My Dog Ate Rib Bones. What Should I Do?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Dogs usually eat cooked rib bones which are more brittle after the heating process.
  • One rib bone can be enough to cause damage to your pup’s gastrointestinal system.
  • Treatment and recovery depend on how the rib bones affect the gastrointestinal system.

Dogs love to explore and eat all kinds of things. If they have access to the garbage after you enjoyed a plate of ribs, they’ll surely snarf up the bones. What should you do?

Rib bones can be dangerous for dogs because they’re usually cooked by the time Fido eats them, and they can easily splinter. Because the fragments often have sharp edges, it may only take one bone to cause serious internal damage.

In this article, we’ll look at why rib bones can be dangerous to dogs, what to do when your pup snarfs one or more, and what signs you should look for. We’ll let you know when it’s time to call the vet, and how the doctor may treat your pooch.

Let’s dive in.

How Many Rib Bones Does it Take to Harm My Dog?

It may take only one rib bone to harm your dog if he chews the bone into smaller fragments or it splinters. Skeletal bones are made of minerals and are hard for your pooch’s system to digest. When your furbaby swallows pieces of ribs, they may sit in the stomach or become lodged somewhere in the digestive system causing choking or blockage. 

Sharp shards can also puncture the stomach or intestines allowing digestive fluids to leak into the abdomen. When this happens, your dog can develop peritonitis or other infections.

A single rib bond can be enough to cause your pooch trouble. If the pieces get stuck in the digestive system, your pup may choke or have a blockage. Sharp edges can also puncture the gastrointestinal lining and cause peritonitis. 

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate a Rib Bone?

If your dog went dumpster diving and found some rib bones, don’t panic. Check the area and remove any pieces of bones. Check your pooch’s mouth for any bone fragments if he’s compliant. Loose pieces are safe to remove, but if you see any fragments sticking up from the back of the throat, don’t attempt to pull them out. If they’re lodged, you may cause further damage. Call your vet.

If there are no visible bones lodged in the throat area, observe your pooch for signs of distress.

  • Panting or wheezing
  • Whining
  • Hunched appearance
  • Weakness
  • Trembling

Any of these symptoms may mean your dog has a piece of bone lodged in his system. Call your vet or take your pooch in for treatment. If your dog appears normal, continue to watch him for a few days. Symptoms of blockage may not appear immediately after ingestion.

When your dog eats rib bones, remove any remaining pieces and inspect his mouth. If there are no visible pieces, observe your pooch for signs of distress. Call your vet if you see lodged rib bones in the throat or if you notice symptoms of trouble. Otherwise, continue observing your pup for a few days in case there are delayed symptoms. 

What You Should Do Immediately If You Suspect Your Dog Has Eaten Rib Bones

If you suspect your dog has eaten rib bones because he shows signs of distress or choking, take your dog to the vet immediately. Choking is a life-threatening emergency and requires rapid treatment. 

However, if Fido seems normal, scan the area and remove any remaining bones or fragments from your dog’s reach. Open your furbaby’s mouth if he allows you and scan it for pieces of bone. Remove any loose fragments, but don’t attempt to take out anything near the back of the throat. Lightly palpate his stomach to check for signs of pain. Try to determine how many bones your furbaby munched and call your vet. Let him know what happened and your observations.

If your dog shows signs of choking or distress, take him to the vet immediately. Otherwise, check your dog’s mouth and the surrounding area. Remove any bone fragments from reach unless they’re lodged in the throat. Call your vet and report the incident and your observations.

What if My Dog Ate a Lot of Rib Bones But Is Acting Normally?

If your dog obliterated the bones from your rack of ribs but seems normal, let your vet know what happened and continue to observe him for the next few days. Sometimes, the bones will pass through the digestive tract without causing any harm. However, with a pile of rib bones, the chances are higher that they’ll cause damage.  

Unfortunately, sharp edges or pieces of bone can also injure the gastrointestinal tract causing inflammation or infection. If the shards poke through the muscle wall, they can cause peritonitis. It may take 48 hours or more for the infection to set in and produce noticeable signs.

Even if the bone pieces don’t damage the digestive tract lining, they may lodge in the intestines. The obstruction prevents food from passing through the system, so affected dogs become bloated and have painful abdomens. Intestinal blockages require surgical correction. Symptoms of intestinal obstruction may take 1-2 days to develop.

