Feeding your dog raw food is a trend for a reason; many owners strive to give their dogs a more natural diet. Raw chicken is one raw food that dog owners sometimes give to their pets. This uncooked poultry may seem healthier than processed kibble, but it can cause serious issues for dogs that consume it—as well as the pet owners who prepare it.
Is Raw Chicken Safe for Dogs?
Raw chicken is 100% natural, unprocessed meat and because dogs are descendants of wolves, some people think offering chicken in this form is healthier than feeding cooked chicken. Unfortunately, raw chicken can pose serious dangers to both you and your dog. Although raw chicken isn't always problematic, it's not accurate to say that it's always safe. Feeding raw chicken to a dog carries risks, and most people choose to play it safe when it comes to their pets.
Risks of Feeding Raw Chicken to Dogs
While some people only focus on the benefits of raw chicken, the risks can be life threatening and should not be ignored. If you feed raw chicken as part of your dog's diet, it comes with two main risks. If it is exclusively what you feed your dog or makes up the majority of its diet, there is a third major concern.
Salmonella sp. is the most common cause of food poisoning, and it is present on many foods that are uncooked or undercooked, including chicken. The bacteria can be found in the intestines or feces of animals and is not safe to consume. When a pet owner handles raw chicken, the opportunity for this bacteria to be spread onto their hands, countertops, dishes, utensils, dog bowls, and your dog are increased. If this bacteria then enters a person's mouth or dog's mouth at high enough levels, an infection and symptoms of Salmonellosis can occur.
Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, a lack of appetite, and a fever are key symptoms that your dog may have been infected with Salmonella. Treatment requires antibiotics and other medications along with IV fluid therapy. Ignoring the infection can be fatal if your dog has a poor immune system or severe dysbiosis of the gut. Salmonella is not something you can see without a microscope so there is no way for you to know if the raw chicken you are feeding your dog is contaminated. Foods are often recalled due to contamination with Salmonella, but this is sometimes only discovered after someone gets sick. Salmonellosis is the main risk and concern of feeding raw chicken to your dog.
Chickens have bones and if you are feeding raw chicken to your dog, there is a higher chance of a bone being in that piece of chicken. Bones can cause obstructions in the stomach or intestinal tract, puncture a dog's internal organs, get stuck in the mouth or throat, and break teeth. Cooked chicken bones can be an even bigger issue for dogs, but raw chicken bones can be just as problematic for some dogs. Removing bones that are in raw chicken will remove this risk to your dog.
If you feed an exclusive diet of raw chicken or it's the majority of what you feed to your dog, serious malnutrition will result. Chicken is not a complete and balanced food for any dog. If a dog does not receive all the appropriate vitamins and minerals it needs then it will suffer from a variety of issues including broken bones and organ issues. Dogs need much more than just chicken to be healthy and strong. If you feed a complete and balanced diet in addition to some raw chicken, the risk for malnutrition is nearly eliminated.
Benefits of Feeding Raw Chicken to Dogs
Despite the risks associated with feeding raw chicken to dogs, there are reasons why some dog owners choose to feed raw chicken. Raw chicken is about 80% protein, provides no carbohydrates or sugar, and provides some potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B12, and other nutrients that are beneficial to dogs. Additionally, dogs that have severe food allergies or sensitivities don't have to worry about consuming food they shouldn't if their diet consists mostly of raw chicken. Finally, raw chicken is an inexpensive meat and an inexpensive option if you choose to feed it to your dog.