Can dogs eat organ meat?
26 Feb, 2019
Organ meat comprises the internal organs of the animal include the heart, lungs, stomach, brains, liver and kidneys, but is organ meat nutritious for dogs? Is it safe to feed dogs organ meat?
For those who feed their dogs (and cats) a species appropriate diet, observations of the diet of wild carnivores and omnivores reveal that following a hunt, wild predators consume all parts of the prey animal including the muscle meat, bone and organs.
In fact, there are examples of carnivores selectively consuming only the organs of their prey. Harbour seals, for instance, consume the abdomen full of roe of pre-spawning female salmon while they consume the entire carcass of the male salmon. During the same time in the season, bears also target female salmon and consume the brain tissue and roe. Wolves, during feast times, have been observed first eating the nutrient rich internal organs of their prey animal. Cape fur seals also selectively feed on the stomach contents and liver of blue sharks.
Is organ meat nutritious for dogs?
Similar to their wild cousins, domestic dogs benefit from the inclusion of organ meat in their diet. Organ meat is a concentrated source of nutrients. It contains B group vitamins, Vitamin A and C. Organ meat is also a valuable source of minerals including iron, manganese, selenium, phosphorous and zinc. It is also a rich source of protein and essential fatty acids.
While organ meat is highly nutritious, it is not a complete food. It is high in phosphorous and low in calcium, so should be fed as part of a balanced diet to avoid mineral imbalances.
Chicken, beef and lamb hearts are available from butchers or even the meat section at supermarkets. Heart is a good source of protein, B group vitamins and iron. Compared to liver, heart is lower in fat so it is suitable for dogs prone to obesity.
Liver is a highly nutritious food source, containing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, protein and fats. As such, liver is ideal when dogs’ bodies have a high demand for nutrients such as during growth, gestation or periods of intensive training.
Liver contains a range of B group vitamins including B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, folate, B12, choline and inositol. It also contains Vitamin C. Of particular note, liver is a highly concentrated source of Vitamin A which can cause toxicity in dogs, if fed in excess.
In addition to its vitamin content, liver contains a range of minerals including zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. Lamb liver is higher in iron than beef liver, so is a better choice for dogs during growth or gestation when iron absorption increases.
Liver is also a good source of essential fatty acids. It is also an excellent source of protein, having a higher protein content than kidney and heart.
Kidneys, like other organ meat, is highly nutritious. It contains vitamins A, D, E and K along with B group vitamins particularly B12. It is a rich source of iron, and zinc, particularly lamb kidneys.
Kidneys have a similar protein content as heart but not has high as liver.
Is it safe to feed dogs organ meat?
There are some valid concerns about parasitic diseases that can be contracted from organ meat and transferred to humans, namely various forms of tapeworms.
By following normal safe food handling practices and the guidelines below, it is safe to feed organ meat to dogs:
- Feed only organ meat that has passed meat inspections i.e. human grade meat purchased from a butcher or meat section of the supermarket.
- Organ meat can be cooked or frozen (below 20 degrees) to kill any parasites (although some nutrients will be lost with cooking)
- If feeding “suspect” meat i.e. meat from wild animals, then inspect it for the presence of tapeworm and consult your vet for an appropriate worming protocol.
How much organ meat should you feed a dog?
As organ meat is such a concentrated source of nutrients it should be fed in small quantities. As a general rule, organ meat should comprise 10 – 15 % of a balanced diet. Depending on the dog’s preference, you can feed organ meat daily as part of the meat and bone component of the meal or as a substitute for meat and bone for one or two meals a week.
Some dogs can eat organ meat cut into chunks and added to their meal. Other dogs prefer the organ meat to be minced and combined with their vegetable mix. The second approach also makes the vegetable mix more palatable. For safety, however ensure a vegetable mix with organ meat is used on the day of defrosting and not left for use over multiple days.
For more information on formulating a nutritious, balanced raw food diet please see:
Full Stride provides nutritional consultations to provide advice and diet plans to transition your dog to a nutritious, balanced raw food diet.
For details of a certified animal nutritionist in your area please see www.saena.com.au..
Until next time, enjoy your dogs.
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Kohl, K. D., Coogan, S. C., & Raubenheimer, D. (2015). Do wild carnivores forage for prey or for nutrients? Evidence for nutrient‐specific foraging in vertebrate predators. BioEssays, 37(6), 701-709.
Pitcairn, R.H & Pitcairn, S. H. (2005) Dr Pitcairn’s complete guide to natural health for dogs and cats, Rodale Inc, USA
Schultze, K (1998), Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Diet Hay House, Sydney, NSW
Williams, P.G. 2007 “Nutritional composition of red meat” Nutrition & Dietetics, 64 (Suppl 4) S113 – S119