A Guide to Duck Necks for Dogs (by Jo the Vet)

duck necks for dogs

Are you looking for a natural treat? Preferably one which has health benefits as well as being tasty for your dog? Maybe you’re looking for something nutritious? 

But are duck necks truly safe for your dog? And is it worth spending that extra money to buy duck necks instead of similar alternatives? In this article we will unpack everything there is to know about duck neck treats so you can decide if they are the treat for your dog.

Key Facts

  • Duck necks are harvested as by-products from ducks which have been bred for the meat industry. Welfare practices vary around the world, so try to purchase local, free-range, organic duck necks.
  • Duck necks are available as raw, air-dried or freeze-dried.
  • Duck necks are nutritious and are great for improving both dental and joint health. They also help reduce anxiety by providing plenty of chewing time.
  • Feeding duck necks have several risks, including blockages, diarrhoea, and scratches in the throat.
  • Some alternatives to duck necks include other necks, such as chicken necks or turkey necks, antlers, bully sticks, and duck feet.

Introduction

Duck necks are the necks of ducks without the head, crop or skin. They are bigger than chicken necks and smaller than turkey necks, and usually measure at about eight or nine inches. 

Duck necks are uncommon, and therefore often come with a price tag. They are the by-products from the duck meat industry, and are sometimes simply thrown away. Duck-keeping can vary in welfare standards, therefore, it’s important to always ensure the duck necks have come from ducks which have been kept in free-range, organic settings, and are preferably sources locally. Many duck necks come from the Asian market, and these ducks may have had compromised welfare.

Duck neck treats are usually dehydrated through air-drying or freeze-drying. You can also purchase duck necks raw, to be fed as a topper for a raw food diet, or an occasional raw food treat. However, this article will mainly focus on duck necks as treats, rather than raw feeding.

Different companies will process the duck necks in different ways, prior to drying. Some will do nothing, others will sterilise with chemicals, and some even clean them with natural products such as apple cider vinegar and Ozone. The less processing they have, the more natural they are, but equally, the more likely they are to be contaminated with harmful bacteria, which might cause them to spoil faster or make your dog unwell. So there are pros and cons both sides.

All versions of duck necks are great for chewing, however raw duck necks will be softer and have softer bones than freeze-dried or air-dried versions, with air-dried being the toughest of all.

Are Duck Necks Good for Dogs?

Duck is a rich and nutritious meat, full of protein and vitamins. Duck necks are also great for chewing, to keep your dog entertained and improve his dental hygiene.

Duck necks contain high levels of B vitamins and minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, zinc and selenium. B vitamins are particularly important for promoting metabolism, as well as supporting heart health. Phosphorus plays an important role in bone creation, and promotes strong bones. Potassium is also vital for heart health, as well as plays a role in nerve conduction. Finally, zinc and selenium are anti-oxidants which are extremely important for supporting many life processes, such as utilisation of oxygen, DNA production and maintaining cellular membranes, as well as fighting free radicals.

Duck necks also contain plenty of connective tissue and cartilage, which are full of glucosamine and chondroitin. These act as precursors for joint cartilage and therefore helps improve the health of joints, particularly for dogs with osteoarthritis. They have been clinically proven to improve pain, weight-bearing on afflicted limbs and the severity of the condition. Unfortunately, as with all natural products, the concentrations of glucosamine and chondroitin in a duck neck are unknown and variable from one to another, and therefore, for an accurate and clinically significant concentration, joint supplements are a better option. In addition to this, feeding supplements, whether natural or artificial, is not a substitute for seeing your vet to diagnose and treat your dog’s joint problems. 

Since the product is natural the nutritional makeup of the treat will vary from one to another. However as a rough guide, the following should apply for dehydrated duck necks:

Nutritional Content of Dried Duck Necks 

Crude Protein

60%

Crude Fat

15%

Crude Fibre

<1%

Moisture

8%

Calories: 3542 kcal/kg or 103 kcal/piece

As you can see, not all the percentages add up to 100%. The remaining percentage is made up of carbohydrates and ash (minerals).

But what does this mean? 

Duck necks are a great protein source, which is important for strong muscles, hormone and enzyme production, and DNA synthesis. They are also high in fat, which if you have a lean and active dog, will be an excellent source of energy. Unfortunately, high fat contents can also lead to aggravating certain conditions, such as pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and obesity. Duck necks are also medium to high in calories, and in comparison to chicken necks, are more than double the calorie content per piece.

