By Dr Daisy A. May MRCVS BVSc (Distinction), Veterinary Surgeon
As a veterinarian, I have spent more than ten years studying the finer points of canine anatomy, physiology, and nutrition, often in exquisite detail and to a painstakingly specific extent! What’s more, as a nutrition fanatic, I have always had a keen interest in the concept of raw food diets for dogs, even before the trend became so incredibly popular. This interest peaked in 2017 when I undertook an in-depth dissertation investigating canine raw meat diets.
With the above in mind, I’d be so bold as to argue that I probably know more about this subject than your dog groomer, your breeder, or that 19-year-old sales associate at the pet store you were chatting to last weekend. So, if – like me – you’re hungrier for knowledge than you are for raw chicken wings, stick with me, and let’s get started.
The most basic answer to the question of ‘Can dogs eat raw chicken?’ is that yes, in a purely physical sense, many dogs (except those with food allergies, dental or esophageal issues) can eat raw chicken. In fact, the anatomy (for example, scissor-like carnassial teeth) of most dogs is relatively ideal when it comes to slicing, chewing, and swallowing raw chicken meat.
However – a far more important question is, should we feed dogs raw chicken? Is it safe?
And the answer to this question is a resounding and emphatic “No!”
Raw chicken often contains bacteria that have the potential to be very dangerous for you and for your dog. In fact, a 2023 study found Salmonella in 8.6% of chicken breasts being sold to consumers at the retail level and Campylobacter in 4.2% .
A key point to be aware of is that many strains of Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, and other pathogenic bacteria are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa. Feed your dog contaminated raw meat, and your pup rapidly becomes a walking, wagging, face-licking germ-bomb, particularly risky for the very young, the elderly, or the immunocompromised.
Even more scarily, the same 2023 study found that 77% of the Salmonellae grown from retail chicken breasts were antibiotic resistant, and a staggering 48% were multidrug-resistant, that is, resistant to 3 or more types of antibiotic. This is a huge problem because if your dog (or you) acquires food poisoning from a multidrug-resistant strain of Salmonella, your vet or doctor is going to find it very difficult (if not impossible) to treat your infection.
The terrifying truth is that every year, pet dogs and pet owners die from Salmonella infections: in fact, the CDC estimates that Salmonella causes around 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and as many as 420 human deaths in the United States every year .
Pet parents will also want to consider that even commercially manufactured raw food diets are often not nutritionally balanced and so may lead directly to malnutrition or toxicities (such as vitamin A overdose), especially when fed exclusively and for a prolonged period of time. Ample research suggests that raw meat diets tend to be unbalanced in terms of the levels of calcium, copper, zinc, iodine, and fat-soluble vitamins they contain [3,4,5,6].
And finally, when it comes to feeding raw chicken bones to dogs, there are physical hazards that dog owners should consider. Large pieces of bone have the potential to get stuck in your dog’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines. In some cases, this can result in an obstruction, which has the potential to be fatal if not treated promptly by endoscopy or surgery.
The sharp edges of bones can also cut or penetrate through your dog’s palate, tongue, esophagus, or intestines. Whilst this, thankfully, isn’t common, I certainly do see cases like this in veterinary practice, and the truth is that you are rolling the dice on disaster each time you feed a raw chicken carcass to your dog.
The short answer is that yes, dogs can eat raw chicken and raw chicken bones, and many dogs will jump at the chance to do so. However, as a pet owner, you have a moral and legal responsibility to protect your dog’s welfare, and we all share a social responsibility to do what we can to prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria and to reduce the likelihood of a post-antibiotic era in which we no longer have antibiotics that are effective.
For this reason, whilst dogs can eat raw chicken, you absolutely should not feed raw chicken to your dog.
- Mujahid, S., Hansen, M., Miranda, R., Newsom-Stewart, K. and Rogers, J. (2023) ‘Prevalence and Antibiotic Resistance of Salmonella and Campylobacter Isolates from Raw Chicken Breasts in Retail Markets in the United States and Comparison to Data from the Plant Level’. Life, 13(3). Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/13/3/642 (Accessed 5 October 2023).
- CDC (2023) Salmonella. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/index.html#:~:text=CDC%20estimates%20Salmonella%20bacteria%20cause,for%20most%20of%20these%20illnesses. (Accessed 5 October 2023).
- Kölle, P. & Schmidt, M. (2015) BARF (Biologisch Artgerechte Rohfütterung) als Ernährungsform bei Hunden [Raw‐meat‐based diets (RMBD) as a feeding principle for dogs]. Tierarztliche Praxis 43, 409‐419. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26593644/ (Accessed 5 October 2023).
- DeLay J, Laing J. Nutritional osteodystrophy in puppies fed a BARF diet. AHL Newsletter. 2002;6:23.
- Polizopoulou ZS, Kazakos G, Patsikas MN, Roubies N. Hypervitaminosis A in the cat: A case report and review of the literature. J Feline Med Surg. 2005;7:363–368. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15994105/ (Accessed 5 October 2023).
- Freeman, L. M., Chandler, M. L., Hamper, B. A., et al. (2013) Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 243, 1549‐1558. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24261804/ (Accessed 5 October 2023).
Dr. Daisy A. May, MRCVS BVSc (Distinction) – Veterinary Surgeon & Passionate Writer
Daisy qualified with distinction from the University of Liverpool vet school in 2019 and has a particular interest in canine and feline nutrition and dentistry.
During her academic years, she completed a wide variety of placements, including a competitive final-year elective at Chester Zoo. Since graduating, she has hung up her zoo medicine hat and focused her attention on smaller patients.
Outside of the clinic, you’ll find her with her laptop in a shaded part of the garden, authoring practical and easy-to-follow pet care articles to ensure top-quality advice is available to each and every pet parent at the touch of a screen.
Connect with Dr. Daisy A. May on LinkedIn and explore her vast professional journey and writings.