A Guide to Turkey Tendons for Dogs

Turkey tendons are a relatively new choice of chew for our dogs. They are a popular option for owners looking for natural poultry chews. Are you wondering what exactly turkey chews consist of? What are the nutritional benefits and are there any downsides to feeding them? This article will discuss the pros and cons and enable you to decide if they will be a suitable treat for your dog to enjoy.

Key facts

Turkey tendon chews are a nutrient-dense treat option for your dog.

They are usually dehydrated slowly over a low heat or freeze-dried or air-dried.

They can be served as a whole intact tendon or chopped up into smaller segments.

Turkey tendon chews are 100% natural and contain no additives or preservatives. They contain high amounts of protein and low amounts of fat.

Turkey tendon chews are believed to be beneficial for the maintenance of good dental health. They can also provide mental stimulation for dogs and prevent boredom.

Turkey tendon chews are very low in calories compared to other chew treats available. Caution must still be taken not to overfeed them.

There are very few risks associated with feeding turkey tendons to dogs. Risks include choking, contamination with bacteria, gastrointestinal blockages and digestive irritation.

Alternatives to turkey tendon treats include beef tendons, ostrich tendons, bully sticks and chicken feet.

What Are Turkey Tendon Treats?

Turkey tendons are tough and durable tissue that has the job of attaching muscle to bones in the body. They are flexible and fibrous and are full of important nutrients. They are usually 100% natural products with no additives or preservatives.

Tendons are a common by-product of the meat industry. Using them as treats for dogs ensures that more of the ‘forgotten cuts’ of the bird are put to use rather than discarded. Tendons are usually made from the Achilles tendon, but chews can be made from any tendon in the body. The tendons are usually dehydrated by air drying or baking at a low temperature for a long time.


Turkey tendons usually come as dehydrated, flattened chew sticks although they can be given in their natural shape and form. They are made from tendons. As mentioned above, usually the Achilles tendon as this is the largest and most easily accessible. They are often cheaper in price as they come from a part of the carcass that is not commonly used for human consumption, so would otherwise be thrown away. 

The UK produces most of their own turkey. All of the main supermarkets have British farms that source their turkey produce.  The largest producer of turkey in the UK is Bernard Matthews Turkey Farm.

Where at all possible, it’s always advised to source your animal food products with approval from organisations such as RSPCA Freedom Food Standards, Red Tractor,Soil Association Scottish Organic Producers Association.

Different countries have very different welfare standards so it is responsible to ensure the animals were treated humanely before your product was harvested. Where possible, always try to source locally to reduce the carbon footprint.


Turkey tendons are usually fed as a dehydrated snack. They are not normally fed in the raw form, although this is possible. There are very few raw products on the market compared to the dried forms.  The dried forms are usually slowly baked at a low temperature or freeze-dried, or left to dry out naturally.

Some of the chews are left in their natural state, still in the shape of a tendon. Others are chopped up into bite-size pieces and some are flattened out into thin strips. This means there are a few different options for you to pick from depending on your dog’s chew habits and the size and strength of their jaws.

Raw Feeding

Did you know?

If you feed your dog a raw diet, it is perfectly acceptable to incorporate turkey tendons into your dog’s diet. Due to the way they are prepared, they are still classed as raw food even if they have been baked, this is because only a very low temperature is used. As with any raw food products, caution must be taken as there is always a risk of contamination with potentially harmful bacteria including Campylobacter, Listeria, E coli and salmonella.

It is unlikely that these bacteria will cause disease in your dog. They do, however, have the potential to cause disease in certain humans who are more susceptible to illnesses. This includes young infants, the elderly and anyone who is immunosuppressed.

Extra care needs to be taken when handling these products. Strict hand-washing regimes must be implemented and any utensils or surfaces that come into contact with the turkey tendon products must be cleaned thoroughly with appropriate cleaning products.

Benefits of Turkey Tendon Treats for Dogs

Key benefits

Key benefits of feeding turkey tendon chews include providing mental stimulation, improving dental health, and providing a good source of nutrition and a single source of protein.

Mental stimulation

Turkey tendons can keep dogs entertained for hours and they offer valuable mental stimulation. The act of chewing is believed to cause the release of endorphins and increase saliva production which, in turn, aids in the removal of food debris from teeth and helps to keep them clean. Chewing is also believed to aid in relieving stress in anxious dogs. Turkey tendon pieces can be used as a high-value reward when training your dog too.

Dental Health

Biting and chomping on tough chewy tendons is thought to help clean away food, plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. This is due to the tough fibrous nature of the dried tendon. There is no concrete evidence to prove this and chews should never replace regular brushing of teeth and visits to your vet for dental health checkups.


Turkey tendons are a nutrient-dense, high-protein, low-fat treat. They don’t contain too many calories per chew so most dogs can enjoy them. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and other helpful compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin.

Single protein source

Some dogs have allergies to different foods. It can be difficult for owners to know exactly what to feed their dog when some dog foods contain lots of different ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction. As long as your dog is not allergic to turkey, you can guarantee that turkey tendons are 100% safe to feed as they only contain turkey and no other proteins.

