Have you considered adding organ meat to your dog’s diet and wondered what organ might be best? Are you wondering if heart is a healthy offal option to feed to your dog? The good news is that I have done all the research to help you decide whether you should incorporate it into your dog’s diet and what it can provide in regard to meeting your dog’s nutritional needs.
So, can dogs eat heart? Dogs can eat animal heart meat (in moderation – ~10% of total dietary caloric intake), with cows/ox, chicken, lambs, and pigs being excellent options. Not only can dogs eat heart, but it is also a good source of protein, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron for dogs. Hearts are also high in taurine, an amino acid that is healthy for a dog’s heart.
Heart offers a wealth of important nutrients, from vitamins to minerals to amino acids too.
But heart does need to be fed appropriately. In the right amounts, at the right times, and served in the right way.
We will be exploring all of these things shortly, but first, let’s delve into all of your options when it comes to the various different hearts available.
What Hearts Can Dogs Eat?
Dogs can eat chicken, cow/ox, sheep, pig, goat, and deer hearts, so long as they are offered in moderation and prepared in a safe way.
If you are looking to feed your dog animal hearts, there are plenty of heart types that are safe to feed your dog.
Knowing a little about your options can help you decide which animal heart will best meet your needs.
Chicken heart is a common option for feeding heart to dogs because they can be found at butcher’s shops, fresh meat markets, and some specialty pet stores.
It is also readily available for purchase online in frozen form from raw pet food retailers.
Chicken hearts are smaller than the hearts of larger animals which makes them easy to cook, serve, and store.
This is part of the reason people may often choose to serve chicken hearts over the hearts of animals such as cows or sheep.
Chicken hearts are a good source of protein, iron, zinc, and taurine, an amino acid found in heart muscle meat that can help with your dog’s own heart health.
Cow Heart (Ox Heart)
Another option usually appreciated for its ready availability is beef cow heart. This is sometimes also referred to as an Ox heart cut.
Cow hearts are frequently purchased directly from butchers.
They can also be found frozen or freeze-dried online – although processing the heart does lower some of the nutritional value.
A cow’s heart is larger than a chicken’s heart which means some dogs will be able to get multiple servings from one heart. Also, larger breed dogs may appreciate the larger serving size a cow’s heart offers.
Like the heart of other animals, cow hearts are a great source of vitamin B12, protein, and iron.
Sheep heart is a third option that is occasionally fed to dogs.
Sheep heart’s popularity depends mostly on the livestock raised in an area where a dog owner lives.
If sheep are a large part of the agriculture of an owner’s location, their hearts may be easy to source at butcher’s shops and other meat markets.
Size is also a good way to determine the best heart to feed your dog. A smaller dog will often benefit from smaller hearts.
A bigger heart can produce multiple servings with just one organ.
If you want a mid-size heart, a sheep’s heart falls between that of chickens and cows.
A sheep’s heart often weighs between 1-2 pounds, while a cow’s heart will range from 3-6 pounds. Chicken hearts are much smaller.
Other Types Of Heart
We have listed three of the most common heart types included in major dog foods and regularly used in raw food diets.
Still, there are other types of heart that you may be able to serve your dogs, such as pig, goat, or deer. Most animal heart meat is safe for dogs if cooked.
How Much Heart Can Dogs Eat?
When incorporating heart into a dog’s diet, it’s important to keep in mind that it should make up a small portion of their overall meal plan. If you are feeding your dog a raw/natural food diet, a general guideline is that 5-10% of a dog’s daily diet should be organ meats such as heart, kidney, or liver.
If you are feeding heart as a supplement on top of meals or as a treat, you will want to keep servings smaller and similar in portion to other treats you give your dog.
A 1-3% makeup of treat items in a dog’s overall diet is always a good estimate.
The exact amount of hearts will depend on the animal the heart comes from and the heart’s size.
When measuring heart portions, weighing the heart meat with a food scale is the most accurate way to track the amount of heart a dog is eating.
When first starting to feed heart, start with small portions regardless of the amount of heart you wish to feed over time.
Suddenly adding large amounts of new items to a dog’s diet can lead to stomach upset.
How To Feed Your Dog Heart
There is some debate over whether heart is best served to dogs raw or cooked. Many veterinarians side with feeding hearts raw for full nutritional value.
