Is it okay for dogs to eat eggs?
January 27, 2011 12:26 PM   Subscribe

How often can I feed my dog eggs?

I have one dog and three chickens. I've started cracking an egg over the dog's food. I feed her twice a day.

Can I give her two eggs a day? Is it okay to give them to her raw? (She noses around the henhouse so much that it can't possibly be exposing her to any nasty germs she doesn't get nosefuls of already. Or can it?) Is it okay to even give her the crushed-up shell?

I've read threads on dog-owner sites about this and they are somewhat inconclusive, so I'm hoping somebody here has actual experience one way or the other.
posted by Camofrog to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Our vet told us to give our Bernese Mountain Dog eggs (especially yolks) to make her coat softer and shinier and help with some skin issues, if I recall correctly. She probably had about one a day, sometimes more if we were using egg whites in a recipe.

YMMV, of course, and it must depend somewhat on breed. Can you call your vet's office and ask? I bet a vet or vet tech would be happy to verbally ok it. I would also ask specifically about the shells, that seems weird to me.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:32 PM on January 27, 2011

anecdotal. My mom feeds her two very healthy dogs an egg probably twice a week, and has been for quite some time. No noticeable ill-effects although the standard poodle does bark too much.
posted by philip-random at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2011

I had a girlfriend who routinely lets her dog lick clean any bowl used to beat eggs. Despite being a somewhat petite terrier, he has yet to suffer any ill effects, aside from room clearing flatulence.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:40 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm also sure it depends on the size of the dog. An egg's roughly the size of an egg, a dog could be a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. Ask your vet.

I used to feed my 50 lb hound one scrambled egg on Sunday mornings, no problems and he loved it. Hey it's his weekend too.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:41 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid, my dad used to periodically crack an egg over the dog's food. He would throw the shell on, too, claiming that it would be good for her. What actually happened is that the dog became an expert at eating everything in the bowl except for the eggshell, even when he broke it up a bit.

Complete anecdata: she lived until the age of 13 or so, a reasonably long life for the kind of dog she was (Black Lab). The eggs didn't seem to hurt her.
posted by telophase at 12:48 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I routinely dice half a hard boiled egg into my 30 pound dog's food, which is usually a mix of kibble and people food. My vet ok'd it and she loves it. Run it by your vet to be sure, but I'd say go for it.

However, if I were you I might worry about the dog taking the initiative and sucking eggs straight from the henhouse. This could be problematic.
posted by workerant at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2011

I wouldn't feed eggs on a daily basis. But weekly is good for glossiness and joie de vivre.

My whippets are happy to lap them up raw.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:56 PM on January 27, 2011

I give our 60 lb. pit bull an egg once a week, without any ill effects so far.
posted by electroboy at 12:58 PM on January 27, 2011

I don't know anything about the dog part of this (and assuming you're not doing this already): the eggshells are actually really good for the chickens to eat -- it makes future eggs better and stronger -- just add them to the scratch or whatever. BUT -- crush them up first, because otherwise they might start eating the eggs from right below them (I'd assume that if it's ok for the dog to eat the eggshells the same precaution would apply)
posted by brainmouse at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: workerant: She can't get at the eggs; she just noses around for table scraps the chickens miss.

brainmouse: I started feeding crushed shells back to the birds after I found them gobbling them out of the compost pile.

I know it sounds weird to feed a dog eggshells. My dog is like telophase's--she generally eats around the shell. I just figure the calcium would be good for her, but I worry about the shells cutting her guts on the way through.
posted by Camofrog at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2011

People who feed their dogs the raw food diet will routinely crush eggshells and mix it up in their food for calcium.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Most of the anecdata is coming from people who feed their dogs store-bought eggs.

You are proposing to feed your dog unpasteurized eggs, fresh from the chickens' cloacae, possibly full of (or at least coated with) Salmonella.

This is a bad idea -- at least cook the eggs first.
posted by orthogonality at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2011

What is your goal in feeding your dog eggs?

Why are you asking strangers on the internet with no veterinary experience? Are you looking for anecdata?

I would call my vet and ask for a referral to an nutritionist and give them a call and ask them.
posted by TheBones at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2011

I'd suggest cooking the egg too, and probably feeding it less often. When I cook eggs for myself on Sunday AMs, I make two for myself and one for my (40lb) dog. His goes straight onto the floor, and shortly thereafter right into him.
posted by bearwife at 2:12 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: TheBones: The goal is to use up eggs, save money on dog food, and feed my dog real food.

