- Chicken bones can be dangerous for dogs if they eat them.
- Cooked chicken bones can splinter into sharp shards.
- The treatment and recovery depend on how much damage the chicken bones inflict on your dog.
You just pulled a tray of chicken legs out of the oven and got a phone call. While you’re talking with your friend, you leave the kitchen for a few minutes.
Suddenly… CLANG! You hear the cooking tray crash on the floor, and as you enter the kitchen, one of the chicken legs is missing, and your pooch is pulling away a second one off the floor. What do you do?
In this article, we’ll talk about why your dog shouldn’t eat chicken bones and what you should do when he gets hold of one. I’ll explain what usually happens when chicken bones enter your dog’s gut and the potential risks.
To help you prepare for the office visit, we’ll discuss what your veterinarian will do if you have to take your dog to the clinic. We’ll finish by talking about how long it takes dogs to recover after eating chicken bones.
Let’s get started.
How Many Bones Does it Take to Be a Problem for My Dog?
There is no clear answer about how many chicken bones are a problem for dogs. Cooked chicken bones can be dangerous for dogs because they’re prone to splintering. And the sharp fragments can perforate parts of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) or get stuck in the throat. So, it only takes one bone to cause a problem.
However, chicken bones don’t always cause issues when your dog eats them. For one, raw bones are more pliable and don’t splinter as easily as cooked bones. Canines have been consuming bird bones in the wild for years. Usually, the material makes it to the stomach where the strong acid contents dissolve them without any problems.
One chicken bone can be enough to cause problems for your dog, but they don’t always become an issue. Because the bones can splinter, they have the potential to puncture the gastrointestinal tract or become lodged in the throat. Other times, they pass into the stomach and are readily digested.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Chicken Bones?
If you catch your pooch in the act of eating a chicken bone, and you can see some of the bone, you may be able to remove it. Naturally, that will depend on your dog’s compliance and willingness to let you take food out of her mouth. Don’t risk getting bitten or stressing your dog.
When you don’t feel safe taking any remaining bones from your dog, or if the bones are already down the gullet, make sure she’s not choking and contact your veterinarian. The doctor may advise you to give your pooch some white bread or another food to cushion the GIT from the bones. If he doesn’t tell you to bring your furbaby in for an exam, he’ll advise you to watch your pup closely for any signs of problems.
What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten Chicken Bones
If the evidence suggests that your dog ate some chicken bones, check to make sure he’s not choking. In this case, you may see him pawing his face, drooling heavily, and struggling to breathe.
If signs suggest your pooch is choking, open his mouth if he’ll let you. Make sure there are no bones stuck across the roof of the mouth. Look for a bone in the throat area. You may be able to remove it carefully with your hands or a pair of pliers. However, if your dog starts to struggle, stop what you’re doing and call your veterinarian. Trying to help your pooch when he’s fighting you could push the bone further into the throat.
After you remove any bones, or if there are no signs of choking, call your veterinarian. He may need to want to see him as soon as possible to ensure there’s no other damage.
If your pooch ate chicken bones, check to see if he’s choking. Open the mouth if he’ll let you and look for any lodged bones. Call your veterinarian.
What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Chicken Bones But Is Acting Normal?
Suppose your pooch went dumpster diving and munched the leftover bones from a fried chicken feast. You should contact your veterinarian and let him know what happened and approximately how many bones were involved.
Chances are the doctor will advise you to observe your pooch closely for the next several days. In many cases, the bones will pass through without incident. If any of them get stuck or cause issues, your pooch will show signs like vomiting, refusal to eat, restlessness, and lethargy.
If your dog ate a lot of chicken bones, call your veterinarian and follow his instructions. The bones may pass through without causing any issues. Observe your pooch closely for several days for any signs of trouble.
What Signs of Trouble Will I See if My Dog Ate Chicken Bones?
The signs you may observe will depend on the type of damage the chicken bones cause. If you observe signs of any of the conditions listed below, contact your vet immediately.
If bones get lodged in the throat, they can obstruct the airway. This is an emergency because true choking will prevent oxygen from getting to your dog’s lungs. Signs of choking include:
- profuse drooling
- difficulty breathing
- pawing the face
- gagging or choking sounds.
- blue or pale gums
A bolus of bones will sometimes congeal and form a clog that obstructs the intestines. Signs of an obstruction include:
- abdominal pain
- hunched appearance
- restlessness and reluctance to lay down
- diarrhea in early stages
- straining with little to no stool in later stages
- refusal to eat
If your dog eats a lot of bones, the mineral material creates a dry, hard stool that can clog the large intestines. You may see your dog straining to poop without success, or he may pass some mucus.
Splintered bone pieces are extremely sharp and can perforate the intestines. As a result, digestive juices spill into the abdomen causing peritonitis. Signs of a perforated gut include:
- bloated abdomen
- tenderness in the abdomen
- bloody stool
- refusal to eat
The signs you observe vary depending on the way chicken bones damage your dog’s GIT. You may see signs associated with choking, constipation, intestinal blockage, or peritonitis. Call your vet if you see any related signs.
What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Chicken Bones?
Sometimes nothing happens when dogs eat chicken bones, but that’s not always the case. Various things can go wrong when dogs eat chicken bones:
- Bones can lodge in the throat and cause your dog to choke.
