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This blog post was originally published in August 2014; it has been updated with new information in September 2021.
Years ago, someone shared an article with me stating that dogs that eat raw necks, gullets, and trachea in their diet are at risk for hyperthyroidism. This risk is also connected to necks, gullets, and trachea fed as treats. At the time, I wanted to dismiss the warning. Veterinarians who are anti-raw will say anything to scare us. But when I began doing my homework to bust this myth, I began to see that it was a valid warning.
At the time, a large part of my dogs' diet was a turkey blend from a local farm; the main protein was turkey necks. While my dogs never had an issue with this food, it doesn't mean that there isn't a risk.
If you feed necks, gullets, or trachea to your dog, please know that there is a real health risk that you should be aware of. After learning more about these foods and their connection to hyperthyroidism, I limited the amount of neck, gullets, and trachea in my dogs' diet.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism exists when a dog's body produces too much hormone produced by their thyroid. The excess in the hormone leads to an increase in metabolism and other symptoms:
- weight loss
- rapid breathing
- increased appetite and thirst
- more energy
- enlarged thyroid gland
Hyperthyroidism can lead to heart and kidney failure.
While hyperthyroidism is common in cats, it's rare in dogs. In dogs, hyperthyroidism is primarily seen as a result of thyroid cancer.
Why Raw Fed Dogs are at Risk for Hyperthyroidism?
It is believed that raw fed dogs are at risk for hyperthyroidism because they may be getting some of the thyroid hormones in their meals. It's believed that feeding chicken, duck, or turkey necks will add more hormones to the amount a dog's own glands secrete. In fact, studies have found that sick animals had been feed raw chicken necks from a slaughterhouse.
- Dietary hyperthyroidism in dogs
- Hyperthyroidism in dogs caused by consumption of thyroid-containing head meat
- Exogenous thyrotoxicosis in dogs attributable to consumption of all-meat commercial dog food or treats containing excessive thyroid hormone: 14 cases (2008-2013)
I also read that if a dog already has a thyroid issue, then feeding necks can make it worse.
I know several raw feeders who feed necks and I have fed necks for nearly the entire time that I've fed raw. Although my dogs are healthy, I'm still concerned and made adjustments to my dogs' diet years ago.
Protecting My Dogs from Hyperthyroidism
After learning more about the connection between what we feed our dogs and hyperthyroidism, I made a few changes to my dogs' diet.
- I stopped feeding a raw food mince made by a local farm because the main protein is turkey necks. Although no one in our community has reported a dog developing hyperthyroidism, I decided not to take the chance.
- I changed my bone source from duck necks to duck wings; only feeding raw duck necks occasionally instead of making the necks the mainstay in my dogs' diet. However, because variety is important, I use other bone sources as well, including green tripe.
- I only feed necks, gullets, and trachea treats from trusted sources. I prefer air-dried treats produced by Real Dog Box, because I trust their sourcing and their processing. This is a company that is committed to producing high-quality treats and chews.
I made these changes to give myself peace of mind, not because I was told to make them or because my dogs developed any health issues due to the necks in their diet. And, as I said above, I have yet to hear of anyone in our local raw feeding community receiving a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism in their dog. I used what I learned about this topic as an encouragement to add variety to my dogs' diet.