In addition to many health benefits, particularly if your dog is a good weight, duck necks help to improve dental health. Chewing on tough items provides abrasion against the enamel of your dog’s teeth, resulting in cleaning off food material and preventing plaque formation. Are duck necks as good as teeth brushing though? There are no comparative studies, so it’s difficult to say, but in all likelihood the answer is probably not.  

Chewing also helps release endorphins, so if your dog is an anxious worrier, providing a duck neck to chew on in times of stress can help.

How Many Duck Necks Can You Feed Your Dog?

Duck neck protein is very rich, and coupled with the high fat content, they shouldn’t be fed too often. One neck, two or three times per week is plenty for a medium sized dog.

They should also be avoided in overweight dogs, or dogs with fat-triggered conditions, as these will only worsen with the addition of duck necks.

Are Duck Necks Safe for Dogs?

While duck necks have some great health benefits, there are certainly still some major concerns too. Duck necks contain bones. Theoretically, small dehydrated bird bones become crumbly instead of sharp when bitten through, however, this isn’t always the case. The neck bones are a bit bigger than feet bones for example, and can potentially cause abrasion and scratching as your dog swallows the treat.

In addition to this, duck necks are the perfect shape to be swallowed in large chunks if your dog tries to swallow it end first. This can lead to choking or gastrointestinal obstructions if the pieces are particularly large. 

Both of these incidents can be avoided by carefully watching your dog while he consumes the duck neck, to ensure he is appropriately chewing it fully before swallowing.

Also, as previously mentioned, duck necks should be avoided in dogs with obesity, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

Are Duck Necks Unpleasant to Have in the House?

All dehydrated natural products will smell to some degree, however, generally duck necks are not overpowering. They are high in fat though, which can make them greasy and leave marks on your floor. So be sure to encourage your dog to eat it on a hard, wipe-able surface or outside to avoid ruining your carpets and rugs.

Duck Necks for Puppies

Duck necks are not suitable treats or additions to the diet for puppies. Since they contain bones and are high in phosphorus, they can upset the balance of what a commercial, balanced puppy food would offer, and as a result, cause problems with bone growth. In addition to this, the bones would pose more of a choking risk for puppies who might not be able to adequately crunch through them yet. 

Nevertheless, there are many people that advocate feeding puppies duck necks to aid with teething. While they would be excellent for your puppy to crunch on to relieve their itchy gums, it isn’t recommended.

FAQs

Can Duck Necks Cause Diarrhoea in Dogs?

Duck necks can cause diarrhoea in dogs if given too frequently. This is because they are rich and fatty, which can trigger gut upsets if given in excess. 

In addition to that, it is possible for duck necks to cause diarrhoea if they are contaminated with bacteria, however, generally the drying process makes them more safe than raw versions.

Can Duck Necks Cause Blockages?

Duck necks are unlikely to cause blockages if they are chewed properly. This is because they only have very small bones which are fully digestible. However, if large pieces are swallowed, which is possible if they are swallowed end first, they can cause blockages both in the throat or the intestines. 

How are Duck Necks Harvested?

Duck necks are usually harvested from ducks which have been bred and raised for meat. They are known as by-products, as the ducks are not killed for the neck. Even though the term ‘by-products’ has had some bad press in the past, it is actually great to use by-products as it ensures no part of the animal goes to waste.

Alternatives to Duck Necks

Thinking about duck necks but not quite sold on them? Why not try out one of these alternatives?

  • Chicken necks: These are similar to duck necks, however they are much lower in fat, and slightly smaller in size. They are best avoided for larger dogs though, as they can be swallowed whole which could be dangerous.
  • Turkey necks: These are similar to chicken necks, but much larger in size compared to both chicken and duck necks. They are a good neck alternative for larger dogs.
  • Duck feet: Duck feet have similar benefits to duck necks, however the bones are much smaller and crumble more easily, rather than scratch the throat or get stuck. They are excellent for dogs with joint issues, due to the high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin.
  • Bully sticks: If you’re looking for something to improve your dog’s dental health by chewing, it’s worth trying a bully stick. They are natural treats which will distract your dog with plenty of chewing time. The downside is that they are high in calories and therefore should only be an occasional treat.
  • Antlers: These are great for improving dental health, as they are tough and help remove tartar from the teeth. They also are not ingested, which means you don’t have to worry about the fat content.

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