And I'm not sure even a vet will know one way or the other. I've been told untrue things by a doctor; I don't see why I should trust some random vet's word. So I came here to get a range of opinions and experiences.
posted by Camofrog at 2:21 PM on January 27, 2011

My grandpa fed his dogs raw eggs every morning and never had any issues. They were store-bought, for the record.
posted by tacodave at 2:29 PM on January 27, 2011

Once a week my mom would buy her dog (medium sized, 40lbs) a raw soup bone from the grocery. The dog would chew on it for awhile, then bury it in a shallow hole. Couple months later the dog would dig it up and go to town. Did this for years, never a problem.

A raw eggs will be just fine.
posted by sbutler at 2:31 PM on January 27, 2011

You are proposing to feed your dog unpasteurized eggs, fresh from the chickens' cloacae, possibly full of (or at least coated with) Salmonella.

Store-bought eggs are not "pasteurized," although they may receive a bath of ammonia. Unless the OP doesn't change his hens' straw very often, the eggs should be quite clean when they come out of the chicken. Beautiful, clean, and warm. Finally, the liquid part of the egg is separated from the outside world by a variety of membranes that resist bacterial invasion. As an example of the effectiveness of the egg's defenses, the egg doesn't spoil while the chick develops.
posted by Nomyte at 2:48 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Why would you feed your dog "real food." Do you not consider dog food "real food?" I mean my wife IS a vet, an internal medicine specialist to be exact, and thinks very highly of the science diet products.

We don't feed our dogs "real food" because it can cause pancreatitis. Salmonella is also a very real possibility, just as with humans.

And, no, a raw egg will not always be "just fine."

If you are looking to use up eggs, why don't you donate them to the local homeless shelter, or give them to your neighbors- I love fresh eggs and would be incredibly grateful to receive fresh eggs every once in a while.
posted by TheBones at 2:51 PM on January 27, 2011

the eggs should be quite clean when they come out of the chicken. Beautiful, clean, and warm.

Well, two out of three anyway. They're beautiful and clean, but frequently covered in chickenshit.
posted by electroboy at 2:52 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

er, warm. Not so much clean.
posted by electroboy at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are proposing to feed your dog unpasteurized eggs, fresh from the chickens' cloacae, possibly full of (or at least coated with) Salmonella.

My understanding is that the coating that the eggs emerge out of the chicken with serves an antibacterial function. If you wash the eggs, you wash off that coating and risk having them infected with stuff.

And the eggs wont be covered in chicken shit if the nesting area isn't under their roosts and is kept clean. Mostly, anyway. It's hard to avoid completely.

More anecdata: We have chooks and if we get an eggs that is slightly broken we'll usually give it to the dog, raw. He is a labrador, with the cast-iron stomach that implies, however, so YMMV.

I've never personally heard any suggestion that eggs are bad for dogs.
posted by damonism at 3:43 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ignore the guesswork in this thread from people who say "more than X times a week is bad!!!", without giving solid reasons.

Ignore the people who claim that fresh eggs from (non-factory) farm chickens are less safe than grocery store eggs - the opposite is true.

Wild carnivores, much like your pet Canus lupus sub. domesticus, would not hesitate to gobble up a tasty, high-protein, high-mineral goody like an egg.

I feed my dog eggs from time to time, both raw and cooked. He never has problems. They are regularly recommended as a diet supplement in raw diet forums, and also by many breeders of show dogs.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:44 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: I change the nestbox shavings every couple of weeks, long before it even looks dirty. They don't crap in there. Much. The eggs are usually spotless. Besides, I wouldn't give my dog an eggshell with poop on it.

I don't think salmonella is a big threat. I am aware of it, and thank you for the reminder.

I'm looking more for "anecdata" and experienced opinion or knowledge as to how often dogs can eat eggs and whether it's good for them or not, all questions of salmonella aside. I'd like to avoid a political discussion about what I do with the eggs in the first place, please.
posted by Camofrog at 5:55 PM on January 27, 2011

And, no, a raw egg will not always be "just fine."

If you are looking to use up eggs, why don't you donate them to the local homeless shelter, or give them to your neighbors

So an egg can harm the dog but the homeless or your neighbours are OK? Interesting point of view, dude.

Dogs are scavengers, often eat (and roll in) all manner of excreta, are perfectly happy gnawing on festering bones that have been buried or just rotted and will not be harmed by a raw egg - slightly poopy or no.

I fed my dogs (now deceased from old age and breed-related issues, I hasten to add) the occasional raw egg from our free-range chickens. Frequency depended on how often we cracked, dropped or found a large blood spot amongst the eggs and went from one or two a week to perhaps one a month. We always regarded it as supplementary and our vet concurred that it was good practice. We returned the egg-shells to the chickens and instead fed the dog raw bones for their calcium.
posted by ninazer0 at 6:01 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

TheBones - Science Diet's first ingredient is corn. Corn is useless for dogs. They're hunter-gatherer omnivores. I can't fathom any time in the history of canine development them naturally eating corn. Some of their other varieties (lamb and rice) for example, still have two types of rice and wheat. Dogs don't need grains.

