Can Dogs Eat Raw Giblets?

Photo by YellowDog on Flickr

With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, many of us are thinking not only of who to invite but also what exactly we are going to be cooking.

Indeed, my wife has just ordered our turkey this morning.

And for those of us who order a whole turkey or chicken, there is always the question of what shall we do with the giblets. 

Traditionally they are used to make gravy but supposing nobody in your household likes gravy or that they have read about how unhealthy gravy is?

In that case it would be a shame to waste them.

After all, they are only going to stink the trash out, aren’t they?

That just leaves the dog. 

Can he safely eat giblets and to save a bit of time, can he eat them raw?

What are giblets?

It is a funny old word, giblets, isn’t it?

Not surprising when it was first thought to have been used in the early fourteenth century

Although it might be the name of a backing group to a singer in the 1970s, they describe some of the insides of a bird: such as a turkey or chicken. 

But it fits perfectly because it is odd sounding and it describes an odd mixture of things.

Giblets include the liver, heart, gizzard and neck of a bird.

And the obvious question here is what is a gizzard?

It is part of a chicken or turkey’s stomach.

It is the part of the stomach that grinds the food up to make it more digestible and so the gizzard is muscle meat. 

And all of that sounds delicious and delightful.

And having found out what giblets are, we need to briefly look at what they are used for?

It seems strange to me that in this day and age, when we like everything to be so clean, tidy and perfect looking that a whole chicken or turkey would still contain parts of its insides.

I would have thought many people would be too squeamish to deal with such odd looking things. 

But the main way that people use the giblets is to make a stock which is then mixed with meat juices and flour to make a gravy. 

In the next section I want to get back to your dog and talk about whether they can eat raw giblets.

Can dogs eat raw giblets?

Any meat can contain harmful germs but some of the most dangerous is poultry- chicken and turkey. 

Now the biggest threat from poultry comes from Campylobacter, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.

Now these germs are big threats to humans and do kill vulnerable people but they are also highly dangerous to dogs.

Let me first talk about campylobacter.

Dogs can become infected with campylobacter through eating infected feces, drinking contaminated water or eating infected food such as raw chicken.

The strange thing is that most dogs have the campylobacter bacteria living quite happily in their guts. 

The biggest symptom of campylobacter is diarrhea.

Next is salmonella.

As far as people go, salmonella is the biggest food related cause of hospitalisations in the U.S, with roughly 19000 cases per year. 

But it is still a danger to dogs.

Like Campylobacter, the most common cause of infection within dogs is via infected feces or from eating contaminated food- most often raw or undercooked poultry. 

 Like Campylobacter, a healthy dog has some of the salmonella bacteria living in their gut.

But they become infected when there is a sudden increase in the amount of the bacteria. 

And it’s a similar story with Clostridium perfringens. 

So we have established that feeding your dog raw giblets carries a little too much risk.

What is the easiest, cleanest and safest way to cook it?

How to cook giblets for a dog

If you like simple, then this method is right up your street.

If you carefully rinse the giblets in cold water for a few seconds- just make sure that the water pressure isn’t so high that it is splashing all of the surrounding work surfaces!

Then just put them in a pan with enough cold water to cover them.

Bring the water to the boil and then simmer them gently for about 20- 30 minutes.

Allow them to cool and they are good to go!

What nutrition do giblets provide?

Instead of looking at the individual parts of the giblets and then explaining what nutrition each of them brings to the table, I will look at what nutrition turkey giblets have as a whole.

100g serving
Calories124
Fat5.1 g 
Protein18 g
Sodium136 mg
Cholesterol333 mg 
VitaminsHigh in vitamin A, B and 
MineralsHigh in Iron, Selenium and Copper

As you can see turkey giblets have a lot to offer your dog.

Compared to other types of meats, giblets are low in calories, fats and protein.

For a meat they are very high in cholesterol which I can’t quite figure out.

But I think that the real boost that giblets will give your dog is in the minerals and vitamins that they provide. 

Vitamin- wise the ones to watch out for are A and B.

These come mainly from the liver, which contains far more vitamin A and B than a dog needs in a day or even a week.

This is why your dog should only eat giblets every month or so.  

But how do these vitamins help your dog?

Vitamin A is important for keeping eyes healthy.

Most of us grew up being told that eating carrots was important for our eyesight.

Carrots loaded with vitamin A.

Vitamin A is also used by a dog’s body to keep their immune system nice and strong.

Giblets are high in a number of vitamin Bs. 

And these vitamins are one of the body’s foundations.

Firstly, B vitamins are important to keep the cells in a dog’s body working well.

Secondly, they help convert food into energy. 

But supposing that you like the idea of giblets but your turkey or chicken didn’t come with any giblets?

What can you give your dog instead?

Alternative to giblets

Meat wise, you would be hard pressed to find alternatives to giblets- although you could rotate between turkey, chicken, goose and duck.

I can’t find any information on the exact nutrition provided by duck or geese giblets or how widely available these are (and I suspect the answer is that they aren’t that widely available.

But chicken giblets are nutritionally very similar to turkey giblets. 

Otherwise, you are looking at buying different parts of the giblets separately.

Chicken livers are available from places like Kroger and Walmart. 

Or read this article which will tell you lots more about how they are good for your dogs.

You won’t be spoiled for choice but there are a few products for sale- just make sure that you don’t buy the pet food products!

And something that I wasn’t aware of is that in shops such as Walmart, you can buy packs of chicken giblets separately. 

Giblets are some of the most unsavoury parts of a chicken or turkey.

But they aren’t the only ones.

There’s another chicken body part that most of us would never think of eating but are great treats for our dogs. 

Can dogs eat chicken feet?

Chicken feet are nutritionally very different to chicken giblets but the result should be the same- one happy dog. 

Chicken feet are essentially just skin and bones so they will be high in calcium.

And by eating raw bones, the bones in a dog’s own body benefit because of minerals such as glucosamine.

Also, chewing on bones is thought to help a dog clean its teeth. 

And the fat and oil that are in the skin on the chicken feet will help keep your dog’s coat glossy.  

With everything that I have said up until this point about the dangers of eating raw chicken or turkey, I would plump for the dried products.

Because of their size, shape and texture chicken feet are a potential choking hazard to some dogs.

You know those dogs who don’t chew properly and before you know it the foot is stuck in the back of their throat…

Other unsavoury body parts

Chickens and turkeys aren’t the only animals that contain body parts which are too unsavoury for most humans to eat but are nutritious and loved by dogs.

Tripe is the stomach lining in animals such as cows, sheep and pigs.

Although now most tripe that isn’t destined for the bin finds its way into dog food, up until 50 years or so ago it was regularly eaten by people because it was such a cheap meat.

At least that is the situation in the UK and I suspect the US as well.

It is a very common ingredient in many raw dog food mixes- just go online and see how many different meat combinations contain tripe.

I have seen chicken and tripe, beef and tripe and fish and tripe to name but a few.

A big reason why it has fallen out of favour with people is because it absolutely stinks when it’s raw. 

You simply wouldn’t believe how disgusting your kitchen would smell.

Which is a shame because nutritionally it has a lot to offer. 

It is low in calories and fat and contains high levels of B vitamins and important minerals such as selenium and zinc both of which your dog’s body will use to help with their metabolism and to boost their immune system.