Other benefits

Turkey tendon chews are better for the environment as they are usually ethically sourced from parts of the bird that would otherwise be wasted. They are quite often cheaper than some of the other dried treats such as turkey jerky (which is made from breast meat). They don’t usually contain any chemicals, fillers or preservatives.

Nutritional Information for Turkey Tendon Treats


Crude Protein
Crude Fibre
Crude Ash
Crude Fat

Note: The percentages may not add up to 100% as they are averages from several data sources. Ranges are given when there is a wide variation between products. Find out more about how we calculate nutritional information >>

Be aware that each individual manufacturer will do things slightly differently, meaning the composition of each treat will vary. Factors such as the condition of the bird before slaughter and the production method used will alter the composition. Always read the label before buying a product for your dog to make sure it is suitable.


Turkey tendons are very low in fat. They are one of the lower-fat treats available on the market. They can be used when looking for a treat for dogs that are prone to excessive weight gain or if they are suffering from health issues such as diabetes, pancreatitis or other gastrointestinal problems. The fat content does vary between manufacturers so it is always important to check the product label before purchase.


Turkey tendons are a valuable source of protein for dogs. Dogs need protein in their diet for a variety of important functions. Protein is important for supplying essential amino acids to produce muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair, nails and cartilage. Protein is also important in the production of hormones.

Some dogs with certain health issues such as liver or kidney disease may be required to limit their protein intake. If this is the case, these treats should be avoided or used with caution and only after consulting your vet. Younger dogs still developing need a higher amount of protein to support their rapid growth and development, however, if they are being fed a good quality complete puppy food, there should be no need to supplement with extra protein. 

Vitamins, Minerals & Compounds

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin B3
Vitamin B12

Magnesium – aids with the transport of nerve impulses between nerves and muscles.

Selenium – helps to regulate metabolism and aids in the synthesis of DNA. Important for healthy thyroid function. 

Iron – important for supplying muscles and organs with oxygen.

Phosphorus – plays a role in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and bones. Aids in the regulation of the kidneys.

Zinc – important for maintaining a healthy immune system and aids with the functioning of hormones and enzymes.

Vitamin B3 – vital for healthy skin and important for nerve tissue.

Vitamin B12 – helps with the production of red blood cells and aids with healthy nervous system function.

Glucosamine – helps with the lubrication of joints. Is thought to improve mobility and reduce pain in joints by reducing the inflammation in the joints.

Chondroitin – believed to improve the viscosity of joints and is an important building block for cartilage production.

The list above includes just some of the vitamins and minerals found in turkey tendons. There are of course many others present in different amounts. The exact quantities will vary greatly. There is no evidence currently to suggest that turkey tendons contain adequate amounts of all of these components listed so they should never be used to replace a balanced diet. If you believe your dog is deficient in certain nutrients, speak to your vet before making additions to their diet.


Lower Than Most Chew Treats

Each tendon contains roughly 14-20 calories.

Turkey tendons are low in fat and calories. They are much lower than most of the other dehydrated chew treats on the market. Despite this, care should still be taken when feeding as overfeeding any food will result in extra calories being consumed and will lead to unnecessary weight gain.

This in turn can have negative effects on your dog’s health. When feeding treats, always reduce the amount of dog food you are giving your dog to balance the calories.

Feeding Guide

Turkey tendons should be fed as an occasional treat only. They should not be a daily feature of your dog’s diet. Larger dogs can be fed tendons more frequently than smaller dogs, always ensure you are sticking to your dog’s daily calorie ration when feeding.

Turkey tendons can be fed as a training reward or chopped up into smaller pieces and used as a food topper to increase interest and palatability.

It is vital that your dog is always supervised when feeding any treats or chews. It is also vital they always have access to fresh water too.

Downsides & Risks of Turkey Tendons for Dogs

Some Minor Risks

There are a few very rare minor risks when feeding turkey tendons. These include risk of choking, bacterial contamination, digestive irritation and gastrointestinal obstruction.

Choking Hazard

Choking is less likely with chew treats such as turkey tendons as they are softer and easier to break down, however, there is still a small risk.   If your dog is an avid chewer and tries to swallow pieces whole the risk is increased. Always ensure the treat you are feeding your dog is suitable for their size.It is possible to chop up turkey tendons into sections so that they are a more appropriate size for your dog if necessary.

Digestive Irritation

Some dogs are prone to getting gastrointestinal upset if they eat too much of something. Some dogs are more sensitive than others and some dogs can’t tolerate certain foods as well as others can. When first starting to feed turkey tendons to your dog, feed them small amounts initially and monitor them to check that they don’t have an adverse reaction. 

Bacterial Contamination

All raw food has the potential to be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as CampylobacterE. coli, salmonella, and Listeria. These pathogens don’t usually cause disease in dogs, they do however, cause serious disease in vulnerable humans. This includes infants, the elderly and anyone who is immunosuppressed. To reduce the risk of infection, strict hygiene measures must be taken, including hand washing and cleaning of surfaces and utensils properly.

