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Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken Hearts? – Benefits and Risks

Many pet owners wonder about alternative protein sources for their dogs beyond traditional kibble or commercial canned foods. One thing some dogs enjoy is raw chicken hearts. However, pet parents may question “Can dogs eat raw chicken hearts?” While chicken hearts can be a nutritious snack for dogs when fed in moderation, there are a few factors to consider in terms of potential health risks and proper handling.

This article explores whether raw chicken hearts are safe for dogs to eat and provides guidelines on feeding them. We’ll examine the nutritional value of chicken hearts for dogs as well as precautions to take regarding salmonella and safe preparation methods if you choose to include this item in your dog’s diet.

Overview of Chicken Heart Nutrition

Before determining the best raw feeding practices, let’s examine the nutritional merits of chicken hearts for dogs:

High in Protein

Chicken hearts are rich in protein, with about 7 grams per ounce. Protein provides dogs with energy and amino acids for muscle, tissue, and hormone health.

Source of Iron

Chicken hearts contain substantial iron, which aids in oxygen transport via healthy red blood cell production. Anemia prevention is a bonus.

Low Fat

Chicken hearts contain less than 2 grams of fat per ounce. Lower fat supports weight management and reduces the risk of pancreatitis.

Provides B Vitamins

Chicken hearts supply B vitamins including vitamin B12, niacin, and folate. These support nerve function, cell metabolism, and DNA production.

Contains Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral for thyroid health, antioxidant function, and immune support. Chicken hearts offer about 16mcg per ounce.

So in moderation, raw chicken hearts provide valuable nutrition for dogs as a protein and iron-rich organ meat. But what potential risks exist?

Dangers of Feeding Raw Chicken Hearts to Dogs

While the nutrition profile seems favorable, several hazards associated with raw chicken warrant caution:

Foodborne Illness

Raw chicken may contain Salmonella, E. Coli, and Campylobacter bacteria. Dogs can develop food poisoning with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

Nutritional Imbalances

Chicken hearts should not comprise the entirety of a dog’s diet. Feeding too many without complete nutrition can cause deficiencies long-term.

Gastrointestinal Obstruction

Swallowing whole chunks of raw heart may present a choking hazard or lead to gastrointestinal blockages.


Overdoing fats, even healthy ones, could trigger inflammation of the pancreas. Start with small amounts of hearts.

Tooth Fractures

Raw chicken bones become dangerously brittle and prone to splintering. These shards can pierce or fracture teeth.

Food Aggression

Competition over high-value raw meat may provoke resource guarding between dogs or biting when humans approach.

So while the idea of following ancestral diets with raw organ meats seems natural, caution is warranted. How can you minimize risks while safely incorporating some raw chicken hearts?

Feeding Guidelines for Raw Chicken Hearts

If you wish to offer your dog raw chicken hearts on occasion, follow these tips to reduce associated hazards:

  • Source fresh, human-grade chicken hearts from reputable butchers to avoid contamination.
  • Feed hearts immediately after preparing rather than freezing for extended periods to decrease bacteria growth.
  • Lightly cook hearts through gentle steaming, simmering or poaching to reduce pathogens. Don’t boil or deep fry.
  • Chop hearts into pea-sized pieces to decrease choking and blockage risks.
  • Limit portion to 1-2 ounces of hearts 2-3 times per week at most for small dogs, no more than 4 oz for large breeds.
  • Introduce gradually mixed into their usual meals to monitor for digestive upset.
  • Supervise closely to prevent gobbling and resource-guarding behaviors.
  • Separate dogs when feeding high-value raw meats to avoid fights.

Following these precautions allows for minimizing risks while taking advantage of the nutritional benefits of chicken hearts in moderation.

Alternatives to Raw Chicken Hearts for Dogs

While the occasional raw chicken heart likely poses no issue for most dogs, owners uncomfortable with raw meat can use these alternatives:

Cooked Chicken Hearts

Lightly steaming, simmering, or poaching chicken hearts eliminates bacteria risks while preserving much of the nutrition. Chop cooked hearts before feeding.

Lean Cooked Meats

Try small amounts of cooked ground turkey or beef mixed into meals a couple of times a week in lieu of raw chicken hearts.

Canned Fish

Sardines, salmon, or mackerel packed in water offer omega-3’s without raw meat dangers.

Liver Treats

Dehydrated liver treats provide concentrated nutrition similar to organ meats like chicken hearts more safely.

Commercial Food with Organ Meats

Some premium kibbles and canned foods contain chicken hearts and organ meats for nutritional balance.

Talk to your vet about the ideal food sources to meet your dog’s needs. A nutritious commercial diet minimizes the risks of nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.

Can Puppies Eat Raw Chicken Hearts?

Puppies under one-year-old have special dietary needs for proper growth and development. Here are important considerations around raw chicken hearts for puppies:

  • Puppies’ immature immune systems put them at higher risk for contracting salmonella or other foodborne illness from raw chicken. Cook chicken hearts fed to puppies.
  • Avoid overfeeding organ meats like hearts which can lead to skeletal issues like hip dysplasia from nutrition imbalances.
  • Wait until 6 months old before introducing any raw meats to give immunity time to strengthen.
  • The smaller throat size of puppies makes them more prone to choking on pieces. Dice cooked hearts into tiny pieces.
  • Puppies should be weaned onto solid foods gradually after 8 weeks old. Get vet approval before introducing new proteins.

For puppies, a balanced commercial or homemade diet tailored for their growth takes priority over supplemental organ meats like raw chicken hearts. Cooked chicken hearts can provide an occasional protein source once past 6 months old.

Are Raw Chicken Hearts Safe Overall for Dogs?

In conclusion, while dogs can gain nutritional benefits from raw chicken hearts, caution is warranted. Limit portions to infrequent small amounts a couple of times weekly at most for adult dogs. Lightly cook the hearts and supervise closely to minimize hazards. Avoid feeding raw chicken hearts altogether to puppies.

Chicken hearts should never comprise a dog’s entire sustenance. A nutritionally complete commercial pet food remains vital for balance. Prioritize a vet-recommended diet and treat chicken hearts as an occasional supplementary protein source rather than a dietary staple. Employ strict food safety protocols and discontinue feeding if any digestive upset. With judiciousness, the occasional raw chicken heart can offer health perks. But a balanced diet and caution against bacteria should take precedence in deciding what to feed dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I feed my dog raw chicken hearts every day?

No, limit portions of raw chicken hearts to no more than 1-2 times per week at most due to bacteria risks. They should not become a daily part of your dog’s diet.

Is it safe to feed puppies raw chicken hearts?

No, puppies are more vulnerable to illness from bacteria in raw chicken. Wait until at least 6 months old and only feed cooked chicken hearts in strict moderation.

Can dogs eat raw chicken gizzards too?

Yes, raw chicken gizzards offer similar benefits and risks as hearts. Follow the same hygiene, preparation, portion control, and frequency guidelines.

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