There has been recent media attention on the potential dangers of feeding raw chicken necks to dogs. A research article from the University of Melbourne has demonstrated a link between the feeding of raw chicken necks and cases of polyradiculoneuritis (an uncommon but debilitating paralysis that can lead to death from respiratory failure).

At The Natural Vets, we DO NOT recommend feeding chicken necks as a raw meaty bone for reasons that relate to the shape and size of the bone, and the bone:meat ratio. They are the perfect size for choking on and blocking the airway, and the high bone + cartilage to meat ratio often leads to constipation.

Raw chicken necks dangers of raw feeding cats dogs

We do, however, recommend feeding other raw meaty bones including chicken carcasses and chicken wings, and it is possible that a link between those parts of the chicken and this particular disease could also be found.

So, to keep the proposed scary link between raw feeding and debilitating disease in perspective, here are all the facts:

1. There has been an increasing incidence of polyradiculoneuritis (PRN) in dogs in Australia over the last several years, but this disease is still considered uncommon.

2. The disease bears some similarities to the Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) in humans – an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the body’s own nerve root cells (which Dr Renee contracted and recovered from at the age of 5! – some trivia for you).

3. The current hypothesis is that GBS may be due to infection with Campylobacter bacteria, because there is a molecule in this bacteria that closely resembles some found in the affected nerve cells. The immune system becomes dysregulated and attacks both the bacteria and the body’s own nerve cells as it is unable to differentiate between the two, and the breakdown of the nerves causes the disease.

4. The same hypothesis is being extended to dogs as there is a correlation between dogs having the disease and recently eating raw chicken necks, which carry bacteria including Campylobacter.

5. Campylobacter is found on and in ~70% of chicken meat due to husbandry, intensive farming practices and chicken processing methods.

6. Correlation is not the same as causation. Some of the dogs who develop polyradiculoneuritis have been fed chicken necks, but not all dogs fed chicken necks develop polyradiculoneuritis, and not all dogs who develop polyradiculoneuritis have been fed raw chicken. There is a reason these particular few develop the autoimmune disorder. The Campylobacter is merely a potential trigger in a small population of dogs.

7. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs in Australia who are fed raw chicken bones or meat, and currently only a very small number of dogs who suffer from this disease. Melbourne University see 30 cases per year and as a referral centre would see the majority of cases in Victoria. In Queensland much fewer cases are diagnosed (5-10 per annum).

8. This disease is serious. It causes paralysis which can progress to respiratory failure and death in 30% of cases.

9. There are many unanswered questions within the study framework. What else were the affected dogs fed? Were they on 100% raw diets? Or on a combination of processed food and raw meats? Were they vaccinated? If so, how often? What other toxins were they exposed to in their food supply or water or environment or drug regime? What was their overall health status?

It seems that Campylobacter is a possible autoimmune trigger, but so are many other things that are administered to pets or present in their environment – such as antibiotics, vaccines, anti-inflammatory medications, impure drinking water, contaminated food, food that is too high in starch, excess body weight, stress, environmental poisons, etc. All of these things have the potential to disturb the immune system, and in most cases there is a ‘stacking’ effect, meaning a strong, vital animal will probably handle one or two or three of these, but if they keep stacking up, or if something else affects the strength and vitality of the individual, then disease will likely result.

At The Natural Vets, we strive to educate pet owners to remove as many toxic inputs from your pets’ lives as possible, and support your pet’s overall health and vitality so that they are more able to remain balanced and well when challenges do arise.

Cases of polyradiculoneuritis triggered by the feeding of raw chicken necks are much less common than cases of obesity, Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, allergies and other chronic debilitating diseases caused by feeding dry processed diets.

Whilst acknowledging the link between feeding raw chicken and polyradiculoneuritis, we will continue to advocate for a raw, species-appropriate diet, and for humane farming and slaughterhouse practices that will reduce the risk of bacterial contamination of the meat supply.

If you do have concerns about feeding raw chicken parts to your dog, come in and discuss alternatives that will continue to promote health and vitality in a way that is natural and species-appropriate.

You may also enjoy our first ebook ‘The Problems with Processed Pet Foods’:

The Problems with Processed Pet Foods eBook

Which is only $5 from our online store. We donate 100% of all eBook sales to Farm Animal Rescue.