Can dogs eat organ meats?
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.
Where to find organ meats?
“Organ 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 is the best organ meat 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.
At Ollie, we only use the best organ meat in our delicious recipes. Our Beef Recipe contains beef heart, kidney and liver. The Chicken Recipe is made with gizzards and liver meat. In the Turkey Recipe your pup will enjoy turkey liver. For the lamb lovers, our Lamb Recipe contains lamb liver along with muscle meat.
Read dog food labels carefully
We are very specific about the organ meats we use in our Recipes. 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.
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.
Where to find organ meat 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. If you don't see them in the display case, you may simply need to ask. A good butcher should be able to prepare any organ meat you'd like.
How to prepare organ meat for your dog
The simplest way to prepare organ meat is by boiling it in water or low sodium chicken broth. If you're feeling fancy you can take some of this meat and dehyrdrate it into a jerky.
When you purchase a whole chicken at the store, the organ meat might come with the bird in a small bag inside the body cavity. 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 chicken broth, but toss them out before serving.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.