logical question to ask is whether raw chicken liver contains any bacteria.

Having seen that nutrition wise, raw is the preferred option it would be sensible to check out any food poisoning risks.

Most of us know about the dangers of raw chicken (and salmonella), but does it apply to raw chicken liver?

Yes, it does although not from salmonella though.

Instead the culprit is Campylobacter which can be found throughout the liver and not just on the surface. 

It is difficult to find exact numbers on how common Campylobacter is in chicken liver. 

It is thought to be in anywhere between 10- 90% of all chicken livers.

The only safe way to kill Campylobacter is to cook it very thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F or 74 °C. 

And yes, dogs can get a Campylobacter infection and it is very nasty and it might involve a fever and lots of diarrhea

So what is my recommendation now?

I think that it is safest for you to cook any chicken liver and to just be mindful that the vitamins become more potent and to feed it to your dog less!

Alternatives to chicken livers

Having found out just how dangerous raw chicken livers can be I will now look at livers from other animals. 

An alternative but widely available liver in the US is beef but in the UK alternatives to chicken livers seem to be either pork or lamb. 

Raw beef liver

Well, this is interesting. 

When I looked into the dangers of raw chicken liver, the results page on Google was full of advice on the dangers of eating raw chicken liver.

But when I do the same search for raw beef liver, Google just spits out pages offering general advice about the need to cook the organs of any animal. 

So, it is safest to cook any animal liver but the real threat of food poisoning is posed by chicken liver. 

But to be safe, let’s check the nutrients. 

Whilst 100g of raw beef liver has a few more calories than chicken liver, it has a lower fat content (3.6 vs 4.8 g) and a slightly higher amount of protein (20 vs 17g.)

Oh, and the cholesterol in raw beef liver is much lower (275 vs 345 mg.)

But what about the vitamins and minerals?

VitaminChickenBeef
B12.016 mg.059 mg
A11078 IU16898 IU
B2 (Riboflavin)1.778 mg2.75 mg
B5 (P’thenic acid)6.23 mg7.13 mg
B6 (Pyridoxine).853 mg1.083 mg
B3 (Niacin)9.73 mg13.17 mg

So, when we look at the nutrition analysis for raw beef liver, we can see that the biggest vitamins in chicken liver are the same as in raw beef liver.

But that they are present in even greater amounts. 

What does this mean in terms of the daily amounts for dogs?

Raw beef liver provides them in quantities that are off the scale…

There are three times the amount of B12 in raw beef liver than raw chicken liver and over one and a half times the amount of vitamin A in raw beef.

Niacin sees a similar increase. 

There is an increase of about a third for Riboflavin.

There are also more vitamin B5 and B6 in raw beef liver. 

Let’s look at the minerals in raw beef liver..

MineralChicken Beef
Copper8.00 mg9.75 mg
Iron8.99 mg4.9 mg
Phosphorus297 mg 387 mg
Magnesium 19 mg18 mg
Zinc 2.67 mg4 mg
Potassium230 mg 313 mg

As far as minerals go, it is a very similar story to vitamins. 

Iron is the only mineral which has less in raw beef liver than chicken liver- magnesium is almost the same. 

Beef liver contains more of all the other minerals that we have looked at than chicken liver. 

What that means for our dogs is that beef liver has a very high amount of copper- that is far higher than the daily amount. 

The amount of iron in beef liver is slightly higher than the daily amount and all the other minerals are way below the daily amounts…

But looking at all of this information, what does it mean for our dogs?

Overall, it means that feeding your dog raw beef liver might be safer than feeding them raw chicken liver when it comes to food poisoning issues.

In terms of the vitamin and mineral boost that they will provide to your dog, both types of liver contain colossal amounts of vitamins and some minerals.

Beef more than chicken.