dog eating a whole chicken

Dog Ate Chicken Bones? Here’s What To Do Now

It happens so quickly and easily: you don’t pick up the remnants of your takeout chicken wings, and the dog eats a chicken wing bone. The leftovers from dinner aren’t put away quickly enough, and the dog eats a chicken bone.

The dog gets into the overflowing trash can and eats a raw chicken bone. However it happens, dogs eating things they aren’t supposed to is very common. And while childhood cartoons teach us that dogs love bones like mice love cheese, the truth isn’t quite that simple.

In reality, a chicken bone is one of the most dangerous things a dog can eat. Not only are chicken bones a major choking hazard, but they are also sharp enough to cause major damage throughout your dog’s body.

Cute dog puppy eating chicken neck

“What Do I Do If My Dog Ate Chicken Bones?” 

If your dog eats chicken bones, your first step is to stay calm. It can be hard for us dog owners not to panic in such a scenario, but panicking will not help anything, and it may even make your dog more distressed. This could worsen the entire situation. 

If your dog is not choking (see the next section), then give your preferred veterinarian a call and follow their directions as closely as you possibly can. Some vets will recommend feeding your dog a slice of white bread to cushion the stomach and intestinal tract against any sharp bone fragments. 

Your vet may also recommend a wait-and-see approach. If this is the case, you will want to call your vet back immediately if you notice your dog exhibiting any of the following symptoms:   

  • Refusing to eat 
  • Gagging, heaving, or throwing up 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Coughing 
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy

Otherwise, be sure to watch your dog for a full 72 hours after the chicken bone incident. If you notice that he or she has a bloated stomach, becomes constipated, or strains to poop, he could have a blockage. You’ll also want to check your dog’s stool to make sure that the bone fragments are passing.

If you notice your dog has bloody stool during this time, call your vet right away. You will also want to call your vet if you don’t notice any bone fragments passing, as this could mean they are still stuck in your dog’s esophagus or intestine. If your dog did not eat a chicken bone, or if he ate a chicken bone but has successfully passed it, then he will be eating well and acting normally. 

“What Do I Do If My Dog is Choking on a Chicken Bone?”

If your dog is gagging, heaving, drooling, or retching, he very well could have a chicken bone stuck in his throat or upper digestive tract. If this is the case, then it needs to be taken care of immediately.  If you can see the bone, decide whether you are able to grab it and pull it out without hurting your dog, distressing your dog, or being bitten yourself. 

If you are able to remove the bone from your dog’s esophagus, then the problem is solved and you can focus on putting your dog away while you clean up any remaining dangerous food items. However, if you cannot see the bone, or if it is not in a position for you to grasp it, then you need to seek veterinary attention as quickly as possible.

Most cities and towns have at least one emergency DVM who is available 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. Call the emergency vet on your way there, so that they know you are coming and are prepared to help quickly.    

Dogs and Chicken Bones 

It’s true, dogs and chicken bones go way back. Our dogs’ ancestors were probably tossed bones, those dogs’ ancestors hunted and almost certainly ate a bone or two. Dogs have been eating and successfully digesting animal bones for thousands of years. 

Usually, any bones will hit your dog’s stomach and begin to dissolve. By the time they’re passed from the stomach, they’ve dissolved and been broken down enough to avoid any serious damage. Sometimes, however, it’s a tragically different story.  

dog eating a whole chicken

Photo: LoveYourDog

The Dangers of a Dog Eating a Chicken Bone 

It’s important that your dog not eat chicken bones. For canines, eating chicken bones can be incredibly dangerous. Obstruction in the throat, the ingestion of harmful bacteria, and the perforation of vital body parts are some of the biggest dangers when it comes to dogs and bones.   

Obstruction

The size of the bone versus the size of the dog will determine just how likely the risk of obstruction can be. Raw chicken bones also carry more risk of choking than do slightly softer cooked chicken bones. If your dog tries to swallow a chicken bone that is too large, it could get stuck in his esophagus.

If this happens, you will likely find that your dog is gagging and heaving, drooling, or even retching. A more serious situation is when the chicken bone gets lodged in the back of the throat or the pharynx, the upper part of your dog’s airway.

If this occurs, your dog will likely be coughing heavily, will have trouble breathing, and will be showing very obvious signs of distress. If your dog gets a chicken bone stuck in his airway, it is an immediate emergency.     

Tears and Perforations 

Tearing and perforations are other dangers that could occur if your dog eats a chicken bone. Chicken bones splinter especially easily, and if they do, their sharp, pointy edges could perforate vital internal organs such as the stomach or the gastrointestinal tract. 

Contamination 

One risk of dogs eating chicken bones that isn’t quite as immediate, but is just as serious is the risk of contamination. Chicken bones and other animal bones are rife with bacteria, some of which can be incredibly harmful or even deadly. Salmonella is one such bacteria that could contaminate your dog’s digestive system.   

“Leave It” 

One way to hopefully avoid a chicken bone disaster in the future is to train your dog to “leave it.” This phrase is simple, yet effective when it comes to getting your dog to leave alone something that is undesirable. “Leave it” is also easy to teach, and simple for a dog to learn. 

Step #1: Tempt with a Boring, Everyday Piece of Kibble 

Hold a single piece of your dog’s daily (but high-quality and healthy, of course) kibble in your open hand. Your pet probably won’t get too excited about something she eats twice a day, every day, but she’s still likely to reach for it. When she does, say something simple like “oops” or “nope,” and close your hand around the piece of kibble. When your dog stops sniffing and looks up at you….

