Monday, February 2, 2015

Can I Feed My Dog Raw Chicken? The What's, Why's, and How's of Giving Raw Chicken to a Dog

It may not come as a big surprise, but I am a fan of real food for dogs.  Be it an all raw diet, all home cooked, some raw, some home cooked, or high quality kibble supplemented with raw or home cooked, or topped with whole foods.

Chicken, be it whole birds or pieces and parts, is a widely available and generally economical source of protein.  Though I encourage and do feed a variety of proteins/foods, I would guesstimate that chicken makes up approximately 35% of my dogs' diets, mostly in the form of leg quarters.

Which parts of the chicken can be fed?

One could toss a whole chicken (feathers and all) to a dog, if so inclined.  However, the majority of people do not have access to this, nor would they want to do this.

Chicken feet.  Chicken feet are commonly found in ethnic groceries, and are considered a delicacy by many cultures.  They are mostly bone and cartilage, and chicken feet are a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin, for joint health.  Some dogs are turned off by their texture, including my girl, so when I do have them on hand, I individually freeze them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, then toss them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  "Foot-cicles" are a beloved treat around here.  As I mentioned, chicken feet contain very little actual meat, so care must be taken not to overfeed them.

Chicken legs.  This is actually three different cuts, all leg parts, which can be fed.  The drumstick can be small, and relatively bony.  Because of it's size and shape, it can pose a choking hazard for some dogs.  The thigh is a meatier option, with a shape that makes it a bit less likely to be a choking hazard.  Chicken leg quarters are a favorite of many raw feeders, as they are large and typically less expensive per pound than either drumsticks or thighs.  Leg quarters may or may not contain a back portion.  Skinned leg quarters are an ideal meat for a dog starting out on raw, as their is typically enough bone to prevent canon butt, and their size can prevent gulping.

Chicken breasts. Bone-in or boneless chicken breasts can be included in a raw diet.  Bone-in breasts are heavy on meat, and fairly light on bone, and typically decent-sized. 

Chicken backs.  Chicken backs are bone heavy.  Some raw nazis  purists say that backs should never be fed unless attached to a whole chicken.  I have fed chicken backs before, both alone and with additional meaty meat, and have never had a problem.  However, their high bone content do not make them a good choice for consistent, long term feeding if one is not adding additional meaty meat.

Chicken necks.  See above.  Everything that is said about backs can be said about necks.  Necks are also quite bony, and their size and shape make them a choking hazard for some dogs.  When first switching Neeko and Bruce to raw, I was scared about giving them a full boneless meal, so many times I would toss one chicken neck on top of their dinners to help ward off the evil spirits of canon butt.  

Chicken heads.  Yes, one can feed chicken heads, and they can be actually be purchased at places, including ethnic grocers and some raw dog food suppliers.  I personally do not feed heads, but if one wants to, they can.

Chicken organs.  Most grocery stores sell packages of chicken hearts and gizzards, which are both fed as meaty meat, along with tubs or packages of chicken livers.  If you have access to someone who processes chickens, the lungs, testicles, and kidneys can also be fed.


Chicken is a meat that is typically gentle on a dog's stomach, and frequently recommended as the starter meat for those wishing to feed a raw diet.  It is also the most commonly used meat when owners decide to supplement kibble with raw.  

Watch the fat.  For a dog new to raw meat, it can be prudent to remove the skin and excess fat the first few times it is fed.

Read the labels!  Commercial chicken is commonly injected with a broth/sodium solution to make it more flavorful/tender.  Dogs have no need for this additional sodium, and it can cause digestive upset in some dogs. Aim for a sodium content of less than 120 mg per 4 ounce serving, as this is naturally occurring sodium.  

Watch your dog, know your dog.  While extremely rare, there is a risk of raw chicken bone splintering.  If your dog is a gulper, feed bigger pieces, or feed it ground if necessary. 

Too much bone is not a good thing.  If one is supplementing a diet of kibble with some raw, choose pieces of chicken that have a lower percentage of bone.  The reason for this is that most commercial kibbles have a high amount of calcium, and too much bone over a long period of time can swing the calcium:phosphorus ratio, which is particularly important in growing large breed puppies.  

Allergies.  Some dogs are allergic to all forms of chicken-cooked, raw, and chicken-based kibble.  Some dogs have a reaction to the solution that is sometimes injected into the meat, and some dogs will have a reaction to the feed the chicken was fed.  However, just because a dog is allergic to chicken in kibble does not mean they will be allergic to raw chicken.  If a dog is truly allergic to raw chicken then turkey, domestic rabbit, or another "bland" meat can easily be substituted.

If one is looking for more information regarding myths about raw feeding, read HERE.

Go ahead, toss your dog some chicken, be it cooked or raw.  It's widely available, affordable, and odds are, your dog will more than likely love it. 


  1. Great post! My guys love the occasional necks as treats, and Nola loves feet. Can't get the others to try them!!

  2. Hmm, I have always wondered about chicken because I had heard people talking about giving raw chicken to their dogs and I always thought it was a no no. Thanks for the insight!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  3. Great, comprehensive list. Thank you.

    I wish that we could feed our dogs chicken, but we've been struck down with chicken intolerances in all of our dogs. It's such an inexpensive protein and was a nice go to when other proteins weren't available. We now feed duck and some turkey; we also feed elk, venison, rabbit (when we can get a good price), and I've been looking for pheasant.


Thanks for the howls!!