Whether you buy turkey sausage links at the store or make your own with Thanksgiving leftovers, there’s one thing that’s guaranteed; your dog will go wild for turkey sausages and will want to eat as many as he can get his paws on.
As dog owners it’s very tempting to give our pup’s great smelling and tasty treats, but just how safe are turkey sausage links for your dog? I decided to find out.
Can my dog eat turkey sausage? Dogs should not really eat turkey sausage links if it can be helped. Commercially available sausages are high in spices, salts, grease, fat, and can contain onion and garlic which is toxic to dogs. Processed meats are also bad for your dog’s digestion.
But I don’t want to panic you.
If your dog has eaten a small amount of turkey sausage meat, chances are he will be fine. He might even have gobbled down a load. Unless you see any signs of illness over the next 24 hours or unusual behavior, it’s likely there are no problems.
Of course, you should always call your vet if you aren’t sure.
Instead, buy a special dog turkey treat. There are plenty of healthier alternatives to turkey sausage available on Amazon. Take a look at Amazon’s dog turkey snacks.
Why I don’t recommend turkey sausages from the store
However, I don’t let my own dog eat turkey sausage links that have been bought at the store, and there are some very good reasons why.
Just look at the ingredients in the popular Jimmy Dean turkey sausage links…
Turkey, Water, Contains 2% Or Less: Potassium Lactate, Salt, Spices, Sodium Phosphate, Dextrose, Sugar, Sodium Propionate, Sodium Diacetate, BHT, Citric Acid, Caramel Color.
There are a few things listed above which I would be wary of, primarily the salts and spices.
They aren’t not good for doggy digestion, and with all the grease also in sausages, it’s a meal that’s way too fatty to be a regular part of your dog’s diet. Potential long-term health issues can be an inflamed pancreas, heart problems, and kidney problems.
In the short term, a bit of rich sausage could mean your dog vomits and has diarrhoea.
You might have also heard dog owners saying that they pour the turkey sausage grease out of the baking tray onto their dog’s kibble. This is also extremely unhealthy as the grease has even more salt and fat in it compared to the sausages themselves.
Salt and grease in large or regular quantities are very bad for dogs who have existing heart problems or pancreatitis.
Some commercially available turkey sausage links even have onion and garlic powder in. These ingredients are toxic to dogs and can lead to them developing anaemia.
What about homemade turkey sausages?
Unseasoned turkey with no seasoning, gravy, grease, or fat added to it can be a healthy meat for your dog. It’s not toxic to canines and is found in many commercial dog foods due to the high levels of nutrients in the meat.
Turkey that has been cooked plain, and then turned into sausage shapes should be fine for your dog, but please do get the final advice from your own vet.
Can dogs eat raw turkey sausage?
There has been an increased trend in recent years for raw diets. Some dog owners saw it’s a healthier option, as it’s just how your dog would have eaten in the wild. Unfortunately, though, there simply isn’t enough scientific research available yet to back these claims up.
Plus, I don’t think your dog would find a raw turkey sausage in the woods, do you!
I read that eating turkey raw can make dogs ill, as there is an increased risk of salmonella and bacterial contamination. If your dog gets sick, he’s going to have the runs, and potentially something even worse.
The bottom line is this; vets do not recommend that young puppies or unhealthy dogs eat raw meat – so, I believe that raw turkey sausage is not something you should let your dog have.
Can dogs eat cooked turkey sausage?
Turkey that has been cooked thoroughly is a lean and healthy protein. Your dog will be lucky to have this added to his daily meal… but it’s not quite the same with cooked turkey sausage.
Cooking the sausages is certainly better than feeding them raw to your dog, but even when cooked, the commercially available links will still have the seasoning and fats I don’t’ recommend.
Handy Hint: Here’s a list of safe holiday foods that dogs can eat on and around Thanksgiving.
The calorie impact of dog’s eating turkey sausage
Now we know a little more about the ingredients in turkey sausage links, I wanted to share with you the implications on your dog’s weight. The best way to do that is to look at the calories in this dish and how they compare to recommended daily guidelines.
The best way to understand how many calories your dog should eat each day is looking at their size. I’ve researched two popular breeds; Labradors and French Bulldogs and found their average adult weights.
I then asked a vet how many calories dogs should eat, and discovered that:
- Dogs should only eat 25 calories for each pound they weigh each day.
- Dogs should only have treats as 10% of their total daily food intake (the 90/10 rule).
When you then take the average adult weight of each of the dog’s I researched, here’s how many calories they should have a day:
- Average French Bulldog is 25 pounds: Should eat no more than 625 calories daily.
- Average Labrador is 70 pounds: Should eat no more than 1,750 calories daily.
Each dog is at the opposite side of the weight range, so should give you an idea on what your own dog’s daily calories should be… particularly when considering turkey sausage.
Below are 4 of the best-selling turkey sausage products, and how many calories are in a serving of 2 sausage links:
- 2 x Bob Evans turkey sausage links (60 calories): 10% French Bulldog / 3.4% Labrador daily intake.
- 2 x Jimmy Dean turkey sausage links (87 calories): 14% French Bulldog / 4.9% Labrador daily intake.
- 2 x Johnsonville turkey sausage links (80 calories): 13% French Bulldog / 4.6% Labrador daily intake.
- 2 x Jones Dairy Farm turkey sausage links (90 calories): 14% French Bulldog / 5.1% Labrador daily intake.
As you can see, even the smaller French Bulldog can have a couple of turkey sausage links and it won’t make a huge impact on his daily calories.
But, as I’ve already discussed, the commercially available turkey sausage links have ingredients in them which I don’t recommend your dog eats.
However, it is important to give your dog a balanced diet, so only make the turkey sausage a small part, or a treat in moderation – providing it’s homemade with no harmful seasonings and not store bought.
Is dark turkey meat bad for dogs?
My aunt makes her own turkey sausages with the Thanksgiving leftovers, and some of the meat will be dark. She lets her dog have some of the dark turkey meat, which to me did raise a red flag… surely dark meat is bad?
Well, actually no.
The dark meat in turkey is perfectly fine for your dog to eat.
According to LiveScience.com the darker colored meat is simply turkey muscle with more myoglobin in. This might sound a bit nasty, but it’s actually fine as Daniel Fletcher from the University of Connecticut Department of Animal Science explains:
“It is the binding state of oxygen to the myoglobin that creates the variation in meat color. The more myoglobin, the darker the meat.”
In simple terms, the meat part of the turkey that is more active, will be darker due to a higher concentration of myoglobin. Therefore, meat from the turkey’s thighs and drumsticks will be of a darker shade and fine for your dog to eat in a sausage.
Whilst it might be tempting to give in to those puppy dog eyes and let your dog eat turkey sausage links, it’s not the best choice.
If you really want to give them some lean turkey protein, cut some off the bird and offer it up plain. The white or dark turkey meat is healthy for dogs, and preferably cooked rather than raw.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet, and the guidance in this article is based on my own common sense plus research I have done online or when speaking to professionals. Always consult with your own vet before introducing new or unusual foods to your dog’s diet.
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For more information and opinion on what to feed your dog, take a look at these recent guides I’ve developed on canine diet choices.