Can Pets Eat Chicken?

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
safe for pets
Dog With Chicken

Story at-a-glance -

  • Chicken is safe and healthy for pets. You can serve it either raw or cooked with the bones removed
  • Keep in mind that not all chickens are raised equal. If you want to provide the best for your pet, be sure to steer clear from chickens that come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Free-range chickens are a healthier and safer choice
  • When given as a beneficial treat for your pets, chicken should only constitute up to 10% of their daily caloric intake unless used as a part of a balanced diet

One of the foods that can provide your pet with high-quality protein is chicken, particularly those that come from free-range, organic sources. Read on to learn how organic, free-range chicken differs from conventionally raised chicken, what nutrients it provides and how it may benefit your pet's well-being.

Why Free-Range Organic Chicken Is Your Best Option

Chicken is a beneficial treat for your pet, and healthy treats can constitute up to 10% of their daily caloric intake. But keep in mind that not all chickens are raised equal. If you want to provide the best for your pet, be sure to steer clear from chickens that come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), as they're raised in unsanitary farming conditions, routinely treated with antibiotics and hormones, and given feeds that contain chemicals and genetically modified ingredients.1

Free-range chickens, on the other hand, are a healthier and safer choice, as they're allowed to roam around the farm and forage for their natural diet of seeds, insects, worms and plants. They're humanely raised in environmentally friendly and sanitary farming conditions, and are not injected with antibiotics. Hence, they have a lower risk of exposing your pet to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.2

Studies have shown that free-range chickens contain more nutrients than those raised in CAFOs.3 According to an article published in Cogent and Food Agriculture journal, pasture-raised chickens contain "significantly greater percentages" of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), including omega-3 and omega-6 fats, than CAFO chickens.4 They're also found to have higher levels of vitamin A.5

Is Chicken Good for Pets?

As mentioned, chicken is a good source of protein, containing 22.2 grams per 100-gram serving.6 Protein makes up practically every part of your pet's body, from their skin and fur to their heart, brain, liver and kidneys. When combined with sterols, it produces the hormones involved in regulating the chemical changes within the body.7

Protein also plays a role in transporting fat and cholesterol throughout different body parts. It contains enzymes that help with digestion as well as elimination of waste.8 In addition to protein, chicken also contains the following nutrients:9

  • B vitamins — A 100-gram serving of raw chicken contains the following amounts of B vitamins:10
    • Thiamin — 0.066 milligrams
    • Riboflavin — 0.089 milligrams
    • Niacin — 10.217 milligrams
    • Pantothenic acid — 0.854 milligrams
    • Folate — 4 micrograms
    • Vitamin B6 — 0.55 milligrams
    • Vitamin B12 — 0.39 micrograms

    Each of these plays an important role in your pet's health. Vitamin B6, for example, is crucial for glucose generation, immune health and hormone regulation.11

  • Selenium — Chicken contains 17.8 micrograms of selenium per 100-gram serving.12 This trace mineral may help boost immune health and fight against oxidative damage.13
  • Zinc — A 100-gram serving of chicken contains 0.66 milligrams of zinc.14This mineral may help promote healthy thyroid function and immune health. Zinc deficiency has been linked to stunted growth and diarrhea in puppies.15
  • Magnesium — Chicken is rich in magnesium, containing 25 milligrams of this nutrient per 100-gram serving.16 Magnesium is involved in almost every metabolic process in the body. It also plays a role in bone formation and regulation of muscle contractions.17 One study suggests that magnesium deficiency may increase the risk of cardiomyopathy in pets.18
  • Iron — A hundred grams of chicken meat provides 0.89 milligrams of iron.19 Iron is an essential element for oxygen transport, energy metabolism, DNA synthesis, hemoglobin production and cellular immune response. A deficiency in this mineral has been found to cause different types of anemia in animals.20

As with other animal-based protein sources, chicken contains all the essential amino acids that your pet needs, one of which is the sulfur-containing amino cysteine, an antioxidant that may also help thin down and clear mucus along the airways, making it useful for managing respiratory diseases.21

Chicken is just as safe and healthy for felines as it is for canines. You can serve it as a treat, but healthy treats should make up only 10% of their daily caloric intake. Feed it to them either raw or cooked, with the bones removed. Just like dogs, cats need to be fed a nutritionally balanced diet to ensure optimal health, so make sure that you combine chicken with other fresh foods to meet their nutritional requirements.22

When Is Chicken Bad for Pets?

Although chicken makes for a healthy treat, keep in mind that it's among the top food allergens to pets. This is because many pets have developed sensitivities to it from years of eating processed pet foods that contain inexpensive feed-grade raw materials, such as factory-farmed chicken that is heavily contaminated with chemical residues. Food allergies can lead to skin irritation, itching and gastrointestinal problems.23

Feed Organic Chicken as a Healthy Treat to Your Pet Today

Chicken is an excellent source of high-quality protein, so go ahead and feed its muscle meat and organs to your pet as a treat.

When feeding your animal companion cooked chicken, do not forget to take out the bones. You should also keep it simple — do not add any seasonings or flavorings that might upset their stomach. Try making these healthy treats: Homemade Green Chicken Crumpets and Homemade Chicken Jerky Strips.

Remember that these healthy treats and snacks should account for only up to 10% of your pet's caloric intake for the day. If your pet has special dietary needs, I suggest working with an integrative veterinarian to determine the best way to include chicken in their diet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Chicken for Pets

Q: Is it safe to feed my pet cooked chicken?

A: Cooked chicken is safe for most dogs and cats, as long as they are not allergic and you remove the bones prior to feeding.

Q: Can chicken make pets sick?

A: Chicken generally does not cause any adverse effects unless your pet is allergic to it, in which case it can trigger reactions such as itchiness and gastrointestinal problems.24