Dogs have been stealing eggs for thousands of years, and for good reason. Eggs from chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, quail, and other birds are safe, nutrition-boosting additions to any dog’s diet. They can be served raw or cooked, alone or combined with other foods. It’s hard to go wrong with these convenient, affordable, versatile ingredients.
Eggs are high in nutrients that support every part of the canine body. The yolks contain the egg’s vitamins and fatty acids, the whites are almost pure protein, and the shells contain calcium carbonate with a few other minerals. Eggs can be added to dry, canned, frozen, or refrigerated dog foods, fed as between-meal snacks, or used as training treats.
The average large chicken egg (the size sold in most markets) contains 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. How often and how many eggs to feed depends on your dog’s size, health, condition, and activity level. Some dogs are allergic to eggs but for most dogs, eggs are a tasty and nutritious food.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends storing eggs in their cartons in the coldest part of your refrigerator (not the door) at 40 degrees F or slightly below that. Properly stored raw eggs last three to five weeks from the time you bring them home. After cooking, refrigerated hard-boiled eggs last safely for a week.
How much egg should you feed to your dog?
Individual reactions vary, so start with a small amount and, if you have questions or health concerns, check with your veterinarian. Add a hard-boiled egg or part of one to your pup’s dinner or offer it as a treat and pay attention to her response. Most dogs will want more, and that’s a good sign. If your dog shows any symptoms of indigestion or an allergic reaction, check with your veterinarian.
Assuming your dog enjoys her egg, wait a day or two before offering another. The egg can be poached, fried in a small amount of oil or butter, scrambled, hard-boiled, or soft-boiled.
Canine nutrition researcher Mary Straus at dogaware.com says, “Dogs weighing 40 pounds or more can handle a whole egg, so I’d recommend half an egg (or a whole egg every other day) for dogs weighing 20 to 40 pounds and proportionately less for smaller dogs.”
Can dogs eat raw eggs?
Because raw eggs are associated with salmonella, a bacterial infection that causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, most veterinarians recommend that eggs be cooked before feeding to your dog. However, many dog owners feed their dogs raw eggs with no ill effects, and veterinarians who promote raw diets claim that the benefit of raw eggs are that they are more nutritious than cooked eggs and that they are usually safe for dogs to eat. Factory farms, in which thousands of chickens are housed close together, are blamed for salmonella outbreaks, while chickens raised outdoors on a small scale are unlikely to be infected.
Another argument against feeding raw eggs is that egg whites contain an enzyme that prevents the absorption of the B vitamin biotin, potentially leading to a deficiency that adversely affects skin, coat, and nail health. However, egg yolks contain large amounts of biotin, so feeding the entire egg eliminates that risk. Biotin deficiencies, while theoretically possible, are rare in dogs.
The easiest way to give your dog a raw egg is to crack one over his dinner.
Can dogs eat eggshells?
Eggshells contain approximately 2,000 mg of elemental calcium per shell, enough to meet the daily needs of an 85-pound dog. Home-prepared diets for dogs that do not include raw bone need to be supplemented with a calcium source, and many people use eggshells for this purpose. The shells should be ground to a powder in a clean coffee grinder or blender.
It’s important to provide a calcium source in your dog’s home-prepared diet –but it’s equally important to provide enough and not too much. To calculate the appropriate amount of eggshells to use as a calcium source for a homemade diet, please see “Calcium in Homemade Dog Food,” WDJ May 2019.
Eggshell powder should never be added to the diet of dogs already eating a nutritionally complete commercial diet, as they will end up receiving far too much calcium. Large-breed puppies in particular can be harmed by excess calcium, especially during the first six months when they’re growing rapidly and aren’t able to control their calcium uptake.
What’s the difference between factory farmed, free-range, and pastured eggs?
The nutritional value of eggs depends on the health of the birds that lay them.
According to Factory Farm Awareness Coalition, most layer hens in the United States spend the bulk of their lives, about two or three years, in closely stacked cages in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Layer hens are bred to lay more than 300 eggs a year. In crowded cages, hens are unable to spread their wings, take dust baths, perch, nest, or lay eggs as they would in nature. When their egg production declines, they are sent to a slaughterhouse.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “free range” chickens as those having access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day, whether the chickens choose to go outside or not. There are no requirements for length of time the chicken must spend outdoors, the size of the outdoor area, or the type of groundcover. Less than 1% of chickens nationwide are raised as “free range.” The remaining 99% spend their lives confined to indoor pens.
The terms “pastured” and “pasture-raised” apply to farm animals that live in grassy fields. While there is no legal definition for the term, pastured chickens are ideally raised on deep-rooted green grass and moved every few days to fresh areas. They are physically active and consume a variety of seeds, insects, worms, and other live foods that they forage themselves.
Small local farms, farmer’s markets, and natural food stores are great sources for maximally nutritious eggs from healthy chickens, ducks, and other birds. Their nutritional quality is reflected in their dark orange yolks and hard shells, and they’re as good for you as they are for your dog.
To find pastured eggs locally and to learn how pastured chicken and their eggs are raised, search online for “pastured eggs” in your area and visit websites such as eatwild.com, getrealchicken.com, theveggan.com/pasture-raised-egg-brands, and localharvest.org. Prices vary by region, but the public’s growing support for pasture-raised poultry, the increasing availability of pastured eggs, and their affordability provide an important nutritional bonus for our best friends.