Others believe that cooking a heart should be done to lower any risk of bacterial or parasitic infections being passed to dogs.
In general, it is considered safe to feed dogs raw chicken, cow, and sheep heart. The one animal meat that must be cooked is pig/hog meat.
Pigs can carry a unique parasite within their meat that infects both humans and animals if ingested.
Once cooked, this parasite dies and no longer poses a risk to those who eat pork.
If you wish to cook heart for your dog, heart can be cooked by boiling or grilling.
Plan to spend around an hour boiling chicken hearts in salty water and a longer time – 90 minutes – for sheep or beef hearts.
Make sure any cooked meat has been fully cooked before serving it to your dog. When you are ready to serve heart to your dog you have a few options.
Alongside Their Normal Meal
When used as a supplement to a dog’s normal diet, full chicken hearts or pieces of a larger animal’s heart can be served next to or on top of a dog’s food.
This is a great way to pair heart with store-bought kibbles or canned food.
Placing hearts on top of a meal may encourage a picky dog to eat the hearts and the rest of their meal right along with it.
You can also mix the hearts into the food to let your dog find their hidden goodies as they eat.
Ground Heart Mixed With Food
For very small dogs, heart may be best-served ground.
This lowers choking hazards and allows for very small portions of heart to be added to meals.
Ground heart is served similarly to whole hearts in that they can be placed on top of food or stirred in.
Heart As A Treat or Reward
Some dogs really love fresh meat as a treat, especially when paired with the training of new tricks or tasks.
Heart can be chopped and used as a high-value treat for your dog.
Keep in mind that any heart that is prepped does need to be served within an hour of being at room temperature to stay fresh and sanitary.
It is also good to know that some specialty pet stores and online retailers sell dehydrated or freeze-dried hearts.
They may also sell treats that are part animal heart, mixed with other ingredients, and processed to be shelf stable.
While processed hearts might not pack the same nutritional punch as fresh, raw heart, they should still be considered as a healthy treat choice in most cases.
When To Feed Your Dog Heart
If you are trying to get more Vitamin B 12, protein, zinc, or copper in your dog’s diet, feeding animal hearts is a great way to help your dog reach their goals. Hearts are also calorie dense and may be a good option for helping an underweight dog add extra calories to their diet.
Heart is a safe main ingredient in a raw food diet for owners who make their own dog food at home.
While a dog’s diet needs a variety of meat and other food items, heart can make a good portion of organ meats in a dog’s diet.
If you have a dog who is showing low interest in their typical meals, heart might be a good way to encourage eating.
Always make sure to check in with your veterinarian if your dog suddenly refuses to eat, but once health concerns have been ruled out, the smell of a heart meat can often bring picky dogs around!
Don’t forget heart as an option for a high reward treat.
Sometimes when training a dog, a treat that is extra special or appealing can draw a dog’s attention to the task. Heart is a healthy option for this!
Other Considerations When Feeding Your Dog Heart
Watch Your Dogs Calories
While heart is a very healthy food item, it is very calorie dense.
That means a little bit of heart can pack a big calorie punch.
This is great news for growing or physically active dogs.
However, for dogs that have struggled to avoid obesity, feeding too much heart could add to the problem.
Do Not Feed Raw Pork Heart
While many heart types are safe to serve raw, never feed a dog raw pork meat.
Raw pork carries the parasite trichinella spiralis, which causes diseases in dogs and humans if eaten.
Cooking pork will kill off this parasite and make pork hearts a safe treat for your dog.
Safely Store Heart Meat
Unless a heart has been processed through freeze drying or dehydrating, it should not be stored at room temperature.
Fresh cuts of heart need to be kept refrigerated or frozen.
A refrigerated heart will last 3-4 days, while wrapped and frozen heart will stay in good condition for 1-3 months.
When In Doubt, Contact Your Veterinarian
If you have major concerns about your dog’s diet or health, always talk with your veterinarian before making any major food changes.
Your veterinarian can help sort out any health concerns you have, discuss the full benefits of feeding your dog’s heart, and even help with sourcing heart for feeding.
Heart might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of feeding your dog, but it is worth considering when building a healthy meal plan for your pup.
Heart makes a great supplement to store-bought foods and a special treat that many dogs will go crazy for.
Wondering what offal dogs can eat? Be sure to read my guide below:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.