Step #2: Reward Your Dog with a Tasty Treat! 

Once your dog listens to your “oops” and looks up at you, you can open your other hand to reveal the piece of cheese, meat, or gourmet doggy treat that you’ve been hiding all along. When your dog inevitably goes for this one, say something like “Yes!” 

Step #3: Repeat and Progress

Repeat these two steps as many times as you need to over the course of a couple of days. Once your dog stops going for the boring treat the majority of the time, replace your “oops” or “nope” with “leave it.”

You will know that your dog has mastered “Leave it” when you no longer need to close your hand around the boring treat in order for him to stop trying for it. Once this happens, keep practicing “leave it” in places outside of the house (the backyard, the dog park, on a walk, etc.).  

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Away From Dangers 

Depending on the tenacity of your dog, you may need to take a few extra steps to ensure he is safe from things that can hurt him. 

  • Keep food out of his reach. Don’t forget a large dog may stand on his hind legs to grab ahold of things off of a table or the countertop.
  • Keep any trash lids securely shut. If your dog is very clever, consider searching Amazon for childproof locks.
  • Put your dog in her crate, the backyard, or a separate bedroom during mealtimes. 
  • Refrain from feeding your pets table scraps or other human food. Pet parents may find this hard to resist, but even raw food can be a potential danger. Hand feeding your dogs anything other than dog food will also teach them that it is okay to eat food that isn’t meant for them.      

Other Dangerous Foods for Dogs 

We’ve discussed chicken bones, but it’s important to know that beef bones and pork bones can be even more dangerous to dogs if ingested. Below are some other foods that should be kept away from your dog’s mouth at all cost:  

Alcohol 

Ingesting alcohol in any of its forms can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in your pet. It can also cause your dog’s central nervous system to depress, make it difficult for him to breathe, and cause tremors. In the worst-case scenario, alcoholic beverages can cause coma or even death. Unfortunately, few people realize the danger of dogs and alcohol, and many jokes have turned into tragedies as a result. 

Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine

Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine products all contain methylxanthines, a dangerous and sometimes toxic substance that is found in cacao seeds and the extract used to make some soft drinks. Dark chocolate has a much higher level of methylxanthine than does milk chocolate, though the latter is still dangerous in large quantities.

Methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting and excessive thirst, and hyperactivity. In some cases, it can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and tremors, both of which could lead to death.  

Citrus 

Though essential oils are all the rage right now, many are extremely harmful to dogs and other pets because of the citric acid present in some of them. Just about every part of a citrus product — including its leaves, stems, and seeds — can cause nervous system depression in dogs.  

Coconut and Coconut Oil

Coconut and coconut oil is perfectly safe in very small amounts. However, they can be harmful in larger amounts, usually causing upset stomachs and diarrhea. Coconut water, on the other hand, should never be given to a pet as it is too high in potassium. 

Grapes and Raisins 

Grapes and raisins are two of the most dangerous foods for dogs. Though it is unknown exactly what it is about a grape that is so hazardous, the fact is that grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Because the specifics of the danger aren’t 100% known, treating this type of poisoning can be difficult, so grapes and raisins should definitely be avoided. 

Milk and Dairy

Humans are able to drink milk and eat dairy products because we are equipped with lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. However, dogs and other animals do not possess lactase. If your dog ingests milk, large amounts of cheese, or other dairy products, you’ll likely find that he or she experiences diarrhea or other tummy issues. 

Nuts 

Nuts — especially walnuts, almonds, and pecans — contain a large amount of fat and oil. The fats in nuts can cause your dog to throw up or have diarrhea. In some pets, or in pets who eat very large amounts of nuts, these fats may cause pancreatitis. 

Onions and Garlic 

Onions and garlic are two other harmful foods that are commonly ingested by dogs who get up on countertops, or who break into garbage cans. Garlic and onions are especially harmful to cats, although dogs who eat enough of either will suffer, too.

 

Eating these vegetables can cause gastrointestinal troubles, damage red blood cells, and lead to anemia. If you would like to feed your dog a veggie snack, consider zucchini. Zucchini is full of vitamins and other important nutrients. Just be sure to feed it as a treat for good behavior, or feed it from your dog’s bowl.  

fresh bio zucchini on a wooden table

Zucchini is a good alternative to a high-calorie treat for your dog.

Raw Meat and Eggs 

Despite the raw dog food diet trend, feeding your dog raw meats and eggs can actually be very harmful. Both contain dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Raw eggs can also contain an enzyme called Avidin, which causes skin issues by decreasing your dog’s ability to absorb the B vitamin biotin. 

Salty Foods 

Salty snacks like pretzels, popcorn, and chips are commonly given to dogs as treats. However, it is best to avoid feeding your dog salty foods because they can cause excessive thirst, increased urination, and even sodium ion poisoning. If your dog begins experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, seizures, or even death, they may have ingested too much salt. 

Xylitol 

Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs, and it can be hard to keep track of for humans. Xylitol is used as a substitute for sugar in products such as candy, toothpaste, gum, and some baked goods. It causes your dog to release insulin, which can lead to liver failure. If your dog has ingested Xylitol, you may see symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and signs of coordination loss. 

If you think your dog has ingested animal bones or one of the above dangerous foods, call your vet as soon as possible. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

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Sarah Wagner

Sarah Wagner

Sarah Wagner is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.