Should you feed chicken wings to your pet?
The idea for chicken wings comes from a diet explained in the book “Give Your Dog a Bone” by Australian vet Ian Billinghurst.
He advocates feeding dogs a diet based around raw meaty bones (50-60%), together with smaller quantities of vegetables (completely crushed – I mince mine – or use a juicer and feed the pulp), meat, offal (heart, liver, kidney), dairy products, eggs, fish and some cereal.
Dr. Billinghurst also suggests that 80% of the bones should be chicken wings – but mine get mainly chicken wings with some chicken carcasses – occasionally other bones (usually beef ribs once a week and a rabbit once or twice a fortnight – when available). Other bones can be turkey, lamb, beef (the least useful as most dogs cannot eat them completely), and rabbit. Everything is fed raw (except rice, beans and tinned fish).
The benefits of feeding raw meaty bones (generally) are that bones contain
- calcium and phosphorus in balance + other minerals
- good quality protein
- essential fatty acids contain vitamins A,D & E in the fat
- copper and iron in the bone marrow
- anti-oxidants and enzymes
And, the action of eating bones cleans the teeth and provides exercise
The benefits of feeding chicken wings to your dog in particular are all of the above plus they are a good balance of bones and flesh to be able to provide the above benefits. The chicken bones are from young animals so bones are soft and free of toxins and dogs of any size and age can easily manage them. They have the best fatty acid content of all bones and they are very high quality proteins.
In case you are concerned about the safety of this I should emphasize that the chicken bones must be RAW. Cooked chicken bones are very dangerous as they become sharp and hard. Raw bones on the other hand are quite soft and the dogs simply crunch them up. Add to that the fact that a chicken wing is bones inside a good coating of chewy flesh and skin – so the bones are well padded.
Worrying about salmonella from raw bones for your pet
Other concerns are with salmonella etc. from feeding raw food. While you need to be careful handling raw meat yourself dogs are unlikely to have problems with organisms such as salmonella. Their digestive systems are designed to cope with raw meat. If you are concerned you can treat meat before feeding using grapefruit seed extract which you soak the meat in. Personally I do not do this and have had no problems.
Quantity of bones for your dog
How many wings/bones you feed daily will depend on several things. One is whether you are adopting the complete bone-based diet (so that the bones are the majority part of it) or using the bones as a kind of treat. For maximum benefit the diet should be followed but wings are a healthy treat. It also of course depends on the size of your dog and its metabolism and activity level.
The bones should make up 50-60% of the whole diet (with veggies, meat, offal, dairy, cereals etc making up the rest). As a guide my 80/90lb, fairly lazy Maremmas each have 8-10 wings a day + 1 or 2 carcasses – or 12 wings and no carcasses. You may need to experiment to see what your dog needs to maintain a healthy weight. A friend with Yorkies and a Border collie pup who feeds this diet says she worked out how many to feed the pup
by watching to see when she stopped eating them and started hiding them away!
You are not limited to wings. The wing is simply a convenient and often cheap part of the bird where the bones are manageable by dogs of any size. But if you have reasonable sized dogs there is no reason why they shouldn’t eat drumsticks/legs, carcasses or even the whole bird! I have given mine whole chickens (literally), legs, carcasses and complete wings (not just tips) without any problems. But the wings are perhaps the best place to start for the nervous – they are completely padded by flesh – the bones are small and soft – and they are a relatively easy proposition for even the smallest dog.
Get whatever bones are available cheaply in your area – if it is not chicken then try turkey or rabbit or lamb. But chicken parts are usually cheaply available if you get them in bulk (I freeze about a fortnight’s worth at a time which I get for 10 pounds sterling (about US$15) – which is cheaper than the kibble I was feeding!)
In addition to the wings (which mine have daily for one of their two meals), I feed minced veggies mixed with meat, offal (sometimes minced), eggs, cheese, milk, sardines, tuna, table scraps, or baked beans. The veggies are minced first to crush them and then are mixed with one or more of the above. You can use just about any veg – and also the stuff that you would throw away like the outside leaves of cauliflower and pea-pods.
In terms of quantity – again it is a bit of an experiment, but I generally give mine the equivalent of two medium sized carrots a day each (made up of different veg) + 0.25-0.5lb meat/offal or 1 egg or 0.5 pints of milk or 1 tin of sardines or 0.5 tin of tuna or beans. I watch their weight and reduce or increase accordingly.
Once or twice a week I give them a porridge made of rolled oats (1-2 cups), milk (0.5 pint), eggs (1) and honey (1 tsp). I sometimes add minced fruit (apple, coconut, raisins) to this.
I supplement at the moment with Hokamix – a natural herbal supplement. Before that I gave regular Brewers Yeast (Vit B), Kelp (Iodine and minerals), Wheatgerm (for Vit E), Cod liver oil (Vit A/D) and parsley (Vit C). I sometimes give garlic tablets also.
Hope that helps – I have found that this natural, raw food diet brings great benefits to the dogs – I’ve noticed improvement in coat, teeth cleanliness, stools and weight (they are less prone to be overweight) since I started with this diet.
By Janet Finlay (as posted to the Wellpet List)