Is Raw Chicken Dangerous To Dogs?

Updated April 3rd, 2020

It seems like every dog owner has already heard the news. Chicken necks are causing paralysis in dogs. Now here’s the full story.

The Disease

Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN) is thought to be an auto-immune disease that attacks the nerve roots in the spine. It appears as a dog who starts walking with wobbly hind legs, which we call ataxia. As the condition progresses, the front legs and body become affected until paralysis ensues. Many dogs require hospital support followed by home nursing for an extended period. Thankfully, very few dogs die although it must be extremely distressing.

One cause of APN has long been suspected by vets to be the feeding of raw chicken in the diet. That’s because many dogs who get APN seem to be eating it but also due to similarities with a human condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome. In people,  Campylobacter bacteria (found in chicken) have been linked with the disease. Up to now, we’ve lacked the smoking gun.

The Study

This year we now have some better evidence. Researchers have shown that affected dogs are significantly more likely to have raw chicken in their diets than randomly surveyed and unaffected dogs. They also found Campylobacter more commonly in affected dogs.

You can read the full article here.  It’s important to note that they didn’t question owners particularly about chicken necks, just whether raw chicken was fed or not.

The Dangers Of Chicken Necks

APN is a rare but extremely debilitating disease. We see a case every two or three years.  The threat level is low, but it’s enough for vets to say: don’t ever feed raw chicken to your dogsYou can read here how to make a safer raw diet for dogs. You’ll also see studies showing that even chicken sold for human consumption is contaminated and that children get it from dogs.

There’s an even better reason not to feed raw chicken. I said I’ve never seen APN kill a dog, but I’ve still seen deaths caused by raw chicken. That’s due to choking.

Dogs love to gobble down their food. The deaths I’ve seen have all been from dogs eating raw chicken without chewing it properly. Many owners who feed it have seen a near miss and been scared off but sometimes the first event is the fatal one. Raw chicken is soft enough that a dog can give it two chews and then attempt to swallow it.

This especially happens with small dogs and puppies, and rarely in dogs over 20kg or if the chicken is minced. It represents the most common cause of choking we see in Adelaide (more than toys or rawhide chews). We  hear of a case every few years but the true incidence is unknown as most never make it to the vet,

Can Cats Eat Chicken Necks?

Clients who bring their kitty to me know that I feed my cat raw chicken. Here’s why:

  • I have never seen a case of choking in a cat
  • Cats don’t get APN and are resistant to Salmonellosis
  • I have never had to do dentistry on a cat that eats a chicken neck each day
  • Cats love them if you start young

The problems with raw chicken seem to only happen to dogs. If you want more advice on changing your dog’s diet, please get in touch!

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.


21 Replies to “Is Raw Chicken Dangerous To Dogs?”

  1. Hi, I have just adopted a nine week old kelpie x border collie from petrescue. His foster person told us to feed him mainly dry food (the Advance brand) 3 times a day. And in between to help settle him/calm him give him a raw chicken neck or wing. I haven’t been doing the raw chicken but I have been mixing a little bit of the wet puppy food with his dry food 2 twice a day. What else can I use as a treat? And is what I’m doing ok or do you suggest something else?

  2. Are dried chicken necks made by the Health Pet Treat Co. all Australian no artificial l
    Flavouring colouring or additives. Have only given one to my 5year miniature dachshund and it seemed to soften up after chchewing and look raw. Had standards 62 years and only tried once they all gobbled up whole then vomited up.. still feeling reluctant to give but thought ok because dried. Sorry for long winded story!!!!

    1. Hi Julie. All raw chicken has a high rate of contamination with Campylobacter and Salmonella. The figures quoted above are for human-grade products conducted here in South Australia. That’s why they always say not to prepare it where fresh foods such as salads are being prepared.

  3. I have a 2 year old rescue dog Cattle/ Kelpie that is 18kg. I feed it dry food, not the very expensive stuff but not the cheap stuff either. Eg Farmers Market or Applaws. Also Bow Wow oinkers pig treats a few times a week. Are they good for his teeth? I had been giving him chicken necks for his teeth but I’ve heard they can cause severe illness. Do you have any other suggestions please? Thank you

  4. A stray dog arrived at our house 6 weeks ago. He was very thin and hungry. Unable to find his owner, we have decided to adopt and he was desexed yesterday. We have been feeding him our homemade mix of minced raw chicken carcasses -very mushy with no bones, with cooked mixed frozen veg, brown rice and lentils. He also has raw beef brisket bones. He is about 1-2 years old, a mix of possibly kelpie, bull terrier, greyhound, pointer, ridgeback. I have read your article and am concerned about the raw minced chicken carcasses. Would it be best if I cooked the chicken?.Thankyou – any information would be very welcome. Lee

    1. Hi Lee. Yes, it would be a lot safer if you could cook the chicken. I know that’s hard to do but it will reduce some of the important risks.

  5. I had 4 cat paralised with eating faw steggles chicken hearts..exactly the same symptom s. Took 6 days before recovery

  6. Hi, my 4 dogs have all been fed chicken necks every day since puppies and live on a farm with poultry etc. Can they develop immunity to campylobacter? Are affected dogs not normally fed raw chicken? My last dog lived to 22 years without any problems but I am concerned for my other dogs. Thanks

    1. Hi Narelle – there is so much we don’t know, such as whether dogs only get infected once and then develop immunity (which is likely). In your case, the risk is no doubt quite low. The disease suspected to be caused by campylobacter is always rare and the fact that your dogs have eaten chicken necks for a long time probably reduces the risk further. For dogs who are already eating raw chicken, we are advising people that there is a risk but not to be too alarmed. Our focus is mainly on stopping people from beginning as puppies.

      1. Am I able to crush the chicken necks up and then feed them to him? I have a 9 week old pure breed kelpie.

      2. Hi Jess. That might fix the choking problem, but the food safety issue will remain. It’s totally up to you.

    1. It’s a good question. It’s hard to know but freezing doesn’t usually kill bacteria adequately. Unless studies have been done, we would assume that the hazard remains.

      1. I freeze then defrost in the microwave the necks as needed. Will this kill the bacteria?

    1. Good question!- we don’t know. A good guess would be that there is a lower risk, but still a possibility of Campylobacter contamination. Choking is certainly less likely.

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