Whether you feed your dog an entirely raw food diet or are just looking for some fresh supplements to add to your dog's kibble, raw eggs for dogs are a popular choice. There are nutritional benefits to feeding raw eggs though risks as well that you should consider before adding them to your dog's meals.
Can I Feed My Dog Raw Egg?
You'll find differing opinions on whether it's safe to feed dogs raw eggs. Some experts contend that dogs have been eating eggs from nests for centuries and it's only recently that owners have fed them only commercially prepared kibble. On the other hand, veterinarians argue that there are real risks of not only foodborne illness but also nutritional problems inherent with putting a raw egg in dog food.
Risks of Feeding Raw Eggs to Dogs
One of the risks that veterinarians are concerned about is the possibility of foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella. Bacteria like e. coli, listeria, and salmonella can be a problem with any raw food where there is no cooking to kill these pathogens. PetMD does note that there as yet have not been any serious health-related events involving the feeding of raw eggs to dogs. However, this does not mean that one couldn't happen in the future. There's also always the risk to humans when handling raw food, and that should be a consideration if you're not following safe food handling practices.
If your dog is raw-fed, their gastric pH is lower, and better equipped to handle raw eggs and other raw foods than those that are fed kibble. That doesn't necessarily mean dogs that are kibble-fed shouldn't be fed raw eggs, but you may notice some diarrhea or loose stool when first starting to incorporate the raw eggs into a kibble-fed dog's diet.
Biotin Deficiency and Avidin
Another concern about adding raw eggs to a dog's food is the presence of the enzyme avidin. Egg whites are high in avidin, and it can cause problems with biotin absorption. Biotin, or vitamin B7, found in egg yolks, is critical for a dog's health, and disruption in biotin processing can harm cell growth and fat metabolism, as well as affect the health of a dog's coat and skin. Feeding a dog a raw egg occasionally is not likely to cause problems between avidin and biotin, but the more often they are fed, the higher the risk. However, raw egg feeders also respond that biotin deficiency is quite rare and you would have to feed the average dog eight to 10 eggs a day to create the conditions for it to occur.
Eggshell Hazards and Dogs
There's also a concern that allowing a dog to eat a raw egg, including the eggshell, can be a choking hazard. It could also cause dental problems if a shard cuts into a dog's gums. Some raw dog feeders take the raw egg shells and allow them to dry, then run them through a coffee grinder or a blender, thus removing the chance of choking and dental damage. You can mix the eggshell powder you create into their dog food and even keep it in an airtight container for future use.
Eggs can also upset a dog's nutritional imbalance, especially if you're feeding them to a smaller dog and more often. While eggs contain many wonderful nutrients, they're also high in cholesterol, although there's little evidence that dogs get the same types of diseases that humans do from cholesterol. Another concern is the digestibility of protein. A study on humans found that when humans ate cooked eggs, they were able to absorb 90% of protein from the eggs whereas they only were able to absorb 50% from the raw eggs. However, while that's a striking difference, it should be noted this was a study on humans, not dogs, and the sample size of five patients for the study is very small.
Benefits of Mixing Raw Eggs With Dog Food
On the other hand, there are many raw dog food enthusiasts who contend that there are more benefits to feeding raw eggs to dogs than risks. Free-range eggs are better than caged eggs, and organic eggs are even better still. The more natural the egg, the better it is for your dog and the healthier it will be for you to eat as well. Some of the benefits of feeding raw eggs include:
- Eggs are an excellent source of protein, linoleic acid, riboflavin, folate, iron, selenium, and vitamins A and B12.
- Essential fatty acids are found in eggs. These nutrients serve as the building blocks for cell membranes and help your dog absorb the vitamins A, E, and K.
- Eggshells contain calcium and phosphorus, which are especially important for growing dogs. The shells also contain protein.
- Cooked eggs are good for dogs, but cooking destroys a portion of the nutritional benefits, such as the amino acids, making raw eggs a better option.
- Mixing raw egg into a dog's kibble can help entice a dog to eat and make it more palatable.
How Many Raw Eggs Can Dogs Eat?
Whether you decide to feed raw or cooked eggs, they should be fed to your dog in moderation. You can start with one a day or every other day and monitor your dog's weight to see if you need to modify this schedule if they start to pack on pounds. You also want to keep an eye on your dog for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea as eggs could possibly upset a sensitive dog's stomach. Another way to determine the proper amount is to keep eggs to 10% of your dog's daily calories, and an egg is about 70 calories.
Is Adding Raw Eggs to Dog Food Healthy?
There are definite pros and cons to the debate over feeding dogs raw eggs. There's no doubt that eggs, whether raw or cooked, provide many beneficial nutrients to dogs. As with any decision about your dog's diet and health, speak to your veterinarian to help you decide how you want to feed eggs to your dog, and make sure you monitor your dog's health for negative, as well as positive, side effects of feeding raw eggs.