Eating leftover chicken scraps is a treat many dogs beg for. However, is it safe to feed dogs chicken that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days? Old chicken can pose health risks, but cooked chicken also offers nutritional benefits. This article provides guidelines on safely sharing chicken with dogs.
Can Dogs Eat Old Chicken?
Feeding your dog freshly cooked chicken is fine. But you should only give dogs chicken that’s expired or has been left out too long. Once refrigerated chicken hits the 3-4 day mark, bacteria like Salmonella multiply quickly and release toxins. Consuming spoiled chicken can cause food poisoning in dogs, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms.
To be safe, only feed your dog chicken that has been stored correctly and is less than 3-4 days old since cooking. Refrain from feeding chicken with a foul odor or slimy texture. Trust your nose – if old chicken smells off to you, it’s not safe for your dog.
The Dangers of Consuming Spoiled Food
Feeding spoiled chicken to dogs can lead to foodborne illnesses. Raw chicken is more likely to contain Salmonella and other bacteria. But even thoroughly cooked chicken can still develop harmful microbial growth if left at room temperature or in the fridge for too long.
Some of the risks of spoiled chicken include:
- Salmonella – Causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. It can be life-threatening in rare cases.
- Clostridium perfringens – Causes diarrhea and cramps. It can also infect wounds.
- Bacillus cereus – Causes vomiting and nausea. It can be fatal if large quantities are ingested.
- Listeria – Causes fever, muscle aches, and nausea. It can lead to more severe complications.
These bacteria release toxins as they multiply, making dogs sick. Signs of food poisoning usually show up within hours or days of ingesting lousy chicken. Seek prompt veterinary treatment if your dog has consumed spoiled meat.
Assessing the Risks of Old Chicken
To determine if leftover chicken is still safe for your dog, check:
- Expiry date – Chicken should be discarded 1-2 days past the use-by date, even when refrigerated.
- Storage time – Cooked chicken stored longer than 3-4 days poses a higher risk, regardless of use-by date.
- Storage method – Was the chicken properly covered and refrigerated at 40°F or below? If left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, bacteria can multiply.
- Appearance & smell – Discard chicken with an unpleasant odor, sticky or tacky feel, or slimy texture.
- Preparation method – Raw or undercooked chicken carries higher risks than fully cooked chicken.
As a general rule, avoid feeding chicken that is past its prime. When in doubt, throw it out.
Potential Benefits of Feeding Cooked Chicken
While old chicken is dangerous, fresh-cooked chicken can be a healthy treat. Some benefits of feeding your dog plain cooked chicken include:
- Excellent source of lean protein – Supports muscle growth and tissue repair.
- Contains essential amino acids like lysine and cysteine.
- Rich in vitamins like niacin, which aids digestion.
- Provides minerals like selenium and phosphorus for immune health.
- It contains glucosamine, which promotes joint health.
- Easily digestible meat for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Give your dog plain, freshly cooked chicken for optimal nutrition without any seasoning or heavy processing. Avoid fried chicken or chicken nuggets.
Guidelines for Safely Sharing Chicken with Dogs
Follow these tips for safely feeding chickens to dogs:
- Remove skin and bones first, as seasonings cling to skin and bones can splinter.
- Chop chicken into bite-size pieces to reduce choking hazards.
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours and use within 3-4 days.
- Refrain from feeding chicken that looks or smells bad. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Store cooked chicken in airtight containers to prevent freezer burn.
- Avoid raw chicken due to bacteria risks – always cook chicken thoroughly first.
- Never thaw and refreeze raw chicken. Only refreeze cooked chicken once.
- Don’t season chicken with onions, garlic, or other toxic ingredients. Stick to plain chicken.
Following basic food safety practices will allow you to safely feed delicious chicken treats without endangering your dog’s health. Monitor your dog after introducing new foods and discontinue feeding if any reactions occur.
Cooked vs. Raw Chicken: Which is Better for Dogs?
Raw chicken can contain Salmonella and tends to pose higher risks. Cooking chicken thoroughly kills any potential bacteria, making it safer. However, both raw and cooked chicken offer nutritional benefits.
Cooked chicken is highly recommended for dogs for safety and digestibility. Opt for boiling, baking, or simmering to retain nutrients. Avoid frying.
Raw chicken provides moisture and enzymes but introduces bacteria risks. Only feed human-grade raw chicken under veterinary supervision. Don’t feed raw chicken bones.
For most pet owners, cooked chicken is the best option. The bones become brittle when cooked, so always remove them first. Introduce new foods slowly and watch for allergic reactions.
Can Dogs Eat Chicken Bones?
No, dogs should never consume chicken bones. Raw chicken bones can splinter and cause internal puncture wounds or obstructions.
Cooked chicken bones become brittle and risk fracturing your dog’s teeth or perforating the digestive tract. Burnt bones crumble easily and can cause choking hazards.
For safety, always remove chicken bones before feeding the meat to your dog. The risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Freshly cooked chicken can make a nutritious treat for dogs. But chicken that is expired or has been left out too long provides an inviting environment for dangerous bacteria to multiply.
Avoid feeding dogs chicken with a bad odor or slimy texture, as spoilage indicates the growth of harmful microbes. For optimal safety and nutrition, feed dogs plain cooked chicken within 3-4 days of refrigeration. Following basic food handling and hygiene guidelines will allow you to incorporate delicious chicken into your dog’s homemade diet safely.
Q: How long is cooked chicken good for in the fridge?
A: Cooked chicken remains safe for 3-4 days when stored in the fridge at 40°F or below. Discard any leftover chicken after that time, even if it was previously frozen.
Q: Can dogs eat rotisserie chicken?
A: Plain rotisserie chicken is safe for dogs if bones or skin are removed. Avoid seasoned rotisserie chicken or chicken with heavy processing. Refrigerate promptly and use within 3-4 days.
Q: What happens if a dog eats bad chicken?
A: Consuming spoiled chicken can give dogs food poisoning, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Seek veterinary care if your dog shows concerning symptoms after eating old chicken.
Q: Can dogs eat raw chicken?
A: It’s not recommended. Raw chicken may contain Salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. Cook chicken thoroughly to kill any potential pathogens before feeding it to dogs.