If your dog ate a pile of ribs, contact your vet and observe your pooch for several days. Some signs of trouble may take 1-2 days or more to develop. Common problems from eating rib bones include gastrointestinal injury, peritonitis, and obstruction.

Signs of Problems from Eating Rib Bones

If your dog ate a rib bone, the signs will vary depending on how it is affecting your pooch. You should contact your veterinarian when you notice symptoms including:

  • Retching may indicate choking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful abdomen
  • Fever with peritonitis

Summary: Signs of trouble that you may see when your dog eats rib bones may vary depending on the effect of the fragments. Many are signs of digestive upset or distress. If you see symptoms of distress, contact your veterinarian.

What Happens to Dogs When They Eat Rib Bones?

When dogs eat rib bones, rough edges on the pieces can injure the mouth, throat, or digestive tract. Once in the stomach, the rib fragments may irritate the gut lining or poke through the wall and allow digestive fluids to seep into the abdomen.

While canine systems can digest some types of bones, rib bones are too big and thick for the stomach acid to break down. If rib fragments enter the intestines, they can get stuck in the narrow passage and cause an obstruction. The bone puts pressure on the tissues and causes necrosis. Meanwhile, digested food cannot continue through the body. These two conditions combine to create an emergency.

When dogs eat rib bones, they can injure the mouth or digestive linings. If the sharp edges don’t damage the gastrointestinal tract, the fragments can still lodge in the intestines and cause an obstruction.

Why Are Rib Bones Dangerous to Dogs?

Rib bones are too thick and large for canine systems to digest. The pieces may safely reach the stomach but are often too large to pass through the intestines. Additionally, dogs usually eat cooked rib bones. Once skeletal material is heated, it becomes more brittle. The bones can easily crack or splinter, and this creates sharp points and edges that can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

Rib bones are hard for canines to digest, and the pieces can cause an intestinal obstruction. When dogs eat the bones, they’re usually cooked which makes them more brittle. The ribs can splinter and damage the gastrointestinal tract.

How Will My Vet Treat My Dog When He Eats Rib Bones?

If your dog eats rib bones and shows signs of distress, he’ll examine your pooch and may take blood work or x-rays to diagnose the problem. The treatment will depend on the doctor’s findings. 

For choking, your vet will give your pooch oxygen therapy. Then, he may sedate your dog to relax the muscles and safely remove the bone piece. If the fragment won’t budge, the doctor will perform a tracheostomy to establish an airway.

Pooches that have an intestinal obstruction will require surgical treatment. In addition to removing the bone, your vet will provide supportive care including fluid therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines, and painkillers to stabilize your pooch and aid recovery. 

When rib bones damage or perforate the gut, your doctor will evaluate the situation and stabilize your pooch by providing antibiotics, administering IV fluids, and giving anti nausea medicine. Depending on the extent of the damage, your vet may need to perform surgery to repair perforations, flush the abdominal cavity with antibiotics, and insert a drainage tube.

The type of treatment your veterinarian will give your dog depends on the effects of the rib bones on the gastrointestinal tract. Options include stabilizing the body with IV fluids, administering antibiotics, and treating with anti-nausea drugs. Dogs with obstructions and peritonitis may require surgery.

How Long Will it Take for My Dog to Recover from X Poisoning?

The period for your dog depends on how the rib bones affect your pooch. 

  • Choking – Dogs that choke on rib bones may recover in a few days if the bone comes out easily. But if it causes significant damage, it can take the throat weeks to heal.
  • Intestinal obstruction – When your dog has surgery for intestinal obstruction, the recovery period is at least 4-6 weeks.
  • Peritonitis – If rib bones damage and perforate the gut, the recovery period depends on the severity of the infection. With surgery and antibiotic treatment, it can take a minimum of 4-6 weeks for your dog to recover. 

Your dog’s recovery period depends on how the bones affected him. If your pup choked on a bone, and it caused minimal damage, the recovery can be a matter of days. When the bones inflict more damage or surgery is needed, the recovery period is at least 4-6 weeks.

The Final Woof

Even one rib bone can be problematic for your pooch if it splinters or lodges in the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs usually find the tasty bones after they have been cooked, and the heating process makes them more brittle. Sharp edges can damage the mouth, throat, or gut lining.

If your dog ate rib bones, assess the situation, remove and remaining fragments, and contact your vet. If there are signs of damage to your pup’s system, the doctor will evaluate Fido’s condition and administer care accordingly. The recovery period depends on how the rib bones affected your pooch.

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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