Yes, I feed our dog meat, cow femurs, and egg in addition to a store bought (meat and veg based) dog food.
posted by carlh at 6:36 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This comment (pretty good thread too) about getting your chickens' eggs tested, in a raw egg thread, was really useful. Dogs can get Salmonella poisoning--though they do seem more resistant than people--and of course chickens can end up carriers of Salmonella without showing any symptoms, which is why there's such strong feeling about cooking eggs and chicken meat properly.

Having treated an animal through Salmonella infection, I would not EVER want to do that again. They get extremely sick, miserable, have explosive diarrhea (messy), get horribly dehydrated. So if there's a relatively easy way to check your eggs regularly to make sure your chickens are not infected, that's a really good idea. I have to confess, as I did in the linked thread, that I went ahead and licked clean my mixing bowls and so on when we had farm chickens...but I never actually thought there was no risk to it. I just couldn't find a way to test my chickens, so I didn't know.

Eggs are a good source of a lot of things, and people have historically fed dogs eggs as part of their main diet (especially people with farm chickens!) But it's still a good idea to know if your eggs are safe raw, or if you need to maybe cook that egg before you add it to the dog's food.

Side note, are you reducing the dog's meals to keep from overfeeding? There's about a hundred calories in an egg. You should be able to find out what you're currently feeding (visit the dog food manufacturer's website, or use something like this) to make sure you reduce the regular commercial dog food by the right amount. Even for a large dog, a hundred extra calories a day is a lot. Or are you feeding two eggs a day? I'm not clear on that.

Keep in mind that just like people, dogs have a certain amount of suggested daily nutrition, in terms of vitamins and minerals and protein content and so on. Commercial dog food is balanced--sometimes poorly, sometimes well--to try to encompass the nutrition they need. If you reduce the amount of commercial dog food you're giving by a substantial amount, you may be providing an imbalanced diet. The suggestion to check with a nutritionist is a good one, just to make sure you're not going to end up with a vit/mineral/etc deficiency this way.
posted by galadriel at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2011

If we run out of dog food, I often give our dogs (dogs between 25-70 pounds) multiple raw eggs with cooked oatmeal for up to 4-5 days. No problems.

I believe Dr. Pitcairn (Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health) recommends raw eggs. In your situation I would feel good about the eggs your are giving your dog. Because my dogs are on the smaller side, I would be careful to reduce dog food (not eggs) if dogs were gaining weight.
posted by Agatha at 6:51 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: I shave off some food when I supplement with an egg, but I just eyeball it. My dog's diet probably ends up on the high-calorie side, but she gets enough exercise and she's not getting heavier.

I only randomly feed eggs; sometimes two a day, sometimes one, sometimes none.

The conclusion I'm coming to so far is: an egg a day, okay, in place of the equivalent of regular food. Shells are okay, too. That way everybody's happy--I use up eggs, my dog gets to eat them (she really seems to like them), and her diet stays reasonably balanced.
posted by Camofrog at 7:42 PM on January 27, 2011

If you do end up doing this, please be informed about pancreatitis.
posted by TheBones at 7:46 PM on January 27, 2011

Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin. This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Cooking deactivates the enzyme.
posted by acorncup at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2011

My old dog gets an egg in his dry food - on the rare days that he gets dry food. Seems to be fine.
posted by the noob at 8:51 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: The linked article about pancreatitis says it typically results from dogs binging on lots of fat. Eggs have fat, but not the amount and type the article suggests is risky.

Every bit I've read about avidin says that the biotins in the yolk cancel out any downside. I'm not worried about it anyway, because the whole premise sounds more like conjecture than fact.
posted by Camofrog at 8:59 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: Every bit I've read about avidin says that the biotins in the yolk cancel out any downside.

Egg whites play the role of a chemical defense to keep the egg safe from bacteria and viruses, as such there are other egg white proteins that can affect your dog's nutrition. Ovotransferrin binds to iron and makes it unavailable to your dog. Ovomucin inhibits trypsin, an enzyme needed to break down protein. Additionally, the text that I am looking at says egg whites contain four enzymes are known to block digestive action and three are known to bind tightly to vitamins and make them unavailable. Cooking the egg will denature these enzymes and render them inert.

I believe that raw eggs and shells are probably okay for your dog, but cooked eggs would be better for both nutrition and food-born illness concerns.
posted by peeedro at 12:04 AM on January 28, 2011

Best answer: Okay, I'm going to mark this resolved, at least for me, and my final conclusion is that one egg a day, shell and all, preferably cooked, in place of the caloric equivalent of the dog's normal food, is probably fine.
posted by Camofrog at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2011

Best answer: One final data point: my vet gives her dog one raw egg a day.
posted by Camofrog at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2011

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