Written by Dr. David Mitchell
Recent media reports regarding research done by Melbourne University have been advising people not to feed their dogs chicken necks because of the risk of them developing a severe paralysis. This research has caused a lot of concern amongst readers in the last week.
Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN) is a condition that can cause complete paralysis of dogs starting with hind limbs and then progressing forwards to affect all the muscles that dogs use for moving, breathing and swallowing. Initially dogs with the condition can look as if they have tick paralysis. However it lasts a lot longer (possibly months) and…there is not tick involved. Treatment and nursing is a long drawn out and demanding process.
My initial reaction to the media reports was a concern that it wasn’t giving balanced information and that there would be an unreasonable fear reaction against feeding dogs chicken necks. Having been an advocate of feeding chicken necks for years I needed to make some re-evaluation of whether to continue to recommend them or not.
Life is full of risks, and as individuals and as animal owners we constantly make decisions about what level of risk we are prepared to take and what we are not. Every time we take our pets in a car we are risking ourselves and them in a potentially fatal car accident. We do all we can to minimise that risk (seat belts, zero to low blood alcohol, avoid speeding etc), but there is a risk. Likewise when we eat peanuts, walk down steps, ride a horse etc. The risk with each activity is different, and we make an assessment of the risk and if we are prepared to take this risk.
The issue with feeding chicken necks to dogs comes into this category. I think that it would be unwise to ignore the association that has been made between chicken necks and APN, but as will all things I think that the report needs to be taken in context and the true risks weighed up.
Most dogs that eat chicken necks do not get this disease. As the article points out it is a RARE condition. In my experience, most dogs that DO regularly eat chicken necks have much better dental health than those that don’t regularly have something to chew on. Yes there are other things that dogs can chew but they all have some degree of risk associated with them.
If we avoided feeding dogs anything that had a risk associated with it we wouldn’t feed dry food (this has been associated with acute gastric dilation/torsion), we wouldn’t feed any fatty food (risk of pancreatitis), bones (risk of fractured teeth, constipation, obstruction), tinned food (risk of severe dental disease that can contribute to heart disease )….So what would we feed?
In the last 30 years of being a vet I have seen one dog with APN and heard of one other in this area. I have recommended to many people that they feed raw chicken necks/wings/carcasses to their dogs.
In answer to the question "Should I feed raw chicken necks to my dog" my answer is "It’s up to you!" There is an increased risk of your dog getting APN, but it is still a very low risk, and the benefits to animal’s dental and mental health of regularly having something to chew is very high. So you decide - read the original article here.