Eggs for dogs and cats- feed or not to feed?

7 Aug

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“Is it safe to feed eggs to my dog or cat?”  This is a question that I am asked by my clients frequently, so I would like to explore the answer thoroughly with the current information we have about eggs and how they affect our dogs and cats nutritionally.  Like many other pet nutrition questions, the answer varies based on your individual dog or cat, but here are the facts as we know them today.

 

Avidin and biotin deficiency from feeding raw eggs

Uncooked egg whites contain a protein known as avidin, which binds to biotin and causes a biotin deficiency if too many uncooked eggs are fed.  Biotin, more commonly known as vitamin H or B7, is essential for the growth of cells, metabolism of fat, and transference of carbon dioxide, amongst other functions. Symptoms of biotin deficiency include:

  • hyperkeratosis (thickening of the outer layer of skin)
  • increased salivation
  • bloody diarhea
  • hair loss (in cats)
  • dry secretions around the eyes, nose and mouth (in cats)

However, cooking the egg whites inactivates the avidin and removes the risk of biotin deficiency. 

Benefits of feeding eggs to your dog or cat

Eggs provide a unique combination of nutrients, including omega-3s, antioxidant minerals like selenium, and high biological value protein.  Eggs are a nutrient rich, natural, whole food.  The chart below explains what approximate percent of the total nutrient amount is found in the yolk and the white of an egg.  You will notice that the first four nutrient groupings are those that are found predominately in the egg white, while those that follow are found predominately in the egg yolk (all except for the last nutrient, selenium, which is divided fairly evenly between the egg white and yolk).

 

Nutrient Egg White Egg Yolk
Protein 60% 40%
Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium 10-25%    
Vitamin B3 90% 10%
Vitamin B2 62% 38%
Total Fat 10% 90%
Omega-3 Fats 0% 100%
Vitamins A, D, E, K 0% 100%
Carotenoids 0% 100%
Vitamins B5, B6, B12, Folate, Choline 10% or less 90% or more
Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Iron 10% or less 90% or more
Manganese 30% 70%
Vitamin B1 25% 75%
Biotin 20% 80%
Selenium 41% 59%

 

Sourcing your eggs

Of course, fresh, local, organic eggs from free roaming hens is best.  This way, you know that the eggs came from hens who were not fed chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones, medicated feed or were given other unhealthy treatments.  The nutritional value of organic eggs will also be higher than eggs from caged hens.

 

When not to feed eggs to your dog or cat

Eggs do contain some fat content and may be contraindicated for some animals, such as dogs suffering from pancreatitis or hyperlipidemia.  However, in the absence of a specific contraindication for the fat content, this may not be a major consideration for many pets, especially if the eggs are fed in moderation.

 

Bottom line

Occasional consumption of raw eggs is not an issue, but if fed in excess, avidin will interfere with the functioning of biotin in your pet’s body.  Even with cooked eggs, moderation is key.  For more information on how many eggs your pet should consume and how often, please contact your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

 

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