Gastrointestinal Obstruction

Gastrointestinal obstruction is an extremely unlikely occurrence with turkey tendons but it is best to be aware of it as a dog owner. The most likely scenario with turkey tendons is if the dog has chewed most of the chew and a small bit is left at the end that they try to swallow whole.

This smaller section may become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract somewhere and cause an obstruction or a blockage. If this does occur, the signs to look out for include – vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and inappetence. This is a medical emergency if this occurs and you must seek veterinary attention immediately.

The best way to avoid this happening is to always supervise your dog when they are eating chew treats, always ensure they have access to fresh water and monitor the size of the chew piece they have in their mouths.

Avoid If…

There are a few circumstances where you need to avoid turkey tendon chews altogether, these include;

  • Your dog is allergic to turkey.
  • Your dog gains weight easily or is overweight.
  • Your dog is prone to pancreatitis or suffers from diabetes.
  • Your dog chews rapidly and/or  swallows chew treats whole.
  • Your dog has liver or kidney disorders.
  • Your dog is in some way immunosuppressed, for example undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Turkey Tendon Treats for Puppies

Most manufacturers recommend puppies can be fed turkey tendon treats from 16 weeks of age. Turkey tendons are an ideal consistency to allow puppies to chew and gnaw when they are teething to offer them some relief. Some puppies may not have large enough jaws to manage a whole turkey tendon but they can be broken up. The calories in turkey tendons can add up quickly when feeding as a treat so be careful you do not overfeed. Always take into account your puppy’s daily calorie allowance when feeding any treats as it is very easy to overfeed them which leads to unnecessary weight gain.

Alternatives to Turkey Tendon Chews

  • Beef Tendons – these are also high in protein and low in fat, similar to turkey tendons. They last longer than turkey tendons as they are larger and stronger so take longer to chew through meaning they are better suited to larger breed dogs.
  • Ostrich Tendons – these are also very similar to turkey tendons. They are softer so may be better suited to dogs with sensitive mouths. For example, if they have had teeth removed or for teething puppies. They are high in protein and low in fat too.
  • Bully Sticks – these are made from dehydrated bull penis. Some owners steer clear of these chews as they do have a strong odour. The plus side is that dogs absolutely love it, so if you can stomach the smell, they are a good option for your dog.
  • Chicken Feet – these are a good alternative if your dog is allergic to turkey. They contain high amounts of chondroitin and glucosamine which are thought to be beneficial for your dog’s joints. They are only very small though so do not last very long, especially with larger dogs.


Are turkey tendon chews good for dogs?

Turkey tendon treats are very good for dogs. They contain high amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin which are believed to have benefits for dog’s joints. They are high in protein and lean so are a healthy, nutritious snack.

Are turkey tendon chews safe for dogs?

Turkey tendons are safe for your dog. Out of all the dehydrated chew treats on the market, turkey tendons are one of the safest due to their texture and composition. They are very soft and chewy so easily digestible. It is very unlikely that turkey tendon chews will cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction.

Do dogs like turkey tendon chews?

Dogs do like turkey tendons. They have a smell that is very attractive to dogs. They are highly palatable and gentle for their mouths.

How many turkey tendon treats can a dog have?

The amount of turkey tendons you can feed your dog will depend on your dog’s calorie allowance for the day. If they are a larger breed dog and highly active, they will require more calories than a smaller breed or a less active dog. If you are not sure how many calories your dog requires, speak to your vet who will be able to advise you.

How long do turkey tendon chews last?

Turkey tendon treats are one of the shorter-lasting chew treats, compared to the likes of beef tail chews which contain bone and tough cartilage. Smaller breeds of dogs and puppies usually take a few hours to finish a chew. With larger breeds, they may only last 20 minutes or so.

Can turkey tendon chews cause blockage?

It is very unlikely that turkey tendon chews would cause a blockage in dogs. They are relatively soft and easy to chew. On the rare occasion, hard pieces of the chew can become lodged somewhere along the gastrointestinal tract. To reduce this risk always ensure your dog has a chew that is an appropriate size and always supervise them when feeding any sort of chew treat.

Are turkey tendon chews unpleasant to have in the house?

Turkey tendon chews are not unpleasant to have in the house. They give off a very mild odour that is barely noticeable if they are wrapped up in a closed packet. (Your dog will still be able to sniff them out though!)

Can turkey tendon chews cause diarrhoea in dogs?

Turkey tendons can occasionally cause diarrhoea in dogs. When introducing any new food product, if the dog is fed too much too quickly, diarrhoea is likely to occur. When introducing turkey tendons to your dog, give them a small amount initially and monitor them for any signs of gastrointestinal upset. 

How are turkey tendon chews harvested?

Turkey tendon chews are harvested from turkey carcasses after they have been slaughtered at abattoirs. They are usually an offcut of meat that is not used and not normally deemed fit for human consumption. Using turkey tendons as treats for your dog means that less of the carcass goes to waste.

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