Organ meats for dogs are hugely important in a dog's diet. Organ meats contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals that help dogs maintain strong muscles, a shiny coat, and a healthy heart. While the health benefits are undeniable, it's important to define what we really mean by “organ meats for dogs” and to understand the source in your pup’s diet. We consulted Dr. Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN to help us get to the heart of the matter.
What Are Organ Meats for Dogs?
“Orman meats” mean the entrails and internal organs of an animal, usually larger farm animals like cows and pigs. Most organ meats are safe for dogs to consume and rich in a long list of nutrients including vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folic acid and vitamin B12), minerals such as iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium and more. But Dr. Bartges says that some dog food manufacturers are using "organ meat" as an umbrella term. If you see “organ meat” on commercial dog food packaging, this can be used as a marketing term, standing in for less nutritionally dense visceral and skeletal organ meats like intestines and neck meat.
What Organ Meats Are Best for Dogs?
The most nutritious organs for dogs come from a few prime parts. Liver is high in soluble vitamin A, glycogen, potassium, copper, B vitamins, and vitamin D, K and E (plus, dogs love the taste). Heart contains a concentrated source of the super-nutrient CoQ10, as well as taurine, an essential amino acid. Other healthy organ meats for dogs include kidneys, which are high in vitamins A and B as well as iron, and spleen, which boasts vitamins D, K, A and E, iron and zinc.
Other organ meats such as lungs, pancreas, and stomach still have some benefits but are less nutritionally dense. And then there are the D-listers out there—intestine, neck, thyroid, brain—that are often lumped together with by-products like beaks, feathers, feet, hooves, and hair in mass production.
Read Dog Food Labels Carefully
Terms like "made with organ meat" are vague at best and misleading at worst. You want the names of those prime organ meats listed individually. Also keep in mind that the high-heat processing of dry kibble tends to rob organ meats of much, if not all of their nutritional value, so opt for fresh foods rather than dry kibble to get the most out of them. And look for terms to indicate quality standards in both product and cooking technique.
Cook Organ Meats for Your Dog
Preparing organ meats for your dog as an occasional treat is easy once you procure the right ingredients. The liver, heart, and kidneys of chicken, lamb and beef are all common in butcher shops and easily cooked for your dog. They can often can be purchased inexpensively and prepared simply by boiling in water or low-sodium broth for about five minutes. If you happen to be roasting a whole chicken or turkey for yourself, you can prepare a tasty nutrient-rich treat for your dog at the same time. Just remember, says Dr. Bartges, "the bag may contain liver but may also contain the crop, which is a muscular organ and has less vitamins and minerals." You can use those "extras" in the bag to help flavor the broth, but toss them out before serving.
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