- They can splinter and perforate the intestines.
- When bones knit together into a ball, they may plug the intestines.
- If the bones are broken down without incident, the mineral content can still cause hard feces and constipation.
Bones can pass through the GIT without any adverse effects. At other times, they can cause choking, perforations, intestinal blockages, or constipation.
Why Are Chicken Bones Dangerous for Dogs?
Bird bones are more porous than beef or pork bones. As a result, they can break and splinter more readily, particularly if they’re cooked. When chicken bones splinter, the small pieces are as sharp as a glass shard.
Unless your dog’s stomach acid breaks down the mineral content of the bone, it can cause significant damage by perforating the stomach or intestines. Holes in the GIT allow digestive materials to leak into the abdomen and cause peritonitis which can be life-threatening.
Bird bones break more readily than other bones, and the shards are very sharp. The pieces can poke holes in the GIT and cause peritonitis.
How Will My Vet Treat My Dog After Eating Chicken Bones?
If your dog shows signs that one or more of the chicken bones is causing problems as we discussed above, you should call your vet immediately and schedule an appointment. The treatment will vary depending on how the bones are affecting your pooch.
If you cannot remove the bone from your dog’s throat, get him to the clinic or emergency center immediately. The staff will start by providing supportive oxygen therapy for your pooch. After that, they will attempt to remove the bone or bones. They may perform the Heimlich maneuver for dogs (watch the video) to dislodge the obstruction. If your vet can’t remove the bone quickly, they may perform a tracheostomy to allow your dog to breathe.
Whether you were able to remove the bone at home or your dog required veterinary intervention, he may require further treatment and hospitalization. There may be damage to the throat that could cause swelling and continued breathing issues. And depending on how long your pooch was choking, there could be organ damage due to lack of oxygen.
A blockage is an emergency issue that needs immediate veterinary care. When you bring your pup to the clinic, the doctor will perform an exam and take x-rays or perform an ultrasound to confirm and locate the blockage. He’ll also take blood samples to check for elevated enzymes and anemia that can indicate secondary complications. Supportive care may include:
- Fluids to correct any dehydration
- Anti-nausea medications
- Pain killers
Depending on the location and severity of the blockage, your veterinarian may hospitalize and monitor your pooch to see if the obstruction passes, or he may perform surgery to remove the offending materials. Due to the nature of chicken bones, surgery is usually the treatment of choice.
You may be able to treat constipation at home under the direction of your veterinarian. In this case, you may increase your dog’s activity level to stimulate the bowels or feed extra fiber. However, if constipation persists for more than a few days, get your pooch to the doctor.
Your veterinarian will want to know how long your dog has been constipated and the signs you’re seeing. He’ll ask about changes in diet and routine. Following a physical exam, the doctor may give your dog fluids and recommend boosting his fiber intake to help move things along. Depending on the severity of constipation, he may use an enema, laxative suppository, or manual removal to remove the impacted feces.
If you notice signs of a perforated gut and/or peritonitis, get your dog to the emergency clinic. This condition requires immediate attention to prevent further damage.
After the initial exam, your veterinarian will take x-rays or an ultrasound to confirm and locate the perforation(s). Once that’s completed, he’ll determine the course of action. Treatment includes:
- Iv fluids
- Antibiotics to control and eliminate infection
- Antinausea medications
- Hospitalization and monitoring
- Removal of foreign body
- Repair of the perforations
- Flushing the abdominal cavity to remove toxins and bacteria
- Insertion of a drainage tube
The treatment route that your veterinarian takes will depend on the type of damage the chicken bones cause. Some treatments include observation and medications to help your dog heal. For other conditions, surgery may be needed. Choking, intestinal blockage, and a perforated gut are emergencies.
How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover if He Eats Chicken Bones?
The recovery period will depend on the effect of the chicken bones. If they pass without incidence, there is no recovery period.
- Choking – Dogs that suffer from choking will have variable recovery periods. If the bone comes out quickly with minimal damage, your pooch will probably be back to normal in a matter of minutes or hours. For dogs that suffer significant throat damage, it may take days to weeks.
- Intestinal Blockage – If the obstruction passes without surgery, your pup should recover in a week or two. However, when surgery is necessary, the recovery will take at least 4-6 weeks.
- Constipation – For simple constipation, your pooch should recover in a few hours.
- Perforated Gut/Peritonitis – Dogs with a perforated and infected gut will take at least 4-6 weeks to recover. However, it may take longer if there are complications.
The recovery period can vary from hours to several weeks or longer depending on the type of damage chicken bones cause in your dog’s body. When surgery or infection is involved, the recovery will take longer.
The Final Woof
Chicken bones are dangerous for dogs. Sometimes they pass through the digestive system without causing any damage. However, they may also get stuck in the throat or intestines. Cooked bones can also splinter and cause perforations in the gut.
These situations are emergencies that require immediate veterinary care. The digested bones can also cause hard, dry feces and constipation.
If your dog requires veterinary care, the treatment will depend on the damage inflicted by the chicken bones. In some cases, you will need to observe your dog. Other situations require medical treatment or surgery. The recovery period varies widely depending on the condition.