My dog ate a Bird. What Do I do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Dogs that eat birds are at risk of developing a bacterial infection, viral infection, garbage toxicosis, or obstruction.
  • If your dog seems fine after eating a bird, observe him for several days to make sure no signs of infection appear.
  • Dead birds can harbor dangerous bacteria and toxins. Always tell your vet if your dog eats a dead bird.

As descendants of wolves, dogs are hunters by instinct. So, if your furbaby snatches a fledgling robin or some other bird and eats it, it’s probably not a huge surprise. The question is, should you be concerned, and what should you do next?

In this article, we’ll explain when you should be concerned about your dog eating a bird, when and why feathered creatures can be harmful, and what signs of trouble to watch out for. We’ll help you know when it’s time to call the vet and how he’ll treat your pooch.

Let’s dive in.

Is Eating a Bird Harmful For My Dog?

If your pup caught and ate a live bird, he may experience a little digestive upset and diarrhea. But there’s a good chance he’ll be fine, especially if he’s healthy. However, there is a risk that part of the skeleton could lodge in the intestines and cause a blockage.

Birds can also carry and transmit pathogens like Salmonella, Chlamydia, and West Nile Virus. If your pooch snags a bird that appears sickly you should let your vet know and monitor your dog for symptoms of illness over the next several days.

If your dog eats a bird that’s already dead, there’s more cause for concern. Dead animals may have deadly bacteria that cause a condition known as garbage toxicosis in your dog. In this case, call your vet and see if he wants to check your dog. Early intervention can help reduce the severity of illness. 

Many healthy dogs can eat a live bird without trouble. Their systems can digest the raw meat, bones, and feathers. But, if the bird was sick or dead, it could carry harmful pathogens that will infect your dog. In these cases, call your vet and let him know what happened.

What Should I Do if My Dog Ate a Bird?

If your dog caught and ate a live bird, observe him for several days to make sure there are no signs of illness. Contact your veterinarian if you observe:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

If you see vomiting and diarrhea, you can withhold your pup’s food for 12-24 hours to rest the gut and then gradually reintroduce food. Continue to offer your dog water during this time. If the vomiting and diarrhea won’t stop in 1-2 days, take your dog to the vet. 

If your dog ate a dead bird, call your vet and let him know. You may be able to observe him at home if there are no symptoms of illness, but the doctor will probably want to examine him.

If your dog ate a live bird, observe him for signs of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. For vomiting and diarrhea, you may be able to try a 12-24 hour fast, but take your dog to the vet if the symptoms continue. When your dog eats a dead bird, you should contact your vet. 

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten a Bird?

You walk into the backyard to find your dog quickly chewing and swallowing something, and you notice a few feathers in the area. What should you do?

The first thing to do if you suspect your dog has eaten a bird is to assess the area and see if there are any remains. Check your pup’s mouth for feathers or other bird parts. If your dog is showing no symptoms of illness, observe him for the next several days for signs like vomiting and diarrhea. It’s also advisable to call your vet and let him know what you found.

If you notice signs that your dog may have eaten a bird, assess the area and check your pup’s mouth for remains. If your dog isn’t acting sick, monitor him for the next several days for signs of trouble. Report the incident to your vet.

What if My Dog Ate a Whole Bird But Is Acting Normal?

If your dog ate a whole bird but seems fine, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian and let him know what happened. Small birds like finches and sparrows are usually not a problem for medium or large breeds, but a larger bird might cause trouble. Depending on the size of the animal and your dog’s size, your vet may recommend bringing him in for x-rays.

Most of the time, you won’t notice symptoms of trouble the moment your pooch ingests a bird. If pieces of bone or a bird beak cause an obstruction, you may not notice signs for a few a day or two. Bacterial or viral infections, likewise, may take 12-72 hours to manifest. If you notice any signs of digestive distress or illness in the next several days, call your veterinarian.

If your dog ate a whole bird but seems fine, you should report the incident to your vet and monitor your pooch for several days. Many of the conditions that can arise from eating a bird will take several hours to a few days or more to develop and start showing symptoms.

Signs of Problems After Eating a Bird

The most likely conditions your dog can develop after eating a bird are obstruction, Salmonellosis, Chlamydiosis, Toxicosis, and West Nile Virus. Let’s look at the symptoms.


  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hunched posture
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Whining


  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Mucus in stool
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Elevated heart rate


Chlamydia is a respiratory bacteria that dogs can pick up from the poop while they’re eating a bird.

  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Pawing at eyes
  • Greenish or yellow eye discharge
  • Lethargy

Garbage Toxicosis

When dogs eat a dead bird, the rotting meat can carry bacteria and bacterial toxins that can make a pup very sick.

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Swollen, sore abdomen
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Flatulence
  • Panting
  • Seizures

West Nile Virus

This virus affects the brain tissue and causes swelling known as encephalitis. 

  • Digestive symptoms: diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Respiratory symptoms: coughing, difficulty breathing
  • Neurological symptoms: confusion, spasms, seizures, paralysis, loss of coordination
  • General symptoms: fever, depression, muscle weakness, lameness, pale gums

There are five main conditions dogs can develop when they eat a bird. The symptoms depend on the condition. Obstructions, Salmonellosis, and toxicosis usually show gastrointestinal symptoms. Chlamydia infections yield respiratory infections. West Nile virus triggers a range of symptoms including digestive, respiratory, and neurological. 

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat a Bird?

When dogs eat a live bird, it’s comparable to a raw diet. The uncooked bones are flexible and unlikely to splinter or puncture the gut. Your dog’s system is also well-equipped to digest raw meat and bones. The big concern is if the bulk of bones and feathers creates a blockage. While less likely with a live bird, the animals may also harbor pathogens that pass to your dog.

Dead birds are more likely to harbor pathogens or toxic bacteria. After all, something caused the bird to die, and decaying flesh can carry spoilage bacteria and toxins created by the organisms. When your dog eats the animals, the pathogens can enter his system and cause infections and illness.

Eating a live bird is like consuming a raw diet for a dog. But the bones and feathers may still cause an obstruction. If a live or dead bird carries any dangerous organisms or toxins, they pass to your dog when he ingests the animal. As a result, pups can become infected and sick.

Why Are Birds Dangerous for Dogs?

Birds can be dangerous for dogs to eat mostly because of the pathogens they can harbor. Salmonella can cause severe gastritis that leads to dehydration. Dogs usually inhale Chlamydia bacteria from bird feces when they eat the animals, and this causes a respiratory infection. The toxins and bacteria that can be present in dead birds cause severe gastrointestinal distress and may be life-threatening if not promptly treated.

The other way birds can be dangerous for dogs is that the feathers and bones can collect into a bolus and lodge in the intestines causing an obstruction. When this happens, food cannot pass through the digestive tract. Obstructions are life-threatening emergencies.

Birds are dangerous for dogs to eat primarily because they can harbor pathogens that will make your furbaby sick. The type of illness depends on the bacteria or virus involved. However, if the bones and feathers collect into a bolus, they can cause obstruction.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog After He Eats a Bird?

If your dog eats a bird and you take him in to the veterinarian, the doctor will start by asking you details about the event. Then he’ll conduct a physical examination on your pooch and may take an x-ray or ultrasound to locate any clumps of bones and feathers. Depending on the symptoms your dog exhibits, the vet may also conduct diagnostic tests including fecal cultures, blood tests, and a urinalysis.

The treatment will depend on your dog’s symptoms and the diagnosis but may include:

  • IV fluids to treat/prevent dehydration
  • Corticosteroids to treat shock and inflammation
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Inducing vomiting/activated charcoal to treat garbage toxicosis
  • Antidiarrheal medications
  • Surgery to remove obstructions
  • Pain killers 

When you take your dog the to vet, the doctor will start by getting a history of the event and conducting a physical examination. Depending on the symptoms, he may also run diagnostic tests. Treatment varies depending on the diagnosis and symptoms.

How Long Will It Take for My Dog to Recover After He Eats a Bird?

Recovery will depend on what happens when your dog eats a bird. 

  • If there are no lasting effects, your pup may have mild digestive upset for a few days.
  • The recovery period for Chlamydia is about 4-6 weeks.
  • Salmonella infections in dogs are usually mild, but recovery can stretch over a few months because canines continue to shed the bacteria for several weeks.
  • The recovery for garbage toxicosis is dependent on how soon you sought treatment and the severity of the symptoms. If your dog has early treatment, the prognosis is good, and recovery takes about 2-5 days.
  • Recovery from obstructions usually takes at least 2-4 weeks.

The Final Woof

Many times dogs can eat a small, live bird without trouble. But birds can carry pathogenic organisms that make your pooch sick. The feathers and bones also have the potential to cause obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract. If your pooch ingests a dead bird, there are additional risks of dangerous bacteria and toxins that can exist in decaying flesh.

If you catch your dog with a bird or suspect that he ate one, you should check his mouth and assess the situation. Monitor your pooch even if he’s not showing any symptoms of illness at first. Signs may take a few days to appear depending on the effect of the bird on your pup’s system. Treatment and recovery vary depending on the condition your dog develops after eating a bird.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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