Dogs and bones go together, right? Unfortunately, not always! Since my partner and I are vegetarians, my dogs don’t come in contact with a lot of bones at home. But living in NYC means coming across discarded chicken bones on sidewalks. One of the first things I teach any dog entering my life is “leave it” and “drop it.” But what happens if training fails and your dog eats a chicken bone? I spoke with Emmy-award winning veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber about the dangers of chicken bones and what to do if your dog ate a chicken bone.
Risk of Tearing the GI Tract
Chicken bones splinter easily, and when they are swallowed, they can cause perforation of the esophagus or the intestinal tract.
Particularly if the chicken is uncooked, your dog is at risk of exposure to bacteria like salmonella.
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Although chicken bones can splinter and puncture internal organs, it doesn’t mean that they will do so every time. It’s certainly a risk we’d like to avoid at all costs, but if your dog has already ingested the bones, all you can do now is watch him carefully. Ask your veterinarian about the signs and symptoms of internal bleeding or blockages. If you notice your dog is lethargic, constipated, straining to defecate, or has bloody stool, is vomiting, appears bloated in the abdomen, is not eating or is generally uncomfortable, you’re going to want to seek veterinary attention right away. Check your dog’s stool daily to see if you can see the bone fragments passing through. If you do not see them within 72 hours after ingestion (or whatever time frame is recommended by your veterinarian), it’s a good idea to visit the vet to make sure the bones aren’t stuck in your dog’s intestine, esophagus or throat.
Prevention is always the best medicine, but we’re all human, and we make mistakes. Try to find out how your dog got ahold of the chicken bones and be sure to take extra precautions to avoid this circumstance in the future. Keep food out of reach, trash lids securely closed, and train your dog not to steal food from the counter or dining table. Although chicken bones might not be the absolute worst thing your dog could ingest, it’s certainly not considered safe, by any means. Take note of your dog’s habits, keep a close eye on where your family and guests leave their food, and make sure to prevent the incident from being repeated. https://www.akc.org/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php Get Your Free AKC eBook
Remember, panicking isn’t going to help our dogs in any way. If you catch your dog in the act, try to calmly take the rest of the bones from him. Dogs can be possessive over food, so even if your pup isn’t aggressive, he’s likely to try and gobble everything down before you take it away. If your dog has already ingested all of the bones, panicking will only confuse him and possibly lead you to take drastic, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous action. Simply make sure your dog isn’t choking, and give your veterinarian a call to help you figure out how to handle the situation. Your veterinarian may offer a simple solution, like giving your dog some pieces of white bread to help cushion the bone fragments, but every veterinarian and situation can be different, so make sure to get in touch with yours.
Despite our best efforts, accidents happen, and our dogs are likely to eat something they shouldn’t at some point in their lives. Usually, our dogs will steal a yummy piece of people food off the counter or off of the plate of an unsuspecting guest, even if we’re doing the best we can to prevent it. Many people foods are particularly dangerous for dogs, however. This includes cooked chicken bones, which is something that’s within reach of our pups on a somewhat regular basis. Cooked chicken bones can break and splinter, which can cause your dog to choke and can also puncture the gastrointestinal tract, or get caught in his throat. This is extremely painful to your dog and can potentially lead to death. So what exactly should you do if you find your dog has eaten chicken bones?
The difference between safe and unsafe bones for dogs
Most bones are actually fairly risky for dogs. Although frequently marketed to dog parents, even beef bones aren’t always safe. “[They] tend to be a bit safer than chicken bones in the sense [that] they usually can’t break them down to create a sharp edge,” Dr. Werber advises. “However, if one gets small enough to be swallowed, it becomes a choking hazard.”
Beyond the risk of choking, Dr. Werber also warns that “the bone marrow has high fat content, so dogs love it, but too much of it can create the risk for pancreatitis.”
There is also a risk of dogs becoming injured on bones. “Knuckle bones, that have a hollow center like a donut, can wrap around the lower jaw and get stuck,” Dr. Werber explains. “Also, rib bones can often get stuck on the roof of the mouth between the molar teeth”
So, Dr. Werber advises that dogs stay away from all-natural bones. “The best kinds of bones to give a dog are the ones manufactured for dogs to be eaten, such as Dreambones or Smartbones,” he says. “These bones are made of chicken and vegetables and are fully digestible, so you don’t have to worry about the hazards.”
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