Can dogs eat chicken nuggets? We’ve all tossed a chicken nugget or two to our eagerly waiting furry friends. But are chicken nuggets harmful to dogs’ health?
If you’ve asked these questions before, you are not alone. Find out more about the chicken nugget, its potential effect on dogs, and healthier snack alternatives in this 2023 article.
So Can Dogs Eat Chicken Nuggets?
The short answer to this question is yes. Dogs can eat chicken nuggets. Healthy dogs can safely have a few chicken nuggets once in a while. But this fast food staple isn’t exactly a healthy snack for humans and much less for our canine friends.
Should A Dog Eat Chicken Nuggets?
Probably not. While it is OK to give your dog chicken nuggets from time to time, they are not the best snacks for your pup. These highly processed chicken meat snacks are crafted for humans. So they are full of ingredients that are not suitable for dogs.
Chicken nuggets tend to be greasy, especially when fried. Feeding dogs such fatty snacks that also commonly contain extenders can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and other health issues.
What Goes into Chicken Nuggets?
Chicken is widely used in all sorts of dog food products. So why shouldn’t dogs be allowed as many chicken nuggets as they want? What makes chicken nuggets bad or less than ideal as doggie snacks? Let’s dive deep into the main ingredients of chicken nuggets.
Ideally, chicken nuggets should be made of pure muscle meat from the chicken. Chicken breast is commonly used. However, most chicken nuggets that are commercially available, whether fast food or frozen, only contain about 40-60% real chicken meat.
McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets is probably one of the most popular chicken nuggets all over the world. According to McDonald’s, chicken meat constitutes 45% of the total McDonald’s Nuggets. The remaining 55% consists of batter, seasoning, and oil.
So while chicken meat itself is highly nutritious and incredibly yummy for dogs, the addition of various other ingredients diminishes the nutritional value of the food.
Some dogs have developed allergies to chicken protein. It is so widely used in the pet food industry that many dog foods labeled as other meats such as lamb, beef, or fish still have chicken meat in them. Pet owners of sensitive dogs should always check the complete ingredient list to ensure that no allergens are fed to their dogs.
Flour (Wheat, Corn, Etc.)
To make the outer parts of the nuggets crispy, flour is commonly used in the nuggets’ batter as well as the breading. Wheat flour, maize or corn flour are some of the most commonly used ingredients in battered fried foods such as chicken nuggets. They can also be used as an extender to produce larger volumes of food
These ingredients are high in carbohydrates but provide empty calories to our dogs compared to pure chicken meat. While wheat, corn, or other grains don’t necessarily harm dogs, including carb-heavy foods in a dog’s diet can lead to weight gain or obesity.
Gluten intolerance is not common in dogs, however, there are some dogs that have developed an intolerance to grains that contain gluten. Such dogs should not be given chicken nuggets, as the batter and breading both contain flour which contains gluten. Feeding chicken nuggets or other foods that contain gluten can cause an upset stomach or may trigger skin allergies.
Chicken nuggets are high in trans and saturated fats as they are usually deep fried in oils such as vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc. Too much fat can make a dog sick and cause digestive issues. They can cause loose stools or gassy tummies.
If your dog requires a low-fat diet or has pancreatitis, then chicken nuggets should not be given to them even as an occasional snack. High-fat foods can worsen the inflammation of the pancreas in dogs with pancreatitis.
Fast food chicken nuggets or even store-bought ones won’t be as tasty without salt and other seasonings. Unlike humans, dogs are not equipped to handle high-sodium foods regularly. Too much salt can overwork their kidneys and liver, which could lead to permanent organ damage.
Chicken nuggets may not seem salty to us, but it is for dogs. It is safe for healthy dogs to indulge in them once in a while, but if they’re getting several nuggets every time their owners get fast food, then it could have long-term effects on the dogs’ health.
Too much salt can cause sodium poisoning in dogs. When giving salty treats, always make sure that they have access to fresh, clean water. When too much salt builds up in their bodies, dogs are at risk of dehydration as their cells release water to balance out the sodium disparity.
Aside from dehydration, too much sodium can cause seizures, kidney disease, and loss of brain cells.
Onion and Garlic Powder
Garlic and onion powder are two of the most commonly used seasonings in fried chicken recipes. Chicken nuggets are no exception. These flavor-packed powders bring out the best in chicken.
However, garlic and onion in any form could be dangerous to dogs. Whether it is raw, cooked, or in powder form, these two ingredients can be toxic to dogs. Toxic amounts of garlic or onion could cause red blood cells to rupture. This leads to anemia in dogs. Gastrointestinal upset can also occur.
According to Pet Poison Online, eating a large amount of garlic may cause clinical signs within 24 hours, while signs of garlic poisoning after ingesting small amounts can be delayed for up to one week.
Artificial Flavors, Colors, Preservatives, and Spices
Chicken nuggets also come in flavored variants. They come in a wide variety of flavors and spice levels. Flavored chicken nuggets contain a lot of salt, artificial flavors, colors, MSG, and spices which can be bad for dogs.
Regularly feeding your dog chicken nuggets and other salty foods that are packed with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives can take a toll on a dog’s health. It can lead to problems in their kidney, liver, and urinary tract.
Dogs should not be given spicy chicken nuggets or any spicy food. Hot and spicy foods made with spicy peppers are bad for dogs as they can cause damage to your dog’s digestive system. They can cause abdominal pain, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea to your dog.
Can Dogs Eat Fast Food Chicken Nuggets?
Can you share some good ol’ Chick-fil-A Nuggets with your pup? How about a few pieces of Burger King Chicken Nuggets or Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets? The answer is yes, you can give them a few pieces of nuggets from fast food restaurants once in a while as long as they are not the spicy kind.
However, because of the high-fat content and amount of salt and flavoring agents that go into these tasty nuggets, they are not healthy for dogs.
Do not give a dog chicken nuggets if he or she has sensitive digestion, pancreatitis, urinary tract infection, or kidney disease. Letting a dog eat chicken nuggets frequently can also cause weight gain or obesity.
Can Dogs Eat Frozen Chicken Nuggets?
Just like fast food chains’ chicken nuggets, letting your furry friend eat Tyson chicken nuggets or other frozen nuggets that have been cooked is safe as long as it is not done too often.
While they are cooked at home and can even have less fat when baked or air-fried, frozen chicken nuggets still contain a lot of salt, seasonings, extenders, and preservatives that are not healthy for dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Vegan Chicken Nuggets/ Quorn Nuggets?
But what about plant-based or vegan chicken nuggets? Chicken nuggets made of vegan meat substitutes are also safe for dogs as an occasional treat. However, the fact that it is vegan or plant-based does not make products like Quorn Chicken Nuggets any healthier for dogs than those made from real chicken.
Vegan and Quorn varieties of nuggets are also highly processed, if not more so than the real deal. Just like the meat version, they are also high in salt, seasonings, and other additives.
Many of them are wheat-based and are even higher in carbohydrates than real chicken nuggets. Frequent feeding of vegan nuggets will put excess weight on your dog in no time.
Despite being plant-based, vegan nuggets do not have much nutritional value as far as dogs are concerned. They do not have the appropriate levels of essential dog-tailored nutrients that a complete and balanced dog food has.
Healthier Treat Alternatives
If your dog eats chicken nuggets and seems to enjoy them a lot, you’ll be pleased to know that there is no shortage of chicken-flavored dog treats in the market. You can buy chicken-based treats in every form imaginable. You can buy treats that are tailored to dogs according to their age, breed size, and even specific dietary requirements.
Chicken jerky treats for dogs come in a wide variety of sizes and textures. You can get large cut ones that are slightly thick and chewy to keep your pup preoccupied for about 2 minutes.
There are also thin and crispy chicken treats that you can easily break like a potato chip. These treats make great high-value training treats as you can easily break them into small pieces.
The best part about chicken jerky treats is that majority of them are single-ingredient – they are made of just chicken meat and nothing else. They are typically made of chicken breast or chicken muscle meat that has been dehydrated.
These single-ingredient treats are perfect for dogs who are sensitive to other meat proteins or ingredients such as grains.
Soft and Chewy Chicken Treats
Soft and chewy chicken treats are probably a bit closer to a chicken nugget’s texture compared to other types of dog treats. There are so many options for your dog in just this category, not to mention so many brands make soft, chewy chicken treats.
They come in a variety of sizes. You can find ones that are small and perfect as training treats. There are also larger ones that are ideal for large breed dogs.
Depending on how soft the treats are, you can also use them to hide pills and tablets. Just give your dog a piece or 2, with the third piece containing the pill. They turn treatment time into just treat time for dogs.
Freeze-dried/ Air-dried Chicken Treats
Freeze-dried and air-dried raw dog food are extremely popular among dogs. They are so tasty that even fussy dogs eat them as treats.
Because they usually have a very high animal meat content, these freeze-dried/ air-dried food are irresistible to most dogs. As they are freeze-dried or air-dried raw instead of cooked, most of the nutrients that are naturally present in the raw meat and veggies/ fruits are retained.
Despite not being cooked at high temperatures, the drying process kills the harmful pathogens present in the food, making these foods/ dog treats shelf-stable. They do not need refrigeration.
These highly nutritious foods make great meals, treats, or meal toppers for dogs. They are packed with all the essential nutrients as well as omega fatty acids. These healhy fats and nutrients support various aspects of a dog’s health and wellbeing.
Unlike fast food chicken nuggets, these high-value dog treats are free from artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets
Instead of giving your dog frozen chicken nuggets, feel free to treat your dog to some homemade ones. You can make chicken nuggets much healthier for dogs by making a few adjustments to the traditional chicken nuggets.
All you have to do is chop up some fresh plain chicken breast into small nuggets. No need to season the nuggets. You can grill them or simply pop them into an oven or air fryer until fully cooked. If you wish to use a batter, you can use beaten egg or plain yogurt.
If your pup is not allergic to wheat or gluten, you can sprinkle some flour or cornstarch on the egg or yogurt-dipped nuggets before cooking. Aside from cornstarch, rice flour can also be used as a gluten-free option. We recommend a light dusting or just a single coat of flour/ cornstarch for fewer carbs.
While the unseasoned nuggets may seem very bland to us humans, dogs will love cooked chicken in almost any form, including boiled chicken. You can also look up some dog-friendly chicken nugget recipes to add variety to your pup’s favorite treat.
Yes, chicken nuggets are not toxic to dogs and can be safely enjoyed as an occasional treat. While chicken is great for dogs, it’s the extenders, salt, flavoring agents, preservatives, and spices in fast food or store-bought chicken nuggets that make them unhealthy for dogs.
Ingredients such as garlic and onion powders, and chili powders while natural, can be toxic or cause harm to dogs.
This beloved highly processed meat product simply has very little nutritional value to offer to our canine friends. They are junk food for dogs. The same goes for vegan chicken nuggets. The good news is there are so many doggie snack options that actually provide multiple health benefits.