Around the world, many people consume eggs from domestic chickens. They’re a breakfast and baking staple, are delicious boiled or scrambled, and pack a ton of protein. In 2018, over 76.7 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide (1).
With human consumption of eggs growing steadily for decades, you might be wondering whether this favorite breakfast food is healthy for dogs as well. Let’s review whether dogs can eat eggs and go over the different cooking variations to see if they are safe for our pups.
Can Dogs Eat Eggs?
Generally, eggs are considered safe for dogs to eat. They are a highly digestible source of protein and fat for our canine companions. The average cooked egg contains about 75 calories, nearly 6 grams of protein and just over 5 grams of fat.
The protein fraction of eggs contains a complete essential amino acid profile and they are very highly digestible, giving them the reputation of being a good source of dietary protein. Processed egg products are a common ingredient in many commercial dog foods.
Dogs and Eggs: Preparation and Types
Eggs contain a yolk, an egg white, and a shell. The yolk is rich in nutrients, since this is where embryos grow if eggs are fertilized. The egg white, which surrounds the yolk is composed of a thin and thick substance called albumen, which is made up primarily of water and dissolved proteins. The egg white contributes to around half of the protein content of an egg. Encasing these soft structures is the egg’s shell. The shell is a rigid structure composed predominantly of calcium carbonate.
When it comes to nutrition, the shell is generally discarded and the white and yolk are cooked in a variety of ways. But when it comes to preparing eggs for dogs, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Eggs?
Raw eggs are not recommended for dogs and are considered unsafe for a number of reasons. First, raw eggs may be contaminated with bacteria and can transmit infections including E. coli and Salmonella. It has been shown that the risk of Salmonella is significantly greater in dogs fed raw eggs (2). Not only can these bacteria cause serious illness in dogs (and their owners), but these infections may be hard to treat.
In addition to the food safety concerns, there are nutritional concerns with respect to raw eggs. The egg white contains a protein called avidin, which binds biotin, a B-vitamin (3). Biotin is not considered an essential nutrient for dogs, meaning it doesn’t need to be present in their diet as dogs can synthesize it themselves. Yet, feeding raw eggs can actually induce biotin deficiency as the synthesized biotin is bound by the avidin and cannot be utilized by the dog.
Can Dogs Eat Egg Shells?
It is not recommended to feed egg shells to dogs. Egg shells are composed predominantly of calcium carbonate, which is a very calcium-rich, highly digestible compound. This provides a large dose of calcium in addition to the calcium provided in a dog’s main diet.
Calcium recommendations are quite strict for dogs and even more so for growing puppies. Adding extra dietary calcium can easily imbalance the diet, especially from a source such as egg shell that is rich in calcium but deficient in phosphorus. The imbalance of the calcium to phosphorus ratio can impact vitamin D status and have effects on skeletal metabolism (4).
Furthermore, the kidneys filter calcium and phosphorus from the blood. Mineralization of the kidneys is a component of chronic kidney disease and can be exacerbated by high levels of dietary calcium.
Can Dogs Eat Egg Yolks?
Dogs can eat cooked egg yolks, but it should be done in moderation. Egg yolks are very energy-dense (i.e. high calorie) and rich in fat, including cholesterol. In humans, dietary cholesterol is recognized to have many adverse health effects, though in dogs we do not have quite the same concerns and it appears that cholesterol is better tolerated.
However, there are a number of dog health conditions that may be exacerbated by dietary cholesterol including lipemia and hypertriglyceridemia (elevated levels of fat in the blood) and pancreatitis (5). In these dogs especially, egg yolks should not be fed.
For healthy dogs, a dose of fat and cholesterol from egg yolks may not be harmful, though pet parents should be aware of the risk of inducing pancreatitis. Certain breeds of dogs, including Miniature Schnauzers and Terriers, are at increased risk of developing pancreatitis.
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Eggs?
Cooked eggs are less dangerous to be fed to dogs—though that does depend on how they are prepared. Cooking kills pathogenic bacteria and reduces the risk of Salmonella.
However, cooking doesn’t change the nutritional composition of eggs and the high fat content is still present. Additionally, if eggs are fried, the added fat from oil or butter can increase the risk of an adverse reaction. If eggs are scrambled with added milk, the risk of inducing diarrhea is increased, as many dogs do not tolerate dairy products well.
If you’re interested in feeding cooked eggs to your dog, boiling or scrambling without any additives is the best way. It’s also important to consider the portion size when feeding eggs to dogs. The average egg contains about 75 calories. Dogs should consume a maximum of 10 percent of their daily energy from incomplete food sources, including eggs. That means only dogs over 50 pounds could eat a whole egg in a day as part of a balanced diet.
Can Dogs Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs?
Hard boiling eggs will kill pathogenic bacteria, making it a safe option for dogs. However, as with the section on cooked eggs above, hard-boiled eggs are still high in fat and calories. That means the risk of excess dietary fat is still present if dogs are fed hard-boiled eggs. Dogs known to have health conditions such as triglyceridemia, lipemia, or pancreatitis should not be fed hard-boiled eggs.
Keep portion control in mind. Dogs should not get more than 10 percent of their calories from treats and dietary additives including eggs.
Can Dogs Eat Deviled Eggs?
Deviled eggs should not be fed to dogs. The added mayonnaise brings even more fat and could cause adverse effects. Even if the fatty snack doesn’t cause pancreatitis, dogs could still suffer other effects from excessive fat such as steatorrhea (greasy diarrhea).
If your dog happens to gobble up some deviled eggs from counter surfing, keep a close eye on them for signs of gastrointestinal upset such as lip smacking, drooling, and vomiting. If you have concerns, you can always give your veterinarian a call.
How to Feed Dogs Eggs
If you would like to feed eggs to your dog, only offer plain cooked eggs that are boiled or scrambled without any additives. These can be added to a dog’s food at mealtime or fed as a snack or treat during the day.
Feeding too large of a portion could unbalance your dog’s diet or lead to unwanted weight gain. If you give a portion of an egg to your dog, the amount of calories should be subtracted from their regular meal and the portion reduced to compensate for the extra calories.
If you have any questions about portion size or feeding dogs eggs, speak with your veterinarian.
How Often Can Dogs Eat Eggs?
There isn’t really a defined frequency for feeding dogs eggs. The universal recommendation is to avoid feeding more than 10 percent of a dog’s diet from treats, snacks, and scraps.
Eggs are high in fat and cholesterol, and this must be considered since not all dogs will process eggs in the same way. Dogs are individuals and their specific nutritional requirements must be considered before adding new foods to their diets.
Consult your veterinarian to identify any nutritional concerns for your dog. Alternatively, there are also specialist veterinary nutritionists who can work with you and your dog to make tailored dietary recommendations to fit your